Gospel music is giving way to European-style music in black churches because people have come to look on gospel songs as inferior, a seminar here for black church musicians was told.
Sponsored by the Center of Continuing Education at Scarritt College, the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, and the Council of Ministries of the denomination's Southeastern Jurisdiction, the gathering appealed to black churches to reclaim their musical heritage and not allow it to die.
"Educated, middle-class or bourgeoise blacks who are prejudiced against their own music are our greatest problem," said Dr. Odell Hobbs, coordinator of fine arts at Virginia union University in Richmond. He asserted that such blacks -- "have found they can live in an integrated environment next to anyone and they want to hurry up and forget their past. They feel they must change the color of their speaking, not use dialect, and frown on black music. They are anxious to erase their roots."
Dr. Jefferson Cleveland, a coeditor of a new black songbook being developed for the United Methodist Church, maintained that a black worship service without a gospel song is incomplete, " and those blacks who (attempt to) refute this fact are not being true unto themselves nor to our heritage."
He urged black church musicians to "use your Bach, Mozart and Handel, but also use Thomas Dorsey, Roberta Martin, James Cleveland, Edwin and Walter Hawkins, and Clara Ward on an equal basis with the European caucasians of musical prominence."
Nathaniel Lacy Jr., associate director of the Scarritt Center of Continuing Education, said, "For a long time we worshiped like whites and when we worshiped like blacks we felt guilty about it. We're here to say it's all right."