Friday, January 05, 2018
Singing and Praying Bands
These photographs are of Singing and Praying Bands, an African-American sacred music form that dates back over two hundred years. This worship practice also called ring shout, is still practiced in a small number of churches around the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Delaware.
Under the direction of folklorist Jonathan David, these pictures were made in two sessions; July 6, 1986 at Jefferson United Methodist Church, in Smithville, Maryland, and on August 3, 1986 at Lane United Methodist, on Taylor’s Island, Dorchester County, Maryland. Jefferson United Methodist is now named New Revived United Methodist, and it is the only one of five related congregations that still exists. Harriet Tubman, the great abolitionist leader and heroine of the Underground Railroad and Civil War, was born in a town with one of these original churches. The Singing and Praying Bands are a continuation of a form of worship service that survives from that era.
Thank you to the men and women of these congregations for letting me into their holy space, and to my friend Jonathan David for the opportunity to receive, learn, and document.
I trust some of the photographs spark a glimmer of what the Bands call “laboring in the spirit.”
Learn more about the Singing and Praying Bands here:
Jonathan David's excellent book on them, Together Let Us Sweetly Live: The Singing and Praying Bands, is available on Amazon.
I have created an artist's book of photographs of this work. It is available to preview and to purchase here.