Hidden History: Church group carries on tradition dating back to slavery

Hidden History

Music has played a major role in the history of African American churches. For more than 100 years, hymns have provided messages and music.

As music has evolved, so has the traditional sounds inside churches. One group has found a way to keep history alive through their music.

Dee Griffin has more on this story.

Inside Greater Mt. Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, an old art form has taken on new life.

“Out of each one of those hymns that we does has a message,” said Deacon Wesley Johnson, Disciples of Praise.

The “Disciples of Praise” do what’s called “raising hymns.” It is a form of a song known as call and response that dates back to slavery.

“Back in the slavery time, quite naturally, they didn’t want them to know how to read, so they couldn’t read. As they went older and older, you may have the preacher or some designated one that (would) read it or they may only have one book,” said Deacon Johnson.

The hymns fall into categories of standard, common metered, and long.

As instruments have increased in popularity during services, this form of music has seen a significant decrease in many churches. It’s been the just right beat to keep this group in harmony.

“What’s so unique about it is a bunch of men from different backgrounds and different churches come together and be able to co-exist,” said Deacon Johnson.

While raising hymns has become a dying art, this group is using it to keep history alive.

“If it dies then they will never know about their history. If you don’t know where you came from, then you don’t know pretty much where you’re going,” said Deacon Johnson.

Hidden History is sponsored by UPMC Hamot and GECAC.

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