Musical Style and Experience in a Brooklyn Pentecostal Church: An "Insider's" Perspective

Butler, Melvin L.

When my wife, Lori, speaks of her move from Charlotte, North
Carolina, to attend college in Boston, Massachusetts, she inevitably highlights
the "culture shock" she felt upon first arriving. "I don't like it. It's
different," she tearfully tried to explain to her parents late one Sunday
afternoon. Her voice had an air of despair that seemed to belie the faithbred
optimism she usually portrayed even when things didn't go her way.
Lori was raised Pentecostal "from the womb," as the saying goes, and her
church background is steeped in the African American Pentecostal tradition.
A couple of hours before, she had returned from church, thrown
herself on her dorm room bed, and burst into tears. This was not a matter
of simply adjusting to the climatic or culinary foreignness of New England,
nor was it a temporary bout of homesickness one might expect from a pastor's
youngest daughter. Rather, what had made life in Boston suddenly
seem so unbearable was the fact that, for her, West Indian-style musical
worship had hindered the spiritual fulfillment she expected to receive in a
Pentecostal setting. Church, she thought, was supposed to be something
familiar-something enjoyable. Her parents had recommended that she
attend this church; but perhaps even they were unaware it would be so "different."
Weren't all black Pentecostal churches in the United States more
or less the same?

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Academic Units
Columbia University
Published Here
November 26, 2014