Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Black Preaching - The Art Of "Whooping" In Sermon Closings

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about "whooping" ("hooping"), an oratorical and homiletic style that is most often associated with Black (African American) preachers.

This post also provides a 2008 video example of a sermon closing by Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. That sermon closing includes "whooping". Selected comments from that showcase video's viewer discussion thread are also included in this post.

This is part of a continuing pancocojams series on Black church services.

The content of this post is presented for religious and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. for the sermon which is featured in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

"Whooping" is a way of preaching that is most often associated with Black pastors. "Whooping" is also given as "hooping". The art and study of "whooping" is [facetiously?] referred to "whoopology" and "hoopology". And preachers who "whoop" ("hoop") are called "whoopers" ("hoopers).

It just occurs to me (as I write this 2013 post) that the word "whooping" ("hooping") in relation to Black oratorical and homiletic (sermon) styles probably comes from the term "whooping and hollering".
Definition of whoop
"to shout loudly in an enthusiastic or excited way"

"verb (used without object)
1. to cry aloud; shout; yell:

"Whoop and a holler

Posted by Henry on February 28, 2005

In Reply to: Re: Hoop and a Hollar posted by ESC on February 26, 2005

: : : Where did this phrase come from?

: : Recte, "a whoop and a holler." That is a shout and a shout. I don't know where it comes from. A whoop is a somewhat different noise from a holler....

The Pony Man is leading 'cause he's traveled here before
And he gives a whoop and a holler at Mister Moon's front door
From The Pony Man by Gordon Lightfoot

I think it simply means to shout, in this case to make his presence known. It's repetitive and alliterative, like time and tide."

Here's a long excerpt about "whooping" from Black preachers who 'whoop' -- minstrels or ministers? By John Blake, CNN, October 20, 2010
"The Rev. E. Dewey Smith Jr. bangs on the pulpit with his fist. He shuts his eyes and moans. Then a high-pitched sound rises from his throat like the wail of a boiling tea-kettle.

"I wish you'd take the brakes off and let me preach," he tells his congregation during his Sunday morning sermon.

Rows of parishioners stand to shout. One woman in a satiny blue dress jumps up and down like she's on a pogo stick. A baby starts to cry.

Smith had already given his congregation the "meat" of his message: scriptural references, archaeological asides, modern application -- all the fancy stuff he learned in seminary. Now he was about to give them the gravy.

It was the time to "whoop."
"One Tuesday morning, I heard the voice of Jesus saying, 'C'mon unto me and rest," Smith shouts as he punctuates his delivery with a series of guttural gasps and shrieks backed up by an organist's riffs. "But can I tell you what I did? I came to Jesus, just as I was. And I found in him joy in sorrow. Somebody shout yes. Yeessssss!"*

..."Whooping is a celebratory style of black preaching that pastors typically use to close a sermon. Some church scholars compare it to opera; it's that moment the sermon segues into song.

Whooping pastors use chanting, melody and call-and-response preaching to reach parishioners in a place where abstract preaching cannot penetrate, scholars say.
Whooping preachers aim "to wreck" a congregation by making people feel the sermon, not just hear it, says the Rev. Henry Mitchell, a scholar who identified the link between whooping and African oral traditions.

"The old folks used to say, 'If you ain't felt nothing, you ain't got nothing,''' Mitchell says.

Yet the black church has long been ambivalent about whooping. Some scholars say contemporary black churches are abandoning whooping because they think it's crass. But more white preachers are discovering it through YouTube and by sharing the pulpit with black preachers.

The most persistent debate over whooping revolves around its legitimacy. Is it fair to call it an art form? What's so hard about a preacher screaming and sweating in the pulpit?

Those are the critics who say whoopers are minstrels, not ministers.
"The hairs on the back of my neck stand up when people say that," says the Rev. Martha Simmons, a whooping preacher and scholar. "It is a genuine art form."

Simmons says the best whoopers use their voices like instruments. They're following rules of rhythm, tone and melody. All good whoopers have some "music" in their throat, says Simmons, editor of "Preaching with Sacred Fire," an anthology of black sermons dating back to 1750.

If you think whooping is easy, Simmons says, try listening to a preacher who can't whoop but tries to anyway.
"It's like listening to someone try to sing opera who is not an opera singer," she says. "It's a train wreck."

Earning the right to whoop

Whooping isn't confined to vocal gymnastics. The greatest whoopers combined "learning and burning." They are theologically sound, well-read and excellent storytellers, scholars say.

[The Rev. E. Dewey Smith Jr], senior pastor of Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, says a good whooper has to preach a solid message before they whoop.

...Whoopers not only sound different; they preach different, says Mitchell, the preaching scholar and author of "Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art."

Most whoopers shun abstractions. They preach with stories, parables and metaphors -- like Jesus did....

Scholars quibble over the origin of whooping.

Most trace it back to West Africa griots, the dramatic storytellers who preserved a people's oral tradition. Some trace it to the "tonal" nature of African languages, the drums of Africa; the need for the slave preacher to rouse the battered spirits of enslaved Africans...

Some people may look down on it, but many black people still respect the power of the whoop.
"There's a sense of home in it," she says. "If you're a black person that hasn't been acculturated away from it, you say, 'This is us.' "
*The text given in italics are written in that font in the original article.

A video example of "whooping" is also featured with that 2010 CNN article.

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv

bigalte83, Uploaded on Nov 18, 2008

Pastor Woods @ Antioch MBC - Beaumont, TX [This website appears to no longer be operable.)

Pastor Woods, St. is (or was) a minister at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. However, this sermon featured in this 2008 video was preached at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas.

Note that some commenters mentioned that Gospel singer Marvin Sapp is shown in this video.

Pancocojams Editor note:
I made this transcription of the Pastor Wood's "Sermon Close" video in 2009 and posted it in a discussion thread about Black Church Services that I started that year on the Mudcat folk music forum. I'm re-posting that transcription along with my comments about that sermon closing.

Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 09:39 PM

In my opinion, Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv is not only an excellent example of the points that Geoff Alexander made about Black preaching styles, but is also a masterful piece of performance oratory. And I mean this as the highest compliment.

I am very glad that I happened upon this video. I was so impressed by this sermon, that I took the time to transcribe it, though the printed word can not hope to capture the spoken word delivery. For example, I did not include the congregation's responses to the pastor's words. But for every line that he spoke, there was congregational affirmations,exhortations, and other responses. Furthermore, at a point midway in this five minute pluse video, the organist starts playing chords that serve as a response to the pastor's words. The organist {and the pianist?} continue to play in this manner throughout the remainder of the pastor's sermons. I'll indicate when the organist begins playing.

As a means of showing emphasis, some of the beginning letters of words of he sermon are written in capital letters, and some entire words are written in capital letters to show intense emphasis. Following standard practice, the pronoun referencing God and Jesus are written with the beginning letter capitalized. Also, as a means of showing elongation of certain words, I added vowels or consonents to thsoe words.

The video was titled "Pastor Woods @ Antioch MBC - Beaumont, TX". The video contributor was bigalte83 ; November 18, 2008

Neither the video nor the contributor's summary gave a title for this sermon. Based on a repeated line from the sermon, in the interest of this thread, I'll give it the title "Hold On."

"And While I was On
Continental Airlines.
I flew from
to Houston.
While I was in Houston Texas-ah
I had to stay there
about an hour
And-an In Houston
there were so many
Aaannnd There Waaas
in Houston
so many shops.
But ah Thank God
that I understood that I wouldn't be there
for a long time.
So what I did was I kept my mind on my destination.
Because my destination was Beumont Texas.

Well yah I wanna close by saying to somebody
Don't confuse your layover with your final distination.
My Lord. You may have a hard time
But can I tell you tha's no t where you gonna be-ee.
because Gooood got a plan for your life.
Can I get a witnesss. I need to close by sayin
Weepin may endure for the night

[Organist starts playing chords in call & response to minister's words ; congregatiom continues their responses]

But joy will come in the mornin
Make up your mind that you gonna hold a little while longer
Because Help is on the way.
Can I tell somebody Don't worry
about your history
Cause your history Is not your destiny
I'm on my way. I said I'm on my way.
Up some times But I'm on my way.
Down some time But I'm on my way

Is there anybody here that is gonna stay focused.
and keep on Going your way.
It may be rough now But just Hold On
Hoooold Onnnn!

I said ah Hold on-ah.
HELP is on the way. Can I tell somebody
I know it's Hard now. But just stay right there.
He may not Come when you want him' but HEEE'lLL.
Yes he will Yes He will
I know He will.

Is there anybody here gonna stay on the road
Is there anybody here that's gonna HOLD ON
I said HOLD ON

He'll make a way---Out of No Way.
Anybody know He will.
Won't he turn it around.
But you gotta Praise Him In Advance.

Before I take my seat Can I tell somebody
You got to give God some 'Bout to praise.
Praise Him for what He's 'bout to do.
Praise him for the Child that's Bout to come home.
Praise Him for the Job that He's Bout to give ya.
Praise Him for your Marriage He's Bout to save
Praise him
You gotta Praise Him.

Let me tell ya one thing. If an Unborn baby
can give God some Premature Praise
John the Baptist
was in his mother's womb.
But when he Heard about JEEESUS
He LEAPED in his mother's womb.
Premature Praise.

If an unborn baby that ain't had to pay no bills.
An unborn baby that ain't never been to the hospital.
An unborn baby that hadn't been LIED on
can give God praise. In Advance
Before he's delivered. Can you Praise Him
Before you come out
Can you praise Him. Is He WORTHY
Is He Worthy.
I said is He Worthy.

Can you wave your hands.
Can you say YEAH!
Say Yeah!
YEAAAAAHHHH1 Won't He show up
YEAHHHH! Halelujah.

I'm through preachin.
I'm just Praisin Him.
because He been good.
I'm just Praisin Him
because I need Him to make a way.
If you PRAISE Him.
Won't He do if for yah.

Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM

In addition to the points about Black preaching styles that were previously mentioned by Geoff Alexander* let me note that Pastor woods used repeative phrases, and end rhyming words in the fashion that has come to be associated with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Pastor Woods also weaved into his sermon lines from religious songs & folk sayings that are very familiar to his congregation. Furthermore, Pastor Woods used his body to complement and enhance his words. For instance, the pastor leaped when he said that John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb.

This video does no show what was most certainly the next part of the church service-"opening the doors of the church".:...
The comment about Black preaching styles mentioned by Geoff Alexander refers to excerpts that I quoted earlier in that discussion thread.

I should also mention that I was unfamiliar with the term "whooping" ("hooping") until I included an article in that Mudcat discussion thread that mentioned "the preacher's hoop". Here's another comment about "whooping" that I posted to that same Mudcat discussion thread:

Subject: RE: Black Church Services
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 08:28 AM

In my 18 Jan 09 - 11:21 AM post to this thread, I asked about the meaning of the word "hoop" as it was used by Ariana Gause in her newspaper article "Faded Memories". In that article, Ms Gause wrote:

"Her [grandmother's] spiritual and religious beckoning has taught me how to appreciate the black church and its traditions. I can relate well to the old hymns sung during revival meetings and on Sunday mornings. Yes, I have a connection to the "Hoop" that black ministers use when preaching the spoken word."


I am 'happy' to say that I have found out what "hoop" means in the context of religious worship.

The pieces of that puzzle fell into place, thanks to the video contributor's tags [key words] and several viewers comments about the YouTube video that I posted earlier, Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv.

Among the tags given for that video are "Sermon Close Whooping".

Also, this question was posted about that video:

"Can someone tell me why they sing when they preach? I love these sermons, but I never could understand why they sound like that. Serious question.
nelli2008 {3 weeks ago}


This response was posted:

"It's a combination of the-"Art of Preaching'-Homelitics with a twist of Celebration". Or in modern terms "Whoopology. After the preacher has imparted the word of God into your life, he himself celebrates in his own way and in his own style of closing the sermon On a "Spiritual Praise".
pastorbwiggins {3 weeks ago}


Imo, that comment didn't totally answer the question posed, but I am glad that pastorwiggins included a reference to "whoopology", although I think he may have been somewhat facetious in doing so. See the response to that question that I've posted in that particular video comment section.

But back to the meaning of "hoop", see this additional comment that was posted about that same video:

"He has a great hoop. It's tight."
-Memorial08 {2 months ago}

In this context, the African American slang word "tight" means something or someone who is very good; something that fits together very well; something {including music or a sermon, or a 'hoop'} that is done very well.

After reading these comments, it occurred to me how similar in spelling and pronounciation the word "hoop" and the word "whoop" are. That's when the pieces of the puzzle all came together.

"Hoop" is Black talk for "whoop". "Hoopin'" ="Whooping"

See this meaning of the word "whooping":

a. A loud cry of exultation or excitement.
b. A shout uttered by a hunter or warrior.

The 'hoop' that Ariana Gause remembered Black ministers doing are the 'shouts' and 'moans' and 'cries of joy' that Black ministers incorporate into their sermons because they are feeling the [Holy]. The "hoop" that Pastor Timothy Wood did in his "Hold On" sermon is found throughout that sermon but is particularly found at the end of that sermon.

If I had attended a more 'spirited' Black church, I would have known what 'hoop' meant in a religious context. I'm glad that I found out its meaning as a result of doing research on this thread."
With regard to my comment about Ariana Gause's use of the word "hoop": I included a link to that (then) high school student's essay which featured a lot of memories about going to her Black church with her grandmother. I also quoted the entire essay in my Mudcat thread about Black church services because I was so impressed by that essay and because I was concerned that it might not remain available online. That essay is entitled "Faded Memories" and was published in the Tuesday, February 28, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle. I tried to access that link April 13, 2016, but it’s no longer available.
It's interesting that the comment "He has a great hoop. It's tight" and the comment that I wrote in 2009 (although at this time I don't remember writing that comment) are no longer shown in that YouTube discussion thread.

I should also mention that I also wrote in another comment in that Mudcat discussion thread that I thought that "whooping" was similar or the same as "shouting" (in the Black church sense of the word"- meaning "feeling the Holy Spirit", "getting happy"). But I now think that "whooping" is the oratorical style that leads to people shouting.

These comments are presented in chronological order by year with the oldest comments given first. The comments may not be in consecutive order. I've assigned numbers for referencing purposes only.

Pastor Timothy J. Woods, Sr. - Sermon Close.wmv
1. Preacha Tim
"now that's how you close out!!!"
preach man!!!

2. William B. Wiggins, II
"Laud have mercy - to God be the Glory! Excuse my english...Now this don't make no dog-gone sense for Pastor Woods to be closing like that. Preach SirPull it Woods and Preach anyhow."

3. nelli2808
"Can somebody tell me why they sing when they preach? I love the sermons but I've never understood whyt they sound like they sing? Serious question."

4. William B. Wiggins, II
"It's a combination of the - "The Art of Preaching - Homiletics with a twist of Celebration" or in a more modern term "whoopology. After the preacher hs imparted the word into your life, he himself celebrates in his own way and his own style of closing the sermon on a "Spiritual Praise."."

"Preach!!!! his entire family can preach!!! You should here his nephew Pastor Mike Jr. He off the chains

6. ldrrshoward

7. jlj700
"yes this is good ol preaching this guy can go"

8. TJZDouglas251
"One of National Baptist Convention of America's BEST...he's their state President here in Alabama. Preach doc!"

9. Tommy Barnes
"i live in b-ham and all i have to say is LAWD HAMERCY!"

10. Andrea Roberts
"wow. mad old school. i needed that."

11. csneaky
"mann u dont hear whooping in the cogic churhc"

12. MrG [2012]
"You might had missed Bishop G E Patterson when he was living. He sure was a Whooper"
Here's information about Bishop G. E. Patterson from his Wikipedia page
"Gilbert Earl Patterson (September 22, 1939[1] – March 20, 2007[2]) was an American Pentecostal- Holiness leader and minister who served as the international Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Inc."...

13. mrdlfrancis
"Don't hold back! Preach Doctor Preach!!"

Adell Kimbrough5 years ago
Marvin Sapp is a noted Gospel recording artist.

14. passSAT16
"@CelestineBoi I completely agree with you sir. AS a preacher myself, I agree that whooping is enjoyable, but if there is no substance, how can the people eat. Lets stay focused on the word. The word in itself should be enough for us to shout, not the organ, not a whooping preacher. But because JESUS CHRIST LIVES HALLELUJAH!. praise God for this preacher and all of our clergy. "
This comment is clearly a reply to a previous comment. The comment given as #16 also seems to have been made in response to one or more critical comments. However no comment that is critical of this sermon is found in that video's discussion (as of April 13, 2016).

15. LairdEricW
"Despite my being Calvinist, I love the rhythm and power of these types of sermons.

16. Tim'Derion Patterson
"this is a sermon close, not the sermon. If you want the meaning, you need to get the full sermon, not the sermon close." 

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