Call And Response With-In The Black Church!

Call and response did NOT originate with the Black Church. But it has been part of our culture for many generations. In fact did you know that the enslaved blacks used call and response as a form of communication--be it on Sunday morning, when preachers called "exhorts" would bring the message of God, or in day-to day communication when they would sing hymns to one another. This form of communication became very important as it was used to plan escapes via the Underground Railroad or whatever. They would plan escapes from slavery to the North, or even to Canada. One slave would begin to sing a song like, "Crossing the River Jordan." The others would respond with an answer verse. A perfect example of this is "Wade in the Water." It can be sung this way: Wade in the Water, Wade in the Water, children, Wade in the Water...

In the church I grew up in we had a preacher/teacher who was very loud with his preaching. Now if the pew sitters felt that he was speaking directly to them by the unction of the Holy Spirit, someone might answer him back with:
  1. Help 'em Lord!
  2. Well?
  3. That's All Right!
  4. Amen!
  5. Glory Hallelujah!
Note in this video how the congregation responds to the preacher. Also note how the preacher's very presentation style makes room for the audience response. He pauses between phrases to make room for the congregation.
In this way the pastor knows his congregation is "feelin'" him, or connecting with him. They are understanding him, and they are also getting how he wants it to apply to their lives.


  1. Good post. Call and response does indeed come from the African culture where the listener in an active part of any discourse. In some cultures, responses like the "amen corner" would be considered rude. In the African tradition, not to respond would be considered rude or inattentive. It's expected. That's right Miss Ann.

  2. Jackie thanks for your comment and Amen.

  3. Its gets to be ugly if some don't agree.
    Why not just do what you do and allow others to do. What they do. I don"t find it necessary to yell all through the service. I need to focus and understand what the speaker is saying.

  4. My church is not "black" per se, but we say Amen after almost every sentence of the speaker. This is based on Paul's word in I Corinthians 14, where he argued that speaking or praying in plain words was more beneficial than using the gift of tongues. Verse 13 says, "Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how shall he who fills the place of the unlearned in tongues say the Amen at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?"

  5. What a great history lesson! Thanks!

  6. Thank you for sharing this important historical and cultural context regarding the origins of call and response in African American culture. It is true that call and response has been an integral part of the African American experience for many generations, including during the time of slavery when it was used as a form of communication and expression.


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