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China’s War On Christians Intensifies


B y: Stan Guthrie
June 6, 2019


A proverb from the Song Dynasty of a millennium ago states , “Thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea.” Thirty years after the slaughter of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square , China’s persecuted Christians certainly hope the saying proves true in their case.

Turning its back on a reform policy that by and large recognized Christians as good citizens, the bellicose Communist government , led by President Xi Jinping, lately has been doing everything it can to block the mighty river of Chinese Christianity.

According to China-watchers Nina Shea and Bob Fu , the country’s Christian presence has grown to possibly more than 100 million people (36 million in official, state-recognized churches), compared with a Communist Party membership of just 90 million. The church growth among China’s 1.4 billion people has come on the heels of disillusionment both with the Party and the spiritual vacuum created by the country’s economic and social disruptions.

Fenggang Yang of Purdue says that China might be home to as many as 247 million Christians by 2030. These kinds of numbers have shocked Communist Party officials. Fu’s organization, ChinaAid, recently downloaded some accidentally posted internal Chinese documents that revealed the government’s desire to “contain the overheated growth of Christianity.”

Old regulations concerning churches are now being enforced, including those that ban minors from going to church and Sunday schools and Bible camps from operating. In some churches, Christian symbols are being replaced with pictures of Xi. Hundreds of churches have had their crosses removed and been forced to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs. Online Bible purchases are now illegal. The Communist Party, which is officially atheistic, has assumed direct control of all churches.

“Some urban underground megachurches were shut down,” Shea and Fu report. “Thousands of congregants were arrested and several prominent Protestant pastors received lengthy prison sentences. Earlier [in May], the regime launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate unregistered churches.”

As is always the case in China, some areas are more problematic than others. “Last year in Henan province,” Shea and Fu say, “10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested.”

Last December, police rounded up Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, along with 100 members of his Early Rain congregation in Chengdu. Wang and his wife are charged with “inciting subversion,” which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The church is gone from the three floors it rented, replaced by a business association and a construction company. The Guardian reports that the 1,500-member Zion church in Beijing was shut down after its pastor refused to install closed-circuit television to monitor members.

Although the Vatican and Chinese officials reached an agreement allowing Xi to appoint some Catholic bishops, two Marian pilgrimage shrines were destroyed, several underground Catholic priests and a bishop were forced into Communist “re-education” sessions, and two dozen Catholic churches in Hebei are being torn down.

These measures and more prompted Open Doors to move China up from No. 43 to No. 27 on its annual World Watch List of countries where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. It’s a massive jump. “The Chinese government,” notes Christopher Summers, “… works hard to make sure nothing in the country is a threat to the absolute authority of the Party—and its chairman, Xi Jinping.”

“The Chinese Communist Party wants to be the God of China and the Chinese people,” says Huang Xiaoning , pastor of the Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church, which has been closed twice in the past year. “But according to the Bible only God is God. The government is scared of the churches.”

According to reporter Lily Kuo in Chengdu, authorities are concerned not only by the growth of Christianity, but by the boldness of some of its leaders to speak out on social issues and civil rights. Every year Early Rain’s Wang, a noted public intellectual, commemorates the Tiananmen Square massacre and serves as an advocate for parents and families harmed by everything from faulty vaccines to substandard construction.

“Early Rain church is one of the few who dare to face what is wrong in society,” one member told Kuo. “Most churches don’t dare talk about this, but we obey strictly obey [sic] the Bible, and we don’t avoid anything.”

Observers say that authorities don’t want to wipe out Christianity, as their predecessors attempted to do during the Cultural Revolution. According to Ying Fuk Tsang, director of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “President Xi Jinping is trying to establish a new order on religion, suppressing its blistering development. [The government] aims to regulate the ‘religious market’ as a whole.”

Indeed. More than a million Uighur Muslims have been forced into concentration camps, along with some Christian converts as well. The New York Times reports that the Chinese government is employing artificial intelligence facial recognition technology to monitor and target the Uighurs. Tibetan Buddhists, meanwhile, are  prohibited from displaying photos  of the Dalai Lama. Falun Gong adherents by the hundreds have been arrested.

If misery truly loves company, then Christians ought to be thrilled, because they have plenty. Yet while there are many mountains of opposition blocking their way, Chinese believers in Jesus have good reason to believe that God will continue to allow the gospel to flow.

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Holy Hip Hop: Chris Mack makes music with a message





By Keshia McEntire, originally published in the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper

When a hip-hop artist hits the stage at a bar in a college town, the audience might be surprised to hear lyrics about faith, purpose and hope within catchy, danceable tunes. Muncie, Indiana based rapper Chris Mack is shattering stereotypes by bringing positive music to the masses.


“I love being able to perform places you wouldn’t expect me to be. I rap about my faith in Christ, and most people would expect me to be rapping at a church, but my goal is to reach people from all perspectives on life for the sake of understanding what they believe and getting to share what I believe through not only music, but conversation,” said Mack, a Ball State grad who says music has been in his blood from day one.

As a child, he would soak up the hip-hop and ’70s soul music that his father played on repeat. When his family purchased their first home on the south side of Indianapolis, he watched his father and grandfather convert its garage into a music studio so that his father could write and record his own tracks. As Mack got older, he took his father’s old beats and made original songs with them. Today, the emcee does shows everywhere, from community centers and churches to parties and bars.


“My sound has got an Atlanta feel to it, so it’s not typical trap or new wave hip-hop. I have a mantra, and it’s that I use music as a means of starting genuine conversations. I get to know people’s passions, values, struggles, fears and what they ultimately believe in,” said Mack. “Some labels I like are Humble Beast Records — they have artists like Propaganda, Jackie Hill-Perry and Beautiful Eulogy. They make great music that challenges people’s perspectives on life, specifically through speaking on social injustices and Christianity. I love Reach Records and Andy Mineo. I love how crafty Andre 3000 is, love the storytelling ability of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.”

As a student, Mack was involved in campus ministry through Cru, an interdenominational Christian organization for college and university students, and Impact, a similar organization targeted toward African-American students. In Muncie, he works with youth at the Boys and Girls Club and serves at a church that some of his friends planted in Muncie. By the end 2017, Mack hopes to be making music full time and performing outside of the Midwest. While living in Muncie, he wants to make sure that he continues to serve the local community and cultivate the connections he has made.

“I want people to enjoy the music and think about the meaning of life and what is it all about,” he said. “I want people to be driven to tears, to get excited and to think about who Christ is. I want people to see that I care about them more than I care about the music that I make. I really want to care for people. Music is a way to engage with people, but I’m a servant at heart.”

To listen to Chris Mack’s music, visit realchrismack.bandcamp.com or youtube.com/realchrismack .



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Holy Hip Hop: Religion Department Finds New Beat


The world of hip-hop with its melodic beats, profane language and sometimes violent imagery, seems far removed from the prayers, songs and practices that often accompany religion. The new honors course “Religion and Hip-Hop” aims to bridge the gap between these two worlds at California Lutheran University (www.CalLuteran.edu).


Designed and taught by Associate Professor of Religion Rahuldeep Gill, he said he is excited to update the class throughout the years to come.


“This class is a juxtaposition of two things that don’t really go together, but if you look closely, they go together in really interesting and informative ways,” Gill said. “Once I learn what students like throughout the semester, I will definitely be remixing this class for as long as they let me teach it.”


With 10 years of teaching experience at California Lutheran University, Gill said he is always looking to push his students to explore new areas of learning.


According to the Cal Lutheran course catalog, this course highlights the relationship between hip-hop and religion in three ways: “the religious streams within hip-hop culture, hip-hop culture as a meaning-making system that parallels the work of religions, and hip-hop culture as giving voice to global religious concerns beyond its original American urban contexts.”


Gill said hip-hop and religion are related through art, clothes and the way people talk- everyone associates with hip-hop. Gill said one of the main things hip-hop and religion have in common is how they both engage people’s bodies.


“Hip-hop is a culture and an experience, and in this course we will look at how hip-hop has been used by religion or religious people to spread the gospel and bring people together,” Gill said.


Gill said that the first hip-hop event was a party in a steamy, sweaty basement in the lower Bronx. The party grew and, eventually, people got more and more attached to it.


Gill has many goals for the students taking this course. He said, one, is for the students to see the course as a way to navigate their own reality.

Sophomore Maramawit Bereda said she took this class because she was curious about how religion and hip-hop could work together. Through the class, she said she has been able to understand hip-hop a little more like what exactly it is and why it has so much history.


“In this class, being able to see different races come together in a classroom to talk about rap is amazing. I’ve started to see that other people from different races relate to rap, and how it has affected everyone’s lives,” Bereda said.


As a practicing Christian, Bereda said she used to feel slightly guilty when she listened to rap music, but now she feels more courageous and happy to listen, because she has found a lot of things that resonate to her Christianity through the music.
Gill said that hip-hop today is so diverse and no one really knows how large it is.


“Hip- Hop illuminates the hypocrisies in society and illuminates the parts where life doesn’t seem to make sense, and it creates new meaning out of there,” Gill said.


Adina Nack, the new director of the University Honors Program, assisted Gill in starting this class.


“A course like Religion and Hip-hop exemplifies the goals of the University Honors Program, in that students are being challenged to engage across traditional academic disciplines in order to explore complex topics that resonate with contemporary spiritual, social and political issues,” Nack said.


She said her goal as the new director is to increase the variety of course offerings for honors electives so that students have unique opportunities to explore exciting academic questions and learn new skills.


“I foresee a course, such as Religion and Hip-Hop, inspiring students to think beyond their academic major and career goals as they focus on learning from professors who motivate them to examine new sources of knowledge, which can enrich their overall undergraduate experience,” Nack said.


Source: Luisa Virgen

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Support GospelCity.com


By admin, 2018-12-02

Dear GospelCity.com Family:

For the past 20 years, GospelCity.com has served as beacon of light in the community, with its #1 Goal, to spread the Gospel worldwide.  The services that GospelCity.com has provided via its new platform enable Artists, Ministries, Labels and Members to reach the masses at $0.00 24/7. No other platform has done this, asking nothing for return for so long and to date: GospelCity.com has never received a donation or even an offer of donation from any of its members but nevertheless GospelCity.com has stayed consistently online for the community serving millions of visitors as the #1 and largest indie Gospel music portal on the planet with over 4000 members.

I am writing today to ask each of you to consider donating to GospelCity.com any amount that you feel like (donation $1.00 or more is fine), as any amount is better than $0.00. These funds will be used for operating expenses (which run in thousands of dollars), and any excess funds will go to marketing and promotions for 2019 and beyond. 

To donate, please click the following link on GospelCity.com homepage (Donate); or click/copy/paste the link below in your web-browser and again no donation is too small and all donations will be greatly appreciated.

Donate Paypal Link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Y22Q5N5N8TBX4&source=url

or go Gospelcity.com homepage and click Donate button on homepage.

All donors will gain 'Featured' Artists Status on the home-page of the site as well as e-blasts and be designated as 'Platinum' in a Press Release and Article posted on site (featuring Artist, Member, Label, Ministry) and your profile will continue to have unlimited access, ability to sell your music online, blogs, video, etc., etc. These same features on any other site would run anywhere from $50 to $100 per year, but presently on GospelCity.com, the fee is $0.00.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas,

Richard Cox, General Manager

GospelCity.com

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Are You Gift Wrapped For Jesus?


By admin, 2018-11-29

Are You Gift Wrapped For Jesus?

by Richard A. Cox, Jr  Author of I, We, Us: A Journey of Personal Growth and Development

 

 My wife and I were walking through the mall looking for Christmas gifts as I observed the crowd of shoppers. Everyone was so busy and excited about purchasing gifts for family and friends. It made me think for a moment about what is the gift I’m giving to Jesus?  

 

I thought about the greatest gift I can give to Jesus is my life.   Jesus wants a totally surrendered life.  You will find in Romans 12:1 (AMP) where it states  I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.”   God wants daily access to us to be used as His instruments on earth to accomplish His work.  When we give our lives to God we are allowing Him total access 24/7 to our minds, bodies, and souls to be used as He sees fit.  

 

Jesus purpose in being born was to place us in right fellowship with God again after the fall of Adam. Jesus is the gift, not of something external to God, but the gift of God’s owns self, the divine truth told in a human life.  Looking at John 1:14 (KJV) we find , “… and the Word became flesh and dwelt upon us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” God wrapped Himself in flesh to come to earth. He became the ultimate living sacrifice as the Lamb of God to die for the remission of our sins.  He gave us His greatest gift of His only begotten son. (John 3:14(KJV) “for God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe on Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”)  

 

I would like to ask if you are you gift wrapped for Jesus this year?   Do you wear the garment of praise when you enter the House of the Lord?   Do you wear the armor of God outside of the church to protect you against the wiles of the devil? Just mediate on your answers for a moment.

 

Here are some of the ways we can wrap ourselves as a gift for Jesus:

 

   1.    Truth - God has wrapped us in the truth of His Word.  In 3 John 4 (KJV) it says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”   

  2.    Praise - God has wrapped us in the garment of praise to give Him Glory and Honor all the days of our lives.  Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) tell us, “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion…the Garment of Praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

  3.    Protection – God has wrapped us with His armor of protection. Ephesians 6:11 (KJV) declare us to, “put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

We can bring a Christian perspective of the true meaning of Christmas in our homes and not just at church.   Here are some actions that can indicate how our hearts are wrapped as a gift at Christmas by:

   1.    Discussing the birth of Jesus and explaining why we celebrate Christmas.  

   2.    Giving meaning to our actions for decorating our homes and giving gifts.

   3.    Picking religious Christmas cards or E-cards that will minister to our family and friends

   4.    Looking for opportunities in the community to give our time to volunteer.

   5.    Making time to watch Christmas television programs with the family.

   6.    Playing Christmas CDs in our home to create an atmosphere of the holidays.

 

Jesus welcomes our little gifts and gestures because he recognizes them as signs that His joy has touched us.  Jesus wants YOU! It is not something that is tangible but intangible. When we received Jesus in our hearts, we received God’s greatest gift that keeps giving and giving and giving all year. 

We should stay gift wrapped for Jesus to be used anytime and anywhere patiently waiting for Him to unwrap us for His service.  Let Jesus unwrap your talent, creativity, and vision for His Glory.  Today, decide if you are not a Christian to give yourself as a gift to Jesus this Christmas. If you are a Christian keep yourself wrapped as a gift for Jesus to use.

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Brotha Dre (feat. Kingdom Chelzz) Releases Holy Hip Hop/Street Gospel Anthem titled: Chosen

 

November 9, 2018 - Atlanta/Nashville -  Powerful Street Minister of The Gospel ("Brotha Dre"), powered by 3HMobile, Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), a division of Capitol Music Group and wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal Music Group, released today a hot new Holy Hip Hop/Street Gospel Anthem track titled: Chosen , with the catchy hook 'What It's Like To Be Chosen'.  This song is a must have for any music collection and can be related to by anyone who has experienced and truly felt the Power of GOD work in their life.

 

Brotha Dre Music Releases Powered by CCMG and 3HMobile (to access, on your favorite listening device, please click/copy/paste music links listed below):

  1.  Chosen By Brotha Dre (feat. Kingdom Chelzz) (Available Digital Stores Now Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/iGm4JWE  

2.  Black Sheep by Brotha Dre (Available Digital Stores Now Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/GPvgaWE

 

About 3HMobile : 3HMobile specializes in inspirational social media, music and entertainment, leveraging a proprietary digital member subscriber network of aficionados of street ministry, radio and internet platforms, growing virally (via word-of-mouth) at a rapid rate  For more information on rising independent Ministers of the Gospel visit: 

 

About Capitol Christian Music Group  Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) is the world's leading Christian Music company and market leader in recorded music and music publishing. Capitol Christian Music Group operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications). CCMG owned labels are home to artists Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band, Karl Jobe and many others. Capitol CMG Publishing, in addition to publishing most of the CCMG labels' premier artist/writers, represents many of the leading writers in Christian/Gospel including Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many more. Key Distribution partners include The Gaither Music Group, Centricity Records, Marantha Music, InPop Records, Worthy Book Publishing and Cinedigm Entertainment. Led by Chairman & CEO Peter York and a strong executive team of long-time Christian and Gospel music veterans, Capitol Christian Music Group is characterized by a passionate commitment to their artists, songwriters, customers, business partners, and one another, as well as a strong spirit of community service.  CCMG is a division of Capitol Music Group (CMG), led by Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett, which is a wholly owned division within Universal Music Group (UMG), the global music leader with strong market positions in recorded music, music publishing, and merchandising.

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October 24, 2018 - Atlanta/Nashville - Powerful Street Minister of The Gospel ("Brotha Dre"), powered by 3HMobile, Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), a division of Capitol Music Group and wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal Music Group, continues to gain momentum in 2018 with a pipeline of Hit Music Releases, with more on the way.

Brotha Dre Music Releases Powered by CCMG and 3HMobile (to access, on your favorite listening device, please click/copy/paste music links listed below):

1. Losing My Mind (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/NgDOGWE


2. God vs Man (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/GWulgWE


3. L4DK (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at) :

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/qh8X6WE


4. Pray (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/3MheSWE


5. Worthy (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/VZ-BNWE


6. Whippin (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/NaFFeWE

Upcoming Music Releases by Brotha Dre:
1. Chosen – Scheduled for 11/9

2. Black Sheep – Scheduled for 11/9

About 3HMobile: 3HMobile specializes in inspirational social media, music and entertainment, leveraging a proprietary digital member subscriber network of aficionados of street ministry, radio and internet platforms, growing virally (via word-of-mouth) at a rapid rate For more information on rising independent Ministers of the Gospel visit: http://www.3HMobile.com

About Capitol Christian Music Group Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) is the world's leading Christian Music company and market leader in recorded music and music publishing. Capitol Christian Music Group operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications). CCMG owned labels are home to artists Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band, Karl Jobe and many others. Capitol CMG Publishing, in addition to publishing most of the CCMG labels' premier artist/writers, represents many of the leading writers in Christian/Gospel including Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many more. Key Distribution partners include The Gaither Music Group, Centricity Records, Marantha Music, InPop Records, Worthy Book Publishing and Cinedigm Entertainment. Led by Chairman & CEO Peter York and a strong executive team of long-time Christian and Gospel music veterans, Capitol Christian Music Group is characterized by a passionate commitment to their artists, songwriters, customers, business partners, and one another, as well as a strong spirit of community service. CCMG is a division of Capitol Music Group (CMG), led by Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett, which is a wholly owned division within Universal Music Group (UMG), the global music leader with strong market positions in recorded music, music publishing, and merchandising.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook warns your data is 'being weaponized' against you



By Brittany De Lea  Published October 24, 2018 Technology FOXBusiness





Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for the U.S. and countries around the world to enhance their privacy protections for consumers, warning that failing to do so could prove destructive.

“Today [the private information] trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” Cook said at a conference in Brussels on data privacy Wednesday.

While lauding countries such as those in the European Union for implementing stricter privacy regulation throughout recent years – including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Cook specifically called out the U.S. for not doing enough. He said Apple supports the implementation of comprehensive federal privacy laws across the globe that minimize data collection, let users know what data is being collected, allow users to access that data and keep all of their information secure.

Cook went on to say that opposing privacy regulation “isn’t just wrong, it is destructive.”

As companies collect more and more data, he warns, businesses may have a fuller profile of an individual than the individual even has of herself.

“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” he said. “This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”

This year, technology companies have come under scrutiny for failing to safeguard users. Earlier this year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were called to testify on Capitol Hill regarding ways they planned to secure their platforms against rogue actors attempting to unduly influence users – particularly ahead of the midterm elections. It was revealed that a collection of Russian hackers gained access to Facebook’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Further, more than 80 million Facebook users were notified earlier this year that their data was wrongly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

While Cook did not mention any of his Silicon Valley rivals by name, he noted many in the tech world would say stricter privacy regulation would prevent businesses from reaching their true potential.

In California, lawmakers are looking to advance data regulations similar to the GDPR in the European Union by 2020. The  GDPR  is an effort to transfer more control over personal data, like addresses and phone numbers, from large companies back to individuals, affecting how companies obtain, use, store and secure data.

Executives from Google and Facebook were set to address the same conference in Brussels later on Wednesday. When contacted by FOX Business, Google pointed to a blog post on privacy published last month.

Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said at the conference she would also support legislation similar to the GDPR, as reported by The FInancial Times. A spokesperson for the company reiterated Egan's sentiments that she supports "strong and effective privacy legislation."


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Aretha Franklin’s gospel classic—and the still-unreleased documentary about it—are a skeleton key to our connection to her





“She can sing anything. ‘Three Blind Mice.’ Anything.”


The King of Gospel Music, Reverend James Cleveland, was riffing, the way only a preacher can, prepping the congregation for the Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin. This was January 13, 1972, in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. And while everyone in the room was familiar with Aretha Franklin, Reverend Cleveland knew that not everyone had heard her sing gospel or witnessed her sing in a church. “You’re in tonight for a great thrill,” Cleveland said to the first-timers.


The house was packed because Aretha was not only recording the album that would become Amazing Grace , the highest-selling album of her career and the highest-selling live gospel album of all time, but it was also being filmed by director Sydney Pollack, for what is a still-unreleased concert documentary.

Mick Jagger was there. Gospel legend Clara Ward was there. So was Reverend Cleveland’s choir, the Southern California Community Choir. And after Cleveland sang one number with his choir, Aretha, in her flowy gown and perfect revolutionary afro, entered the chapel.

On that night, and the night that followed, Aretha Franklin gave what may be the greatest sustained vocal performance, ever .

At this point in her career, Aretha was already a legend. A year before Amazing Grace , she’d released a greatest-hits album and won her fourth of eight consecutive Grammys for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. One could argue that while she had a great deal more to achieve, she didn’t have much more to prove. And maybe to an average superstar this would be true, but we’re talking Aretha Franklin, lest we forget. And on those two days, she reminded everyone that while she may have had contemporaries, she had no peers. Sure, Aretha was not the first to grow up in the church and take a booming voice to the mainstream, gaining worldwide fame from secular music. But on these two days, she came back to the black church. And it wasn’t just a sweet reminder that she hadn’t lost a step. She was here for her playground respect, ready to send a warning shot to any that had doubted her—she had gotten stronger.

Amazing Grace is Aretha, at her most raw and stripped down, resulting in Aretha at her most powerful.

“I never left the church; the church goes with me,” Aretha said, in one of the few public clips from the unreleased documentary. She said that, after two minutes of footage of Aretha, singing “Amazing Grace.”

The full version of the song on the 1972 album recording is more than 10 minutes long. And for more than 10 minutes, she takes you through a roller-coaster of human emotion. She makes you cry, she makes you smile, she makes you want to jump up and holler at her, as she hollers at God. In moments when it sounds as though the spirit has fully taken over, she’s somehow vocally more in control of every note than she typically is. She’s not just hitting runs, she’s picking notes out of thin air and attacking them with the precision of a sniper. The room’s call-and-response is at the album’s height during this song, emotional and spiritual kindling to the fire that is her instrument.

Plenty of great songs and timeless performers give you chills. This, however, is something else. It’s more than in your bones; it’s cellular.

And this is just one song. Regardless of each musical number’s original meaning, for these two days Aretha made every word, note, and breath sound sanctified. The first two songs she sang on the first day were “Wholy Holy,” a Marvin Gaye song from What’s Going On and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” originally a Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune from Carousel. Later, with the help of the choir, she started singing the gospel standard “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and then blended it into “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Carole King wasn’t talking about Jesus. But Aretha was. And just like that, “You’ve Got a Friend” was a gospel song. Throughout Amazing Grace she vacillated between hymns, mid-tempo numbers like “Climbing Higher Mountains,” a quasi-sermon on “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” and up-tempo numbers like “Old Landmark” and “How I Got Over” that caused dancing to spill out from the pews and into the aisles.

Technically, Amazing Grace is art at its highest form, the work of a bona fide musical genius at her peak. And for me, somehow, that’s not even its most impressive (or important) attribute. For as long as I can remember hearing these songs—the album, a lifelong soundtrack to growing up around the black Baptist church—there’s been a moment, on each song, that Aretha does something that makes me believe in God.

More than any sermon, any text, or any life moment, it’s Aretha that keeps me a believer, in something. On Amazing Grace , the belief that Aretha exudes about her God is all the convincing I need that she’s right. And it’s not any specific word or phrase she says; it’s that she feels so much—it makes you want to go through it with her, and feel that, too.

Over the years, it was her voice on this album that provided a light. That assurance you need in your life, that things will eventually be OK. When people in my life passed away, the first thing I would do is turn on Amazing Grace . When dark moments of depression would take over, the light feeling extinguished, the first thing I’d do is turn on Amazing Grace . And when I’d come out on the other side, I’d go back to Aretha and turn it back on. Aretha and I, we were a team.

I never considered what I’d listen to should Aretha die. But even today, amidst all the sadness of her passing, it’s Aretha who is still there for me, reminding me that this, too, shall pass, that I’ll never walk alone, and that I’ll always have a friend.

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