Hymn Society, Wednesday Evening

Birmingham is a city that shares its scars. Many conference attendees had the opportunity to visit (and sing at) Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four young girls. The church was rebuilt, including a gift from Wales of a stained glass window that depicts a Black Christ, and functions both as church and as landmark today. (An image of the window is available online here.)

Our Wednesday evening hymn festival was led by Kate Campbell, a folk singer and songwriter who works with pop, country, and gospel sounds. She is the daughter of a Baptist preacher, a self-described “child of the South” who grew up during the Civil Rights era. Many of her songs discuss the South, history, religion, and race relations. The festival took its name from one of her songs — “Still Crazy in Alabama.” She sang about the 1963 bombing in her song “Bear it Away”, and then segued into the hymns “Come, You Disconsolate” and “There is a Balm in Gilead” which we sang with her. We sang “When They Ring the Golden Bells,” which was mentioned in the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Many of the hymns were led by Kate with her acoustic guitar, often in a more introspective style than that to which we were accustomed. It’s a style that may never be my favorite but which I’m glad to have experienced. This evening offered an intriguing commingling of music inside and outside church walls. It was also, in many ways, a taste of the South.

Chris Ángel is pursuing an MA in Theology (with a concentration in Liturgy) at Saint John’s School of Theology·Seminary in Collegeville, MN.



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