Sometime I Feel Like a Motherless Child

T

he other night in worship, one of the songs that our anchoring music guy Larry Campbell had us singing during communion was “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” a song deeply rooted in the slave church tradition of the American south. There are actually a number of variations on the song – which has been done by everyone from Louis Armstrong and Odetta to Van Morrison, John Legend and the Wailin’ Jennys – but the version Larry chose for us seems particularly suited to the season of Lent. Originally coming from a context in which the children of slaves were often taken from them and sold, the song speaks and sings powerfully to the sense of being utterly displaced; of being yet a long way from home.

  • To listen as Larry leads us in a great version of “Motherless Child,” just press the arrow

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Yet there is another side to the song, too. Very close to the version sung by Richie Havens at the original Woodstock Festival, the cry for freedom resonates all through song.If I “sometimes” feel like a motherless child, there are surely times when I don’t experience the world in that way. That being the case, there must be something more than loss and despair… we’ve heard stories of freedom, and we believe them to be true.

As Larry led us in singing this song, it is that repeated cry of “freedom” that stands out. In the midst of the wilderness of Lent, we will affirm hope in the resurrection. It doesn’t much matter what I sometimes feel, it is freedom and mercy that must be sung out with the greatest passion.

Here are the lyrics from the version we sang in our liturgy:

Freedom, freedom,
Freedom, freedom…
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
And I’m a long way from my home.
Freedom…
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone,
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone,
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone,
And I’m a long way from my home.
Freedom…
I cry…
Father, father,
Mother, mother,
Mercy, mercy,
Freedom, freedom.

One Response to Sometime I Feel Like a Motherless Child

  1. byronmodonnell says:

    Larry, you made me weep and I thank you for it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.