By Steve Yang
On Sunday April 30, Grinnell’s Black Church celebrated its 20th anniversary of monthly worship in Herrick Chapel. Convened in the style of African-American, African-Caribbean and African Christian traditions, the Church was begun by Reverend Deanna Shorb in 1997 for students raised in predominantly African-American churches. Moses Mason ’99, a religious studies and history major, served as the guest preacher for this service, and the Young Gifted and Black Gospel Choir (YGB) reprised their traditional role performing at the service.
According to Taylor Gaskins ’20, an organizer for the event and incoming intern at the CRSSJ, plans for the 20th anniversary celebration came together with input from numerous alumni and church members, including deciding to design coffee mugs, discussing the order of the service with alumni and learning what “Black Church” meant to those who attended in the past. In terms of work, that meant coordinating alum visits; along with Mason’s return as a guest preacher for the sermon, Christian Snow ’13 performed a solo during the service.
“For this service, we wanted to celebrate the legacy of the Black students forming a place to worship in their tradition and make a space for YGB to perform,” Gaskins wrote in an email to The S&B. “We were also celebrating the different generations of YGB and Black Church members, as well as how it has gotten students — both from the Black church tradition and non-Black church tradition — through their time at Grinnell.”
Gaskins explained that Black Church has always been about representing the experiences that black students and alumni have had at their own churches and is designed around those traditions and spirit, but welcomes everyone for worship. Oftentimes, people come from all around Grinnell to participate, and the Church has provided support and guidance to those who may just be curious.
“Many people say that if there was not Black Church, they would not go to church,” she wrote.
Attendees celebrate with hymns, songs, sermons and a style of worship that “will continue to be of the Black tradition,” because of its importance to members throughout the history of Black Church.
“[Many] students who come and participate in this church need that piece of home and style of praise to continue making it through and developing on their spiritual journeys,” Gaskins explained.
For those interested in attending future services, Gaskins emphasized the church’s inclusiveness, and wants Grinnellians to know that they should feel comfortable at futureevents. She mentioned that beginning in the fall of 2016, black church will be hosted on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, rather than just the second Sunday of the month, so there will be even more opportunities to attend.
“If you are looking for a church home and you haven’t been able to find a place for you, come here. If you want to feel the spirit in the House of the Lord, come here,” Gaskins said. “If you think you might want to learn more about black church or church in general, and want a community to do that in, come.We welcome you and love you, and want you to worship with us.”