Using culture as a lens to view the black community, the African American Lectionary project in the USA is providing a one-of-a-kind technological resource designed for and by African American preachers, educators and worship leaders.
The lectionary, which draws together biblical and liturgical resources for local congregations in America, has been given a particular boost in Black History Week. It is the brainchild of the Rev Martha Simmons, who also provides leadership for the country's only African American preaching journal, The African American Pulpit.
The online lectionary contains more than 3,000 pages of free and unique material, ranging from audio of Langston Hughes actually reading one of his most famous works, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", the origins of Kwanzaa as explained by its creator, Maulana Karenga, to more than 50 video recordings that present the African American journey in America.
"Today, more than ever, preachers need a tool that helps new generations understand what it has historically taken for the African American community to strive and thrive in challenging situations," the Rev Martha Simmons, creator and director of the project, said. "While the 21st century version of scarcity and economic lack is new for some communities, this is something the African American community has known throughout their pilgrimage in the country."
One aspect of The African American Lectionary that provides inspiration and practical application is "The Big Idea" section, say its producers. This tool for preachers across the nation allows churches of similar size and dynamic to see how other churches are working in their community, offering practical insights to address major social issues impacting our country. All of the ideas are intended to be replicable.
Before launching The African American Lectionary, 10,000 African American preachers were surveyed to determine the most important themes that they would like to see addressed. The results showed that strengthening the family, racism, violence in the community, unemployment and economic empowerment, strengthening education and age and health issues are all on their lists.
"The African American Lectionary chronicles the moral imagination of its culture," said the Rev Dr Brad R. Braxton. "In these difficult times the African American community can use inspiration to persevere just as we have done in the past. The issues discussed on the lectionary affect us all, no matter what race."
Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about African American culture through the lectionary (www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org), say those involved in its production.
Since its inception in 2007, the project has met the needs of many clergy members and served as an innovative way to obtain socio-cultural information and sermons on issues facing the African American faith community. The lectionary has had more than two million unique hits.