a song gifted to us by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
hen the writer and new monastic Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was with us back in November, he taught us a song from the slave church tradition that his own church in Durham loves to sing. There we were, at the public lecture we hosted at the Ellice Theatre, and he decided to end the evening by getting us up on our feet to sing… telling us that “you need to swing a little bit when you sing this song…” It was great way to cap off his visit with us.
Well, we recorded that evening (and we also recorded all of the other sessions he did with us, which are currently being shaped into a CD and booklet package, that we should have ready for sale before summer), and so coming up to Easter I passed it along to Larry Campbell and asked him to add it into our music for our Easter celebrations. Larry added it as the closing song for the liturgy, and did we ever sing it out!
Here are the words from the song, along with the remarks Jonathan made in the course of teaching it to us. He began by saying,
This one for me sums up the broad vision, pretty succinctly, and so I’ll teach you the words and then you’re going to have to stand up to sing it with me, because you can’t sing these sitting down.I will trust in the Lord I will trust in the Lord I will trust in the Lord ’til I die.
That’s the faith statement of the Black church tradition; the core of the faith statement – not ‘I believe,’ but ‘I will trust,’ because trust is a relational thing especially when you’re desperate, you gotta trust something that has power to save you, so “I will trust in the Lord.”I’m going to stay on the battlefield I’m going to stay on the battlefield I’m going to stay on the battlefield ‘til I die.
Because we’re in a struggle after all, and when you’re in a struggle, when there’s a battle for the hearts and souls of people, you gotta fight, and fight to the end for people and for justice and for all that is right and good. So I’m gonna stay on the battlefield.
But we don’t fight like other people fight…I’m going to treat everybody right I’m going to treat everybody right I’m going to treat everybody right ‘til I die.
I love this part… so the last verse is “I’m gonna treat everybody right” even though they’ve treated us wrong, the Black church tradition sings – even though we’ve been beat and drug around and kicked to the curb – we’re gonna treat everybody right
* * * * *
Well, we did sing it out on Easter, and we sang it loud and clear. People grabbed harmonies all around the melody line, and we raised the roof of the church. Some people even managed to swing a little bit, though we’re still learning how to clap… this is a long way from the South, after all!
So, thanks to Jonathan, for leaving us such a great gift.