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St. Joseph's has partnered with PBS to bring you a special Bible Study & Discussion Program for Black History Month. Join us for 5 weeks as we discuss the themes of the documentary film The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. We encourage you to watch the film before you join us for study and discussion on Tuesdays.  We will only show excerpts for discussion points.



In partnership with PBS, St. Joseph's presents a special 5 week Bible Study Program inspired by The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song.

We will show highlights of the pertinent episode(s) followed by Bible Study & Discussion informed by the Word and with contributions from Rev. Kip Banks, Sr., who is featured in the film. 

Tuesdays from February 23 to March 23 

7:30 PM  

Meeting ID: 899 2131 9857

Passcode: 449827

Join Study
Weekly Overview


Week 1  |  Hope: Episode 1, Part 1

In Episode One, Rev. Yolanda Pierce talks about this very subject: “African Americans adopted Christianity. But I also think they adapted Christianity,” she says. “They made it their own and created it so that it could provide for them something that was nurturing, something that provided catharsis, something that provided hope.”

In the Bible, the theme of hope runs parallel with the plight of African Americans in America. “Wherever African peoples find themselves in the diaspora, they’re bringing with them ways of knowing, frames of reference, cognitive schemes to make sense of the world,” scholar Eddie S. Glaude Jr. says in episode one. Similar to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt or David fighting Goliath, time and time again African Americans have had to stand up to monumental and systemic forces of oppression. From the trans- Atlantic slave trade to the institutionalized racism of the present day, the one thing that keeps African Americans going is hope. As such, the Black Church provided a gateway to sustain the rich cultural heritage of Africans in the New World.

Bible Passage(s)

David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines, and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 1 Samuel 17:22-24

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Week 2 | Perseverance: Episode 1, Part 2 

Episode Two explores the concept of perseverance manifested by the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the Reconstruction period and its aftermath. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, signed in 1865, was seen as more of a victory. For Black churchgoers, it was seen as prophecy being fulfilled. Slavery’s ending was a culmination of centuries of prayers, faith, and long suffering. “This is a confirmation that their prayers have been answered, that God has heard,” Reginald F. Hildebrand notes. “The story of the deliverance of the Israelites is being played out again.”

The Reconstruction period tested that perseverance once again, as it was basically an extension of chattel slavery in the form of sharecropping, white aggression, voter suppression, and an incarcerating system that would ensnare Black citizens for generations to come. The Black Church upheld the belief that African Americans can, have, and will make it out of any situation and used stories from the Word to inform this belief.

Bible Passage(s)

"My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4 NRSV

Week 3 | Sanctuary: Episode 2, Part 1 

Episode Three delves into the myriad of church de- nominations, but also the desire for more “urbane and sophisticated” institutions of worship in the urban North during the Great Migration. Differing perspectives on how church services should be conducted ultimately led to the foundation of storefront churches, or small churches that served for more expressitory praise and worship services. “You start to see storefront churches dotting the cities of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York,” Fredara Hadley says. “And those spaces become one in which African Americans, particularly ones who are working-class African Americans, feel as though they can express themselves musically and religiously most freely.” The overarching idea is that church, in its raw form and function, is not one-size-fits-all. The series reveals how this notion evolved as a sign of resilience, by persevering to make space and oer sanctuary in every circumstance.

Bible Passage(s)

"Lord, I  love the house in which you dwell and the place where your glory abides." Psalm 26:8

Week 4 | Community Engagement: Episode 2, Part 2 

The church’s original abolitionist roots are what grounded it to become a natural launching pad for the Civil Rights Movement. Black Churches engage communities simply by having communal discussions about what’s happening outside the sanctuary doors. The Black experience in America is largely filled with commonalities; commonalities that people in the church experience as well. By being a safe space, the Black Church approached social change head on—and it still does today.


Bible Passage(s)

"Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17 NRSV

Week 5 | Stories Within Black Church Music

Throughout the series we see the impact music has within the Black Church. In week five, we reexamine the themes of hope, perseverence, sanctuary, and community through the lens of music. We also examine the messages enslaved peoples encoded within worship songs and how we use those songs today.


Bible Passage(s)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God." Colossians 3:16 NRSV

We encourage you to watch or stream The Black Church: This is our story, This is our song. In it, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examines the structure, politics, and progress of Black Churches against the backdrop of the history of American slavery and the struggle for civil rights. Among those interviewed are Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry and The Very Reverend Kelly Brown Douglas. View the episodes below.

Episode 1, Part 1

Episode 1, Part 2

Episode 2, Part 1

Episode 2, Part 2

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