From the Editor

Chelle Stearns

July 9, 2020

I cannot even begin to process all that has happened since the SCSM met at Baylor in February. An ongoing pandemic that has required schools at all levels to reimagine education as communities around the world have quarantined their citizens and limited public gatherings. We have all experienced the pain of cancelled concerts (both to perform and attend), re-conceived or cancelled graduation ceremonies, and the shift online education.

In the midst of all of this, protests have erupted and continued in many communities across the US in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. In protests, I have noticed the power of historic prayer gestures of the holding up of hands (as protesters petition “hands up, don’t shoot”) and quiet kneeling (marking in silence the amount of time Floyd was held down). Complaint and lament mingle in these public spaces, pleading for change.

During all of this, I have been privileged to collaborate with my friend, Stephen Michael Newby, on an essay about the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” for the SCSM volume, Sacred Music in the Americas. Our conversations have ranged from concern for friends with Covid 19 to our scholarly work to the public liturgy of the streets. I am grateful for such friendships, but also for the unexpectedness of life-giving and relevant scholarship. Ours is a sacred calling, and though it may not always feel like it, each of our voices and insights are needed in the world today. I echo Mark’s entreaty for us as a society, in such a time as this, dive deep into the work you have been called to do, it is a sacred and blessed gift in such times.

On this blog, I have shared some selected resources on African American Song and Black Liberation Theology. If you have resources or lists to share, please send them my way and I will post them on the SCSM blog!

To end, I’ll share the final verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

God of our weary years

God of our silent tears

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way

Thou who has by Thy might

Led us into the light

Keep us forever in the path, we pray

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee

Shadowed beneath Thy hand

May we forever stand

True to our God

True to our native land

Blessings and peace,

Chelle Stearns

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Chelle Stearns

Chelle Stearns

Associate Professor of Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology