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Panel discusses history, importance of black churches


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By Morgan Smith



Bloomington’s historic Second Baptist Church was full of dynamic, inspirational conversation about worship in predominately African-American churches Tuesday evening.

Attendees were welcomed into the “Why I Sing Amazing Grace: The African American Worship Experience” event with warm sounds of the Martin Luther King Community
Gospel Choir.

Freshman Jordan Canary attended the event for an assignment for a journalism class. Canary said she had never attended an African-American church.

“I didn’t really know what I was expecting,” she said. “I didn’t really know anything about it.”

WTIU’s Shameka Neely moderated the conversation between four panelists from across Indiana. They discussed the importance of  distinct music, deep faith and the evolution of black church culture.

Panelist Dennis Laffoon, reverend at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomington, offered insight about different faiths among black churches.

“I don’t think faith changes from church to church,” he said. “I think churches worship to the beat of a different drum. In a black church, no matter where you go in the nation, there are some traditional things that you are going to experience.”

Panelist Michael Joseph Brown, director of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies at Wabash College, said the black church “is resiliently African.”

“Regardless of the structure, we have embraced it and made it our own,” he said.

Although not initially arranged as part of Black History Month, the event has become a signature program.

“It was just a really good experience, being emerged in a different church and a different way of worship,” Canary said. “It is a totally different atmosphere than what I’m accustomed to.”

Want to see the event?

A broadcast of Tuesday’s discussion will air at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Feb. 26 and at 11 p.m. March 1 on WTIU.

— Morgan Smith

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Shameka Neely introduces and moderates the panel at the African-American Worship Experience on Tuesday at Second Baptist Church. The event was part of Black History month festivities in Bloomington. Anna Teeter Buy Photos

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