January 10th, 2018
Response to and involvement in evangelization during the great awakening
The great awakening- though a promise for a good life to the slaves – was not a popular phenomenon in the early 1700s. In the early stages, the society did not take the idea kindly hence the response from the slaves was minimal. Even though the majority of the religious leaders coming to America at the time were against slavery hence unusually welcomed Africans to their churches (Herr 7), the masters’ disallowance of the slaves to attend churches meant that only a small number attended. Equally, at the beginning, the clergy were not able to convince the society of the evil behind slavery but their persisted established a basis for greater need for an anti-slavery movement. Such basis was evident in the events that followed the initial Great Awakening experiences.
The importance of the First Great Awakening to the slaves’ history is evident in the reforms that followed. Calhoun (2), for example, notes that The First Great Awakening and Whitefield’s preaching enabled the slaves to be given resources for constructing their own slave religion, which ultimately led to the creation of the independent black church. The slaves embraced Christian faith and truth, which was clearly expressed through black preaching, the spirituals, and the vast resources of the black church. To the slaves, the message that promised deliverance from sin and hell through the blood of Christ symbolized their liberation from trouble and sufferings. Such symbolic association perhaps accounted for the large number of black converts that happened during the evangelization of slaves in the 18th and 19th century by the white missionaries and pastors. The slaves decided to follow the teachings of the new religion which they did through holding group meetings and practicing in such meetings. The meetings consisted of prayers, songs and dances and encouraging one another by proclaiming faith and hope in the Lord’s return (Calhoun, 3). After the conversions, the blacks carried their own religious life in secret in the South, which later developed black Christianity in America leading to the spread of black churches and leaders. Methodist and Baptist churches mostly attracted the slaves and free blacks, probably due to their lively worship styles, in comparison to the dull Presbyterian services. Since only the talented could become preachers within the Methodist and Baptist churches, the leadership in these churches was appealing to the blacks, and the gifted blacks became preachers, leading to the dominance of Methodist and Presbyterian churches among the black population.
The Simplicity with which the Gospel was disseminated thus allowing the slaves to identify and incorporate the practices in their way of life was important in Slaves’ involvement in the development of the religion. When the slaves heard George Whitefield preach the simple Gospel message, they began to preach it themselves through devised formula for delivering a sermon and putting it in a memorable music (Calhoun 2). Popular Great Awakening messengers recognized the zeal in which the slaves, especially women, received the Christianity and the evangelists. Since they associated this new religion with their traditional one, they readily accepted Christianity with hopes of solving many of their problems as well as giving them some hope. Some black Americans became preachers themselves. The African- American preachers contributed greatly to the conversion of the blacks. This was due to the fact that many blacks preferred their fellow black preachers as compared to the whites. In some Baptist churches, the African American membership exceeded white membership (Hankins 73). Although by the 1820s most black congregations were under white control, the blacks were recognized in the church’s association meetings. Go to conclusion.