Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church

By Timothy J. Nelson | Go to book overview

6
Sacrifice of Praise

One Sunday morning in mid-November, Reverend Rose Drayton, the assistant pastor at a nearby AME congregation, was invited to preach. A middle-aged, gray-haired woman in a floral-print dress, she approached the pulpit with confidence and began by reading a portion of Scripture from the Old Testament book of Daniel, in which the Babylonian king Belshazzar sees a disembodied hand writing on the wall during a banquet. When a Jewish captive named Daniel translates the writing, the king hears a prophecy regarding his impending demise. After reading this passage, Reverend Drayton closed the Bible, looked out over the congregation and announced that her theme was going to be “The Party's Over.” The gist of the sermon, which was delivered in the traditional call-and-response style, was that people should start living right because pretty soon God was going to come back and announce that “the party's over.” The congregation was very quiet during the Scripture reading and remained quite still for the several minutes it took Reverend Drayton to set out her general theme and establish her rhythm. Then she moved out from behind the pulpit and said, “Pray with me for a little while, now,” and people started to come alive.

It happened gradually. At first one person in the choir stood up. Then after about half a minute, another choir member stood up. Then more choir members stood, and then people in the congregation started standing up, until after several minutes almost the whole choir and about half of the congregation were on their feet. The responses to her phrases became louder and more emphatic during this time. Several women choir members in the front started smiling and waving their arms at Reverend Drayton in a “go on now” motion. The drummer tossed a drumstick in the air and caught it again with a flourish. People began clapping and shouting back at her during the response time in the cadence. One young man in a black suit and red shoes started running to the front of

-145-

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Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Qualitative Studies in Religion ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: God's House in the Holy City 13
  • 2: Religious Experience and Ritual 46
  • 3: “Do You Really Know Who God Is” 64
  • 4: “On the Battlefield” 93
  • 5: “In Spirit and in Truth” 116
  • 6: Sacrifice of Praise 145
  • 7: Race, Class, and Religion 172
  • Conclusion - Belief, Experience, and Ritual 192
  • Notes 209
  • References 211
  • Index 219
  • About the Author 222
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