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Spreading the Gospel Through Music

In times of falling attendance at many Christian churches in the UK, some churches are not only full, but full to bursting. These are the churches in which Gospel music is performed.

Gospel was the form from which blues, rock and roll and many other popular musical forms were derived. Originally the music of African-American Christians, it has crossed all racial and geographical boundaries to be popular today with those of all faiths, and those with none. How many of the young people who put ‘Shackles (Praise You)’, by the American duo Mary Mary, into the Top 10, realised it was actually a hymn? Did they listen to the words which say:

‘Been through the fire and the rain,
Bound in every way,
But God has broken every chain.’

To most people, ‘Shackles’ is simply a fantastic piece of dance music. It is taken from the album ‘Thankful’ which includes a new version of ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Janet Jackson album, and the track ‘Good To Me’ features the group Destiny’s Child.

Of course, over the years many popular musicians have been inspired by gospel music, and usually that inspiration has brought life to their own compositions. Sometimes they’ve just borrowed or slightly adapted existing gospel tunes - which is not surprising given the power they have.

When I hear Gospel music, I think of the immortal words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu when asked how he felt about Nelson Mandela’s election as the first black president of South Africa: ‘I want to dance, I want to sing, I want to jump up and down, I want to do all three at once!

Eleanor Dent

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