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‘Atheists must have a hard time here’ (3)

On the first Sunday in September, I had an interview appointment with one of the pastors at The Brooklyn Tabernacle.

Alvin Slaughter is the soloist on the new single “For My Good” from The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir / Photo: [link]The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir[/link].

On the first Sunday in September, I had an interview appointment with one of the pastors at The Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York.

It was before the first of the two early services in the church. It starts at 9 a.m. I had to get up early to catch the subway from Manhattan in time.

In any case, you should be out early if you want to get a good seat in the old theater where the church holds services. Jim Cymbala, 80, has been head pastor since 1971 and is still characterized by his evangelical fervor.

The sermon was based on the story of Joseph in the Old Testament and ended with an invitation to repentance and intercession. With a seat in the first row, I could see that it was crowded at the podium.


Passed away

On the journey through the history of the church’s gospel music, his wife Carol Cymbala has also played a central role. She has led the work with The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, which has performed in famous venues like the White House. This Sunday the choir came with both joy and sorrow. 

A new record was on the way — but the long-standing soloist Cynthia Greene had died the same week. One of the soloists on the new record was her brother, Alvin Slaughter.


Joy and zest for life

As a music enthusiast and hobby guitarist, I appreciate many types of music, including in the Christian variety: from Bach and hymns to pop and jazz. Black gospel is not what I listen to the most at home, but the times I have had the opportunity to experience it live, there is little that surpasses this.

The choir in The Brooklyn Tabernacle is quite ethnically diverse, but much of the music is characterized by African American gospel. When Alvin Slaughter came bouncing onto the stage, it was almost impossible to miss the joy and zest for life he radiated. The splendor of her voice was as awe-filling as it can only be in a seasoned Black gospel singer.

When the bottom falls out, even then I will praise Him. When I can’t figure it out, even then I will praise Him. I know God is working for my good.” 

The excitement did not come easily. How could it be? There was joy in sorrow, and there was hope in the face of death. An atheist would have a bit of a hard time here, I think. For me it was inadvisable to stop my feet from stomping to the beat. At the same time, it was difficult to hold back the tears. It still is, when I think of that morning in The Brooklyn Tabernacle.


Read the first and second articles of this series.

Tore Hjalmar Sævik works as a journalist at the Norwegian Christian newspaper Dagen. Some articles from a trip to the US this autumn were translated and republished by Religion Unplugged. The trip to the USA to write this series was supported by the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway.




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