Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Two Videos Of New Jersey Church Choir March Arounds & A Description Of That Church Custom That I Observed in New Jersey In 2019

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision- Oct. 10, 2021 [description of march around and lyrics to "He Never Failed Me Yet" and "We Have An Anchor"]

This is Part III of a three part pancocojams post about Black church choir "march arounds" during the church service.

Part III showcases two videos of what I refer to as "march arounds" by the choir of First United Tabernacle International Ministries' (Orange, New Jersey). Selected comments from the discussion threads of these two videos are also included in this post. A commenter in one of those discussion threads identified the pastor of that church as being Jamaican.

This post presents information about Jamaicans in the United States and includes a description of a church choir "march around" that I observed in Pleasantville, New Jersey (near Atlantic City) on March 10, 2019.

Click for Part I of this series. Part I showcases several videos of Jamaican church choirs marching around their sanctuary during church service. Selected comments from some of the discussion threads of these videos are also included in this post.

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II provides some information about Jamaicans in Canada and showcases a video of a Black Canadian church choir marching around the sanctuary during a church service for that church's collection. Selected comments from that video's discussion thread are also included in this post. A number of those comments note that this "march around" style is from Jamaica.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
Click for Part I of a pancocojams series that presents information about possible cultural influences on Black (African American) church usher, nurses, or choir processions. The links to the other posts in that series are found in that post.

"march arounds" -
1. The church choir leaves the choir stand during the offering. They "march" in a single file while singing and continue up the left hand aisle. The choir then continues singing and marching down the center aisle pass two men standing in the front who hold the offering plates. Choir members put their offereing in one of the plates while they continue singing and marching back up to the choir stand. The rest of the congregation is standing singing along with the choir throughout this entire time. Some members of the congregation clap along with the song, hold their arm up. Some choir members and some members of the congregation may show that they are touched by the spirit (get happy, go in). If this occurs with a choir member, the person in back of them helps that person along so that she or he continues moving.

2. All of the above except that when the choir moves down the center aisle, they then move down the aisle on the right hand side and then move down the center aisle. At that point they give their offering and then return to the choir stand.  

The church choir may do a march around, in part, as a way of giving their collection. (Based on some YouTube videos) it appears that some church choirs in Jamaica do march arounds apart from collections to demonstrate their praise toward God and, in so doing, increase the presence of the Holy Spirit in that worship service.

Additions and corrections to these descriptions are welcome.

"Church march arounds" differs from "church march ins".

"March ins" - when a church choir or other church group/ministry (such as ushers or nurses) march into the church sanctuary-usually from the center aisle- to mark the beginning of the worship service or special program such as that group/s anniversary or a convention.

In contrast to a number of videos of African American church choirs marching in to the sanctuary to begin the church service, I haven't found any YouTube videos of Jamaican church choirs doing "march ins". If you know of any links to those videos and/or if you know of this custom in Jamaica, please share that information in the comment section below. Thanks!

I also haven't found any online articles about Black church processions (marches), including Jamaican church processions, except those pancocojams blog posts that I've published. If you know of any other links to information or comments on this subject, please share them below. Also, please share your experiences with Black church processions (marches), including when and where you observed or participated in those marches. Thanks!

Video #1: Jesus He Never Failed Me Yet Paise Break

First United Tabernacle International Ministries, Published on Aug 23, 2013

Upper Room Conference 2013

Here's what I think the choir and congregation are repeatedly singing:

I have a God
Who never failed me yet
I have a God
Who never failed me yet
Jesus he never failed me yet
Jesus He never failed me yet.

[Additions and corrections are welcome.]
Here are very similar lyrics to this chorus:

"He never failed me yet.
He never fail me yet
Jesus Christ never failed me yet*
And everywhere I go
I want the world to know
Jesus Christ never failed me yet.


* This line may be sung as:

Jesus’ blood never failed me yet


Jesus’ love never failed me yet"

Here are some comments from this video's discussion thread, with number added for referencing purposes only.
1. John Blackwood, 2013
"That man sounds Jamaican... Is he?"

2. Melissa Fernandez, 2018
I think that's very likely that this New Jersey church was founded by Jamaicans and/or that a number of people in the congregation are of Jamaican ancestry.

3. cclarke0786, 2013
"Praise Him saints.
The lyrics to this song are????"

4. Steffi Solomon, 2013
"stumble and fall He never fail me yet, i did what i want He never fail me yet
Jesus He never failed me yet
Jesus He never failed me yet"

5. Crystal Chambers, 2014
"this video!!!!!!!.........Pentecostal in Worship, Apostolic in Doctrine"

6. ann D, 2016
"Powerful pure worship"

7. Gil Miller, 2016
"Bless the Lord. Is it in New Jersey or Canada? I am planning to visit there I'm from london UK."

8. Rozell Vousden, 2018
"Gil Miller New Jersey"

9. First United Tabernacle International Ministries, 2018
"We are located at 425 South Jefferson Street, Orange, NJ 07050"
Orange, New Jersey is about 24 minutes by car from New York City.

10. IamKemi, 2016
"Can someone explain to me why they do that all the time? (choir dancing in the aisle) Is it a custom in their church?"

11. Ronin Williams, 2016
"I want to come to New Jersey just to go to this church"

12. Miss Harris, 2016
"Phenomenal ....real authentic Pentecostal Worship xx"

Video #2: We Have An Anchor

First United Tabernacle International Ministries, Published on Nov 26, 2016

31st Pastoral Appreciation Celebration
Nov. 13, 2016
Here's the words that are repeatedly sung by the choir and by the congregation:
"We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
This is the refrain (chorus) to the song "Will your anchor hold in the storms of life" that was composed by Priscilla J. Owens, a White American who was born in 1829. Click  for the lyrics for this complete song. 

Here are some comments from this video's discussion thread, with number added for referencing purposes only.
HannahYael, 2018
"It’s wonderful to see people praising GOD"

2, WWJD ?, 2018
"Glory to God , nothing like a Holy Ghost party !"

3. dgreenja, 2018
"Good old time song"

4. Black Love, 2018
"Wonderful. ..old time way of worship"

5. Sylvia Hamilton, 2018
"Church like it should be! Praise God."

6. suebern330, 2018
"reminds me so much of Spalding New Testament New Church. Holy Ghost Pentecostal, my God I love it"
Spalding New Testament New Church is located in Clarendon, Jamaica.

"Jamaican Americans are Americans who have full or partial Jamaican ancestry. The largest proportion of Jamaican Americans live in New York City, which has various other Caribbean cultural elements such as food and music. There are also communities of Jamaican Americans residing in Philadelphia, Boston, South Florida, Tampa, Los Angeles, Orlando, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Cleveland, Western New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Significant immigration waves

Apart from Canada and England, the U.S. houses the majority of Jamaican émigrés worldwide. Jamaican immigration to the U.S. increased during the civil rights era of the 1960s. As with many other sources of Caribbean immigration, the geographical nearness of Jamaica to the U.S. increased the likelihood of migration. The economic attractiveness and general Jamaican perception of the U.S. as a land of opportunity explain continued migration flows despite economic downturn in America. Traditionally, America has experienced increased migration through means of family preference, in which U.S. citizens sponsor their immediate family. Through this category a substantial amount of Jamaican immigrants were able to enter mainly urban cities within the U.S that provided blue-collar work opportunities. Jamaican immigrants utilized employment opportunities despite the discriminatory policies that affected some Caribbean émigrés.[2]

At present, Jamaicans are the largest group of American immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean. However, it is difficult to verify the exact number of Jamaican Americans in this country because most of them assimilate into the wider black community. The 1990 census placed the total number of documented Jamaican Americans at 435,025.

According to the text of Immigrant America (p. 69)[clarification needed], there were 554,897 Jamaican-born people living in the U.S. in 2000. This represents 61% of the approximate 911,000 Americans of Jamaican ancestry. Many Jamaicans are second, third and descend from even older generations, as there have been Jamaicans in the U.S. as early as the early twentieth Century....Large communities of Jamaican immigrants have formed in New York City and the New York Metro Area, which includes Long Island and much of New Jersey and Connecticut, along with Florida (centered in and around the Miami, Tampa, and Orlando areas), which has the second largest Jamaican community in the U.S, and Philadelphia. In recent years, many Jamaicans have left New York City for its suburbs, and large Jamaican communities have also formed in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Los Angeles, and Providence.


U.S. metropolitan areas with largest Jamaican populations

The top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest populations of Jamaicans (Source: 2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates)[6]

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA-CT MSA – 353,770

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA – 178,791

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA – 55,422

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA – 32,754

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA – 30,469

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT MSA – 25,732

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA – 23,861

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA – 20,621

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA – 13,997

Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA – 13,063"....
As an aside, while I don't have any Jamaican ancestry, my maternal grandparents were Caribbean emigrants to Southern New Jersey (Atlantic City) in the late 19th century. My grandfather was originally from Tobago and my grandmother was from Barbados.


Revision June 22, 2019 based on my visit to that church on June 9, 2019
St. Paul AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church is located in Pleasantville, New Jersey about 14 minutes from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Reverend Lynda T. Rassmann is the pastor of that church.

Latest revision Oct. 14, 2021 - to clarify some points


These choir collection marches ("march around") occurred after all those in attendance at that church -starting from the back pews- stood up and walked in single file to the front of the church for the main offering. People placed money in one of two gold colored collection plates that were held by two female ushers standing on either side of the altar. This was the second collection, the first being the missionary offering. For that offering, people remained seated and ushers passed a collection plate to the end of each pew.

After the congregation returned to their seats, the choir marched out of the choir stands in single file from the left and the right while singing the classic Gospel song "Highway To Heaven". The body stance of each choir member was erect, and not the leaning forward with heads down stance and chugging forward movement which was done by the Black Canadian choir from Abiezer Pentecostal Church's collection march as shown in this 2009 YouTube video

 After the two lines of choir members exited the choir stand, one line marched up the right aisle and one line marched up the left aisle. The two single lines met at the top of the center aisle. Then the choir marched in twos down the center aisle. When they reached the bottom of the center aisle, the person to the right placed her offering in the collection plate held by one usher, and the person to the left placed her offering in the collection plate held by the other usher. The line on the right and the line on the left then marched to their respective aisles. When they reached those aisles, the marchers faced backwards while moving up those aisles. At the top of the aisles, the marchers faced forward again and then marched to the top of the center aisle. At the top of the center aisle the two single lines combined to march in twos down that aisle. The combined line then separated at the bottom of the center aisle to march back towards the right and the left to re-enter the choir stand. When they reached the choir stand, they continued standing to sing their song.
Thanks to my younger brother, Dr. R.E.B Manning, the director of St. Paul AME's choir and his wife Charlotte Manning, who is a member of that choir for confirming my recollections about this collection march. [phone conversations March 24, 2019, and March 26, 2019]. Both R.E.B. and Charlotte used the term "collection march", not the term "march around".

In my separate telephone conversation with them, R.E.B. Manning and Charlotte Manning indicated that every Sunday this choir marches in to the sanctuary to begin the church service and marches for collection.

Charlotte Manning also shared with me that she remembers choirs marching in and choirs marching for collection being customs that were done every Sunday at Baptist churches and at AME churches- including St. Paul AME church- that she attended/attends in Pleasantville, New Jersey since the late 1950s. Charlotte mentioned that there were some people from the West Indies who belonged to those churches, although her family wasn't from there. Charlotte also shared that the pastor of St. Paul AME in Pleasantville had Jamaican roots.

I was raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey (about 15 minutes from Pleasantville) and I don't recall observing any choir march arounds at any church that I attended. This is probably because I usually only attended my own church, particularly on Sunday mornings, and I only remember attending an AME church for a choir competition. I also don't recall ever attending an A.M.E Zion church or a church of any other denomination during my childhood and my teen years. However, I have vivid memories of choir march ins at my church (Union Baptist Temple Church) being done every Sunday (since the mid 1950s). And the choir march in custom is still done at that church to begin the (main) Sunday service (as confirmed by my youngest brother Kenneth Manning in a telephone conversation on March 24, 2019. Kenneth is a member of one of Union Baptist Temple's choir) . Although I didn't ask him that question, I'm sure that my brother R. E.B Manning would also remembers choir march ins at Union Baptist Temple Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I also recall attending an anniversary concert of the Spiral Chorus, the church choir that my mother sang in and observing them march down the center aisle to the choir stand singing "Move Up The King's Highway". 

**The St. Paul AME Church choir is under the direction of Dr. R. E. B. Manning who is also the choir's organist. The other musicians who accompanied the choir are Kenneth Moore (pianist & saxophone player), George Thomas, (snare) drummer, and Larry King, tambourine player.

To be clear, the St. Paul AME Church service was much more sedate that the First United Tabernacle International Ministries church service. In contrast to the exuberant expressions by the congregation at First United Tabernacle, the St. Paul's the congregation remained in their seats and didn't appear to express themselves in any way while the choir did their collection march. Also, as somewhat of an aside, notice that females (especially women) at First United Tabernacle wore hats (covered their head which is an old church tradition that I recall at my Baptist church in the 1950s to around the early 1960s). However, I don't recall any female wearing any hat or head covering at St. Paul's AME church.

Disclaimer: This description doesn't necessarily mean that each of St Paul AME Church Choir's collection marches are always done this way or that all march arounds by African American choirs fit this description.

This concludes Part III of this pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment