Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Contemporary Christian music selections, African American gospel selections, Unitarian Universalist music selections, and a music player
- Optional: Copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook and Singing the Journey, its supplement
Preparation for Activity
- Explore the genres of contemporary Christian music and African American gospel on YouTube, Spotify, or another platform. Choose selections from all three genres to share with the group. Set up and test music player.
- Gather audio clips of Unitarian Universalist music or prepare to lead the group in song. You may wish to invite a musical person in your congregation to help lead "Spirit of Life," Hymn 123 in Singing the Living Tradition. Hear "Spirit of Life" online, in a video of a dance to accompany the song, demonstrated by Penny Wollan-Kriel of Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Springfield, IL).
- Optional: Prepare to teach or lead a hymn from Singing the Living Tradition or Singing the Journey that has Christian roots or a message compatible with Evangelical Christianity. Some suggestions are Hymn 268, "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today" or Hymn 348, "Guide My Feet" in Singing the Living Tradition, and Hymn 1045, "There Is a Balm in Gilead" in Singing the Journey.
- Optional: Learn about the relationship between contemporary Christian music and African American gospel music by reading this March, 2020 commentary from the Chicago Tribune: “Why black gospel music still matters despite the rise of contemporary Christian music” by Melvin L. Butler.
Description of Activity
Youth listen to a variety of genres of Christian and Unitarian Universalist music and make comparisons.
Explain that a genre of contemporary Christian rock music became popular as majority white Evangelical churches proliferated in the last decades of the 20th century. Invite the youth to listen to contemporary Christian music you have selected. Then ask:
- Is this genre of music familiar to you, or new?
- What did you enjoy about this music?
- What, if anything, did you dislike?
- Did anything make you uncomfortable? Why?
Next, share an example of African American gospel. Invite youth to explore using the same questions. Add these questions:
- What do the contemporary Christian rock and the gospel selection have in common?
- What seems different between them?
Finally, play a recording of, or lead the group to sing, "Spirit of Life," Hymn 123 in Singing the Living Tradition. Ask:
- What do you like about this song?
- What, if anything, do you dislike?
- In what ways is "Spirit of Life" a song of the Unitarian Universalist religion? How is its message UU? Do any phrases seem especially Unitarian Universalist to you? What about the tune and rhythm of the song?
- How do you think an Evangelical Christian might respond to "Spirit of Life?" What might they find appealing about it? Might this song make an Evangelical uncomfortable? Why?
Distribute copies of Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey. Invite the youth to look for hymns that have Christianity as a source or seem to have an Evangelical flavor or message. Suggest they look at Hymn 268, "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today" or Hymn 348, "Guide My Feet" in Singing the Living Tradition, and Hymn 1045, "There Is a Balm in Gilead" in Singing the Journey. Optional: Lead the group to sing one of the hymns.
Guide the youth to examine the hymns they have found. Ask them to point out phrases, tunes, and rhythms that suggest commonalities between UU beliefs and worship and those of majority white Evangelical Christianity.