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Millennial/Centennial Voices from the Africana Diaspora

By Cynthia Wilson

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The first Africana Worship Book appeared in 2006. It was the brainchild of the Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis and the Rev. Dr. Safiyah Fosua. Out of this effort, multiple worship resources have been produced: four Africana Worship books published by Discipleship Resources; The Africana Hymnal published by Abingdon; and Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice (print, eBook, and video) published by Discipleship Resources. These resources continue to inform and enhance worship in a variety of settings and traditions across the church.

Yet there are new voices ready to be heard speaking to and for a new generation of worship leaders and congregations. Dr. Fosua agreed to help shepherd a new generation of worship resources for the whole church from the Africana tradition. Along with Cheryl Walker, Dr. Fosua gathered these worship leaders and invited them to create new resources for a new day.

Here is the first collection of those resources written especially for the Advent season. It is the hope of the Worship Team of Discipleship Ministries that these resources will be used widely throughout the church, giving voice to people of color from within our tradition. These resources may be printed, copied, distributed, reprinted in church bulletins or newsletters, or otherwise used for nonprofit local church worship or education with the inclusion of the copyright citation. They may not be used for profit or republication without prior permission.

Dr. Fosua has now assembled a new vision team preparing to gather another group of writers. The Rev. Dr. Jacqui King, Director of U.S. Conference Relationships for Discipleship Ministries, and the Rev. Nathalie Parker, National Program Coordinator for Strengthening the Black Church for the Twenty-First Century, have agreed to work with Dr. Fosua in cultivating more liturgical resources from the African Diaspora. We look forward to their work.

Let’s meet the creators of this Advent collection of resources:

  • Rev. Lindsey Baynham is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving as the Director of Clergy Excellence in the Virginia Annual Conference. This proud alumna of Randolph-Macon College and Duke Divinity School has a passion for worship design, preaching and teaching, laughter over a meal with friends, and connecting folks.
  • Valerie Boyer was born and raised in Galveston, TX, the home of Juneteenth, curated at Howard University, with journey to Detroit, MI and now Columbus, OH. Valerie has embraced life through the lens of preaching, praying, poetry, and activism. She is working to make a difference in different pockets of the world, one person at a time.
  • Linda Furtado currently serves as the Minister of Worship, Arts, and Media at McKendree UMC in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Linda, a ministry leader in the Tennessee Annual Conference, is married to the Rev. Jefferson M. Furtado. She is the mother of three school-age daughters: Sueli, Cintia, and Emma.
  • Rev. Ashley Renée Johnson is a provisional deacon in the United Methodist Church. She currently serves at the Union Church in Boston, MA. This proud alumna of Spelman College, Brown University, and the Boston University School of Theology has also enjoyed serving as an elementary school teacher for more than ten years.
  • Rev. Michael Parker, a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church, pastors Bells United Methodist Church and United Methodist Church of the Redeemer in Prince George's County, MD. Rev. Parker is pursuing a D. Min. at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He has been a consistent voice for the voiceless.
  • Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas is a writer, researcher, and adjunct professor, who lives with her husband, John, in South Carolina. Her current work includes an ethnographic study of the flourishing of Black clergywomen and providing soul care as a form of reparations to women to give their time, resources, and life to the thriving of Black churches.
  • Stephon Void is a Certified Lay Servant in the South Carolina Annual Conference and a member of New Covenant UMC in Bowman, SC. He is currently a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Technician and facilities manager at Claflin University.

The Season of Advent

THE JAZZ OF ADVENT

Ashley Johnson

Do you hear that?
Do you see that?
That commotion.
That clamor.
That racket.

It’s created by the confusion and chaos of this noisy, broken world, and it can be especially loud in this season.

Listen.
It’s not soothing.
It is anxiety producing.

Look.
It’s not inspiring.
It is distracting and rude and cold.
But if we listen harder… if we pay attention…

[Silence]

But, if we listen again, we can hear, we can see sweet music.
Jazz, if you will.

[Musicians play soft music]

In our everyday lives, we can hear surprising notes, electric instrumentation, smooth sounds, and even bluesy rhythms that remind us that we are not alone. This is the music that we are designed to enjoy.

This is jazz.

This is the music of Advent.

This music lasts.
This music affirms.
This music transforms.
This music promises a restored world.

So, the question becomes: How can we get ready? How can we prepare this shared space, this sacred space? We can remember. We can focus on growing together, on sharing this, God’s music, with others.

How can we prepare our hearts?

We shift our attention from the clatter. We close our eyes or open our eyes and position ourselves to see, to hear a new song, even when this world makes it so difficult to do so. We welcome the words that the prophets sing. And, we deepen our commitments to harmonize.

How can we prepare our hearts?

We make every effort to see, to listen to the jazz of Advent.

Look.

Listen.

A PRAYER FOR THE SEASON OF ADVENT

Valerie Boyer

Heavenly Father,

We come to you right now, Lord, starting off by saying thank you. We are constantly reminded, that everyone doesn't get a chance to say thank you, so while we have it, we're going to take it.

Thank you for our good days.
Thank you for our bad ones.
Thank you for our hard times.
Thank you for our pain.
Thank you for our joy.
Thank you for your strength.
Thank you for your peace.
Thank you for our families.

God, we thank you.

We come to you, Lord, asking that you go and see about the people who are poverty-stricken.
We pray for the bodies who must sleep outside tonight in this weather,
Give them warm souls,
Remind them that you never leave us or forsake us.

God, convict us in our spirits to be your hands and feet,
To go to their aid, not just during this time of the year,
But year round, Lord.

Thank you for your servants who will house the homeless.
May their work never be in vain.

Now God, we pray for those who wrestle with loss and depression this season.

Depression is real.

Anxiety is real.

God, for so many people,
This holiday season has been redefined by the absence of a loved one's physical presence,
But, Lord, we know you can handle it.

God, you are a heart-fixer and a mind-regulator.
We pray you give us wisdom and the right words to say to those who are in distress.
We pray you send your peace.

God, we're coming against increased suicide rates right now.
We're coming against wrist-cutting and slicing right now.
We rebuke the overuse of alcohol; we rebuke drug abuse, right now.
We bind inappropriate reactionary behavior right now and send it back from whence it came.

God in this holiday season people need to experience you.
We want the world to know the love we've come to know.
We want the world to feel the joy we've come to feel.
And, we want the world to feel the hope that you give.

For people who have put distance in the relationship,
We pray that they draw near to you again.
And, for people that don't know you,
We pray that you reveal yourself to them.
God, for the individual things that your children stand in need of,
We ask to you meet them where they...where we are.

You promised us you'd never leave us or forsake us, and we choose to trust you.

God, you are a redeemer.
You're a restorer.
We love you so much.
Lastly, but certainly not least,
We thank you for Jesus.
Thank you for the hope he brings,
And thank you that he gives us access to you.

And it's in the name of that Jesus,
Our hope-giving, saving, redeeming, loving Savior's name, we pray and ask it all.

Amen.

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First Sunday of Advent

Stephon Carlisle Void

CHURCH VOICEMAIL

A Gathering Meditation based on Mark 13: 24-37
Prepare for a dramatic presentation of Church Voicemail to precede the Call to Worship that follows

The phone rings five times; no one answers.
"Hello, we aren’t available; please leave a message after the beep."
Beep

"Hello, my dear, are you there? It is important that I hear from you.
The sick haven’t been seen in weeks. No one has looked after the widowed and the poor. Your soup kitchen is closed. Are you OK? Call me back, my dear, I miss you."

The phone rings five times; no one answers.
"Hello, we are not available. Please leave a message after the beep."
Beep
Hello, my dear, it is me again. I’m still away, prepping for my return. What is this I hear? No one has professed their faith, nor no child has been baptized in a while? Why are your pews so empty? Are you asleep? I need you to wake up and stand watch until I get back. Get back in touch with me soon.

The phone rings five times, and no one answers.
"Hello, we aren’t available. Please leave a message after the beep."
Beep
"
Honey, are you still asleep? The people I entrusted you with are in need of your help.
I said I was going away to prepare a place for you. I told you that I love you. I gave my life for you. Why are you asleep? Why are you ignoring me? Why are you so pious and clinging to your traditions? My bride, can you wake up please? I need you! My return is soon coming, and I don’t want to leave you behind. My dear, please wake and do the work you have been asked to do before it's too late."

The phone rings once.
"The number you have dialed is no longer in service."

STAY WOKE!

A Call to Worship, Inspired by Mark 13: 24-37

Look at the signs of the times. There are hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, famine, and incurable diseases.
Stay Woke! Christ is coming again!

Civic leaders care more about their own interests than they do about the people.
Stay woke! Christ is coming again!

Our youth are being imprisoned or killed by a system that is meant to fail them. Mothers are burying their children because of violence in the streets.
Stay woke! Christ is coming again!

No one knows when Christ will return. It’s time to put in some work. It’s time to reach those who are lost. It is time to be the light of hope that this world needs. Christ is coming, and there is no time for sleeping. We have work to do.
Stay Woke! Christ is coming again!

PLEASE DON’T CONDEMN US

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Please don’t condemn us, O God, for not standing firm on our calling. We, your church, have become a barren dessert to our own people. We have not heard the cry of our people. They are crying in Ferguson, Houston, Charleston, Chicago, and Baltimore. They turn to us to respond, but we have yet to bear fruits of promise. Young people need our wisdom, but we fear them because we don’t know how to bridge the gap. We are meant to be a beacon of hope and light, but we are stuck in our traditions. We are called to change the world, but we let the world change us. We are to stand up for injustice, but at times, we sit in silence.

Despite our flaws, you still love your church. You prove that love to us through your Son Jesus Christ. We know that he is coming back again, and we can expect him at any time. Guide us to walk in his light and to serve like he served. We ask that you mold us, like clay, into new vessels of hope, faith, courage, and love. Pour your living water into our newly shaped vessels. Give us so much living water that it will overflow and reach every ministry we do. Strengthen us to the extent that we will go out into the wilderness and bring forth change in the hearts of people. When you come back for us, may we be the church that you have called us to be. Help us to be the hope that so many people need on this day.

In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

STAY ALERT, WE HAVE WORK TO DO

A Sending Forth for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Inspired by Mark 13:24-37

If someone is hungry, then feed them.
If someone is naked, then clothe them.
If someone is lost, then show them the way.
If someone is afraid, then show them that he is strong!
If some are excluded, include them.
If someone is empty, then introduce them to the one who can fill them up.
If there is no shelter to house the people, build it.
Be the hands that lift your brothers/sisters up.
We have work to do before the Savior comes.
Don’t let him catch you asleep on the job.
Stay alert, stay diligent, and stay woke.
Be the church that Jesus brags about to his Father.
May his peace be with you until we meet again. Amen.

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Second Sunday of Advent

Michael Parker

COME, SWEET JESUS, COME!

A Call to Worship for the Second Sunday of Advent

Leader: Can you hear it? A voice cries out!

People: We’ve gotta get things together! Jesus is coming!

Leader: Jesus is coming for those who are broken and have been beat up by life.

People: He’s coming for those whose week couldn’t get any better
And for those whose week was long and draining.
He’s coming for those who embrace their next steps
And for those who have no idea what’s next.

Leader: He’s coming for those who live right and those just struggling to live.
He’s coming for those who anticipate a bright tomorrow
And for those who are already over today.

All: Come, sweet Jesus, come!
We’re here waiting for you, and while we wait, we will worship!

HE IS COMING

A Call to Worship for the Second Sunday of Advent

Leader: He is coming! Yes, Christ is coming!

People: We wait for him patiently but with expectation!

Leader: He is coming! Yes, Christ is coming
To meet our expectations and beat our expectations.
He is coming to blow our minds!

People: Without Christ, we can do nothing.
We need him more than the next breath we breathe.
So, come on, Jesus! You know we’re here and we’re waiting!
Come, fill us again until we are overflowing!

FILL US IN THIS PLACE

A Prayer of Invocation for the Second Sunday of Advent

Come on, Jesus! We’ve been waiting on you. We need you. We’re here because of you. Come in our midst today. Work out for my brothers and sisters what has been working on them. Fill us in this place. Change us in this moment. Come and change us again and again. We don’t mind waiting, but we really can’t wait to see you! This is your day. This is your house. We are your children. Father, we’re waiting for you. We pray this in the Name of the one who is to come. Amen!

HE CAME, WRAPPED IN FLESH LIKE OURS

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

Holy One, into mess you sent Perfection. Wrapped in flesh like ours, flesh that is weak, flesh that makes mistakes, flesh that has a liking for wrong even more than it does for right, you sent Jesus for your people. However, he never messed up! He never went the wrong way! He never broke your heart! May we, those whom you love more than we know how to love ourselves, strive to be more like him. We pray, God, that our lives make room for you to appear. Powerful God, we are unworthy of even unlacing your shoes, but let all we do bring you glory! In Christ’s precious name, we pray. Amen!

GOD, YOU’VE BEEN BETTER THAN GOOD

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

God, what can we say? You’ve been some kind of good to us! In fact, you’ve been better than good! When we deserved your wrath, you gave us your mercy. When you should have hated us, you loved us even harder. When we gave you reason to turn and walk away, you drew even closer and held us even tighter! You are a great God! You’ve clothed us with your favor, set us up for victory after victory, and turned down the temperature of your wrath so that all we feel is your Spirit like the cool breeze. We’re listening to you. We’re listening for you. Speak to us, God. Our hands are ready to receive all the good things—grace, mercy, love, favor, overflow, peace, joy, belly laughs, and hope, just to name a few—that you have prepared for us! We’re ready, God! We’re ready! All this we pray in that great Name, the Name of Jesus Christ! Amen!

NOTHING COULD STOP YOU!

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

Father, here we are! We are your children! We are those for whom you were willing to hang upon a tree. We’re not perfect. We have made mistakes. We have broken your heart. We’ve gone totally opposite what you’ve asked and required of us. However, none of this has stopped your love. None of this has stopped your grace. None of this has stopped your mercy. Why are you so good to us, God? Why do you make ways for us like you do? Why do you care for us like you do? You are extremely patient with us, God. You gave us time to get it together so that we could one day be together. Rub some of your patience on us, God. We could use it. Help us be more like you. Help us live more like you. Help us smell more like you. Help us look more like you. Restore in us your image so that when that great day comes and you crack the sky, we are found spotless in your sight. We wait for you, Loving God. We wait patiently upon your arrival. Come, Lord Jesus. Come. In his name, we pray. Amen!

TELL SOMEBODY!

A Sending for the Second Sunday of Advent

Now, go, people of God! Go, and make sure the path is clear for Jesus, your Jesus, my Jesus, our Jesus, to get through! Go, and make your voice heard! Shout it from your cubicle, from your classroom, from your delivery truck, from your living room, from your heart! Tell somebody, anybody, everybody, that Jesus is coming! He’s coming to make us better and coming to make us whole! Go forth, knowing that you’ve got work to do! He who is to come is already with you, endowing you with good Holy Ghost power to do what he needs you to do! Go, people, go!

GOD HAS BEEN PATIENT; YOU BE FAITHFUL

A Sending for the Second Sunday of Advent

You, with whom God has been patient
You, to whom God has been faithful
You, for whom God has come
Leave this place different than you came
Leave this place changed for the better
Leave this place convicted to live holy
Leave this place waiting for God to show up for you this week.
Go! Go forth happy!
Go forth filled!
Go forth in peace!

LOOSE US, BUT DON’T LET US GO!

A Sending for the Second Sunday of Advent

God, loose us, but don’t let us go!
God, send us, but don’t let us go!
God, lead us, but don’t let us go!
We’re following you every step of the way!
Now, may the grace of God that keeps following you around,
May the mercy of God that keeps jumping on you,
May the love of God that keeps wooing you
Loose you, send you, and lead you every step of the way!
Leave this place in grace and leave this place in peace!

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Third Sunday of Advent

Lindsey Baynham

WATCH FOR THE LIGHT

A Call to Worship based on John 1:6-8, 19-28

One voice: Unclog your ears; listen for the voice breaking through the winds of the wilderness [crying out], “Make straight the way of the Lord!”
Many voices: Watch for the light!

One voice: Adjust your eyes; the true light is coming to illumine us too.
Many voices: Witness to the light!

One voice: When the world questions, neglects, and denies this light, unlock your mouths!
Many voices: Speak the truth of this light!

One voice: Look alive, take notice: One who is greater is coming.
All voices: We celebrate and bear witness to the gift of the true light. Amen.

TO THE ONE WITH THE BEST, HOT-OFF-THE-PRESS NEWS

An Opening prayer based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

To the one with the best, hot-off-the-press, news: we worship you. For when the world publishes a message that destroys, tearing down cities, dividing the peoples, and keeping the oppressed down, down, down, in their place—we trust that you are a lover of justice. Mourners and despairers will delight in the goodness found in you. God, remind us that as your beloved, we reap from the righteousness and justice that springs forth in the light of your promise. Amen.

HOUSEKEEPING

A Sending based on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Now, for some housekeeping and community news:
Don’t stop praising,
Pray until your breath runs out,
Thank God in all things.
Don’t strangle the Spirit.
Hold on to good while letting go of evil.
Leave this place in sound body so that those who pass you by are witnesses to the work of Christ.
And friends, the one who has called you faithful, despite everything in your lives, will complete these things in you. Go to witness; go to serve.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Alexis Carter and Lindsey Baynham

COME, GOD, IN THE FLESH

An Advent Call to Worship Inspired by the Magnificat
Lindsey Baynham

One voice: The womb of a young virgin leaps for joy, and the ultimate gift prepares to come into the world as a babe.

All voices: Come God, in the flesh, to your church.

One voice: God, you have done great things, and they continue. You have flipped the script for the sake of connecting with a people, a young couple, and us.

All voices: Come God, in the flesh, to your church.

OUR SOULS COME MAGNIFYING THE LORD

A Litany for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
(Alexis Carter)

Leader: O come and magnify the Lord.

People: Our souls come magnifying the Lord.

Leader: Whether you come to worship, blissful, belligerent, bashful, or abashed—

People: We will not be afraid because we have found favor with God.

Leader: Bring your bodies and brains that bear the burdens of birthing and brokenness.

People: God has done great things for us, and we long for the continued fulfillment of God’s promises.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION OR CONFESSION

(Alexis Carter)

Gracious God,
Home to the homeless,
Shelter in times of storms,
Builder of a city where all are invited to live regardless of socioeconomic status.

We call to mind those who have no homes.
Our world is busy building more churches,
Shopping centers, and businesses
While some of your people are still dwelling in proverbial booths.

We have built more prisons when you said to set captives free.
While some children are building tree houses,
The homes other children know exist only in their dreams.
We confess that we have focused on building social programs to fix our faults and remedy those areas where we have been remiss.
You, God, are the Director of Housing of Urban Development.
Give us the tools to build infrastructures and institutions that you will inhabit.
Give us the tools to build strong imaginations.
Provide the resources to build homes, schools, communities, and futures in which your people can flourish.
In the name of the Carpenter who makes possible the building of greater possibilities. Amen.

EXPECT THE IMPOSSIBLE

A Response to Luke 1:26-38
(Alexis Carter)

We are worshipers who expect the impossible.
We will conceive possibilities that have yet to be manifest.
We can’t deny that our lives bear brokenness and beauty.
We can’t be silent about the Mighty One who has done great things for us.
We can’t sing the melody of the status quo when God has given us a new song.
We will believe that nothing shall be impossible with God.

GOD CHOSE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE

A Sending
(Alexis Carter)

God chose to do the impossible—to become flesh so that you might find life in the flesh possible. May the very ways you live in the world reflect that God is still dethroning might and filling the hungry. Live the song and sing the promises of God’s goodness, Christ’s coming, and the Spirit’s overshadowing.

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Christmas Day

Linda Furtado

BEAUTIFUL

A Responsive Reading, Inspired by Isaiah 52:7-10

Beautiful is the Newborn King.
Beautiful is the baby. Tiny feet. Tiny hands. Softest skin. Full of life.

Beautiful is the child who will know the pain of walking the walk in his own name.
Beautiful are those feet that will blister from the journey to brighter days.

Beautiful is the builder who will create more than furniture with his hands.
Beautiful are those hands that will work and live with and within the community.

Beautiful is the one who will be whipped and bruised.
Beautiful is that skin that will swell and absorb our pain.

Beautiful is the pouring out that will come in the darkest hour.
Beautiful is the blood that shows us the cost of compassion and love.

Beautiful as he is and beautiful as he will be.
Beautiful is the Newborn King.
Tiny feet.
Tiny hands.
Softest skin.
Full of life.

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Let the space we fill today be full of our praises.

We are the family members who have been sitting in the waiting room of history, straining to hear the great birth announcement.

The Holy Arm, cradling the child, has leaned over just far enough for us to catch a glimpse.
It’s a boy! It’s the Son of God! Praise God! (Say that with me church…) Praise God! Praise God! …

(As the praises settle down)

Yes, God. We recognize the irony, our gift on his divine and blessed birthday.
If only we understood what this meant and what this means…Forgive us for our selfishness.

Remind us every time we see Jesus what sacrifice looks like,
What pain looks like,
What suffering looks like,
What loss looks like.
Remind us that you knew pain, loss, and suffering long before we did, when from day one you shaped the path and set things in motion to give up your Son for us.

Lord God, thank you for giving him to us in order to save us from ourselves and our circumstances.
Thank you for setting the stage with a beautiful baby.
Thank you for opening our hearts so that our minds would be more receptive to your desires for your people.
May the selfish child within each of us find you, your Son’s example, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that from this day forward we forever remember and offer gratitude for this Child, a gift we could never afford to pay back.

Amen.

WE ARE MORE THAN WHAT IS IN FRONT OF US

A Sermonic Sending Forth: For a Closing or Dying Church

We are more than what is in front of us.
We are built up and built out of a past tense that informs our future.

Listen. Hear our future. It’s outside, where the real work of the church happens. God is still doing good in us and in the world and has not given up on building up the kingdom on earth. So, let’s not allow our past to hold us hostage. Let’s join the revolution.

Even before God’s vision is recognized by unbelievers, their expectations are growing. Listen to their expectations out there, flowing in freestyle music and poetic stories of injustice. Flowing from the lips of people who didn’t grow up in our traditions and know nothing of the struggles and source of our convictions.

Maybe we missed something. Maybe we were living out life cycles content to dwell on and in our selfishness, focused and blinded by the past so much so that we didn’t see how history should inform our present tense experiences.

Let’s not live in the past, but live. Let’s build up our present with consideration of the past that is here right now. Here with us. Born to set us free.

It may not feel like it, but this is good news.
Unto us a Child has been born.
A Son given.
No secrets here.
Everybody will get to see when God’s vision meets human reality.
It does not matter if the present condition of these walls reflects a different story.

Let’s turn these ruins into steppingstones
raising us up to see what those who are watching from outside expect with anticipation.
That is, before our ruins become tombstones for our souls.

Yes, let’s sing songs and celebrate, even as we walk out of these doors today. Let’s put on our God-given footwear, climb into the mountainous terrain far from our comfort zone and let the good news be open to us and to others as we share about that saving grace, that awesome gift of God, until our feet can walk no more.

We are more than what’s in front of us.
We are people of God.
Praise be to God.

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