Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part I of a two part series on praise breaks in African American churches.
This is Part I of a two part series on Black Church praise breaks. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/05/black-church-praise-break-videos-part.html for Part II of that series.
The content of this post is presented for historical, spiritual, and aesthetic purposes.
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My thanks to the ministers, speakers, musicians, and vocalists, and other members of the congregation of churches featured in these videos. My thanks also to the videographers and the uploaders of these videos, as well as to the authors of the information that is quoted in this post.
DESCRIPTIONS OF AND COMMENTS ABOUT PRAISE BREAKS AND THE HOLY DANCE [amended 12/6/2013]
A “praise break” is an unscripted portion of a Christian worship service or Christian event such as a revival when individuals who feel the [Holy] Spirit spontaneously praise God (Jesus) by doing one or more of the following spontaneous actions: holding up one or both of your arms toward Heaven and give verbal praises to God and/or “testimonies” about how God has touched their lives (while seated or, more commonly standing up from one's seat); moving out of your seat and walking fast, running down the church aisle, or around the church sanctuary (the main room where church service are held); doing dance-like movements in the church aisle/s or in front of the sanctuary’s rostrum, and/or “speaking in tongues” (speak words from a language that is not formally recognized by linguists).
These worship behaviors are most commonly found in Black American and White American Pentecostal churches, and from these sources, in other Pentecostal churches throughout the world. However, they may also be found in some Baptist churches, and in certain other Christian churches.
Persons who do one or more of these actions often appear to be in a semi-conscious, trance-like state. “Feeling the Spirit” and “getting happy” are two general terms that African Americans have used to refer to this trance-like state of consciousness and the largely involuntary action or actions that occur while in that state of consciousness. Also, particularly among African Americans, the dance-like movements that are done while feeling the Spirit is called "the holy dance". And “shout” (used with its 18th century and on African American meaning)* is still a commonly used referent for the fast walking, running, and/or dancing that praisers do. Particularly among African American Pentecostal worshippers, these actions are referred to as “shouting” (“getting your shout on”), “praising” (getting your praise on”), “dancing”** (“doing the holy dance”), “getting your dance on), and “going in” (“went in”). This last referent may be short for “going in [experiencing] a Holy Spirit filled state of being”]
Ministers’ sermons often help initiate praise breaks. Also, certain songs praising God (known as “praise & worship songs” since at least the late 20th century) help galvanize worshipers to perform one of more of the above noted praise behaviors*. Particularly in African American churches, certain types of percussive instrumental music played by church organist, pianist/keyboardist, guitarist, and drummer help galvanize worshippers to experience the Holy Spirit in the ways that are noted above. This instrumental music is generally referred to as “praise break music”. This music has a fast tempo, and since at least the late 20th century [?], that tempo has gotten faster. The musicians (particularly organists) play chords in respond to the pastor’s words (particularly toward the end of the pastors’ sermon). Musicians also may play music in response to the dance movement of one or more of the people who are doing the holy dance. Although a minister, or a master/mistress of ceremonies during a religious service, may try to bring the worship service back to its scheduled order of progression, the musicians may continue playing praise break music, especially if they notice one or more people who are “getting their praise on”. Eventually, the praise break stops, and the church service continues, until another praise break spontaneously occurs or until the end of that worship service.
A wide open space was needed to do ring shouts indoors. If there were chairs or tables or boxes in that space, before the ring shout began, people would have to clear the floor. But when it became customary for church congregational seats [church pews] to be fixed to the floor of the sanctuary, there was no more physical space for the circular ring shout. That old form of "shouting" changed from an activity where a mixed group of males and females shuffled around a circle in a line while chanting or singing, to an individual activity which might spontaneously emerge from singing -and later from the playing of musical instruments, but one in which the shouter (now referred to as the "praiser") no longer sung or chanted. The most common second shout form which historically occured after the circular ring shout form was one in which an individual ran or walked fast down a church aisle or around the church's sanctuary. While that form of shouting is still done to date, the most common forms of contemporary shouting are when people stand in their church pews with one or both arms raised to the heavens or when an individual does a "holy dance" -usually one that emphasizes fast footwork, jumps, turns, and/or slides, while standing in the aisle near his or her seat, or while standing in the front of-or in the front corner of- the church sanctuary.
"A shout or ring shout is an ecstatic, transcendent religious ritual, first practiced by African slaves in the West Indies and the United States, in which worshipers move in a circle while shuffling and stomping their feet and clapping their hands. Despite the name, shouting aloud is not an essential part of the ritual."
I would amend that statement to say that speaking loudly isn't necessarily a part of religious shout experiences.
**There's no way to verify which came first-the religious shout footwork or the secular dances that had the same or similar fast paced foot motions. This dance form almost certainly has its source in Black African traditional dances.
Incidentally, buck dancing is still performed by members of New Orleans Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs and their second line followers. Furthermore, the same or similar footwork that is characteristic of these historical and contemporary forms of "shouting" are also characteristic of contemporary [non-religious] Chicago footwork and Detroit jitting.
Video #1: Praise Break (Hezekial Walker)
Uploaded by ccsweetstuff on Jun 26, 2007
Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship crusade choir a praise break before performing I'll make it.
Video #2: A Pentecostal Praise Break Done Right!
Uploaded by atlpraiser on Apr 24, 2008
This is my Church, Faith Covenant Church in Atlanta, Georgia doing what we do best, giving God the Praise! Our Pastor is Pastor Mark Moore, Sr. and he is a preaching machine...
Video #3: Praise Break during benediction- PART TWO
Uploaded by TempleSaint on Jul 14, 2007
The Benediction that never happened! Dr. Larry D. Reid and a few of The Breakthrough Church members of Raleigh NC @ Abundant Life in Wilson NC the first night( Prophet Hardy in brown is the presider and member at Abundant Life thats in Wilson, NC)
Video #4: Cathedral Praise Break – West Angeles COGIC
Uploaded by joco76 on Jun 16, 2009
Bishop Blake preaching on being a premeditated praiser!!!! And then they praised!!!!!
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/african-american-ring-shouts-origins.html African American Ring Shouts (Origins & Examples)
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