This morning's service draws on elements of the African-American traditions of worship. Many of the hymns and liturgy come from the spirituals that were sung by slaves in the 19th century. These songs tend to fall into three main categories: the call and response, the slow and sustained, and the fast syncopated and repetitive. Since it was an oral tradition, the first spirituals were the call and response type. The slow and sustained type reflects not only the weight and tiredness of having worked all day in the fields but also had to be performed clandestinely in churches in the woods so that the masters would not hear. Even the fast and jubilant spirituals were often code songs where a political message (e.g. The Gospel Train is Coming) underlined what appeared to be happy slaves singing for their masters. Examples of these different types can be heard in the setting of the Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy) and in the contrast between the offering and the offertory.
The song in the prelude, the hymn of praise, and the Sanctus come from the Gospel tradition. While rooted in spirituals, Gospel music arose from urban Black churches and has a different style of singing and performance than spirituals. An expert on gospel music was Horace Clarence Boyer (1935-2009) who began as a singer with the 'Boyer Brothers', became a long-time music professor at UMass Amherst and was the general editor of the African-American Hymnal for the Episcopal Church, "Lift Every Voice and Sing IT. It is from this hymnal that our hymns and liturgy are taken this morning and we are very grateful to Grace Episcopal Church of Amherst for lending the hymnals for our service. An arrangement by Horace Boyer can be heard in the gathering hymn. This morning's service was designed by Dr. Jeanette Miller, a leading authority on and performer of American Spirituals, is a writer, performance artist, singer, and retired pediatric physical therapist. Currently, she is in the process of authoring two books. Turning To Grace The Blows Of Fate is a book of short stories telling of the courage, dignity and triumphs of persons and situations that Miller has experienced. The Women Of dark House chronicles the amazing lives of women living in the dark House, an Amherst residence for senior citizens, and dispels the myths of aging with new realities. Miller received her degrees from Simmons College and N.Y.U. She has five children, five grandchildren, and one great grandson.