To preach in the African American Tradition one must understand and feel the culture. This comes from being a part of the community and really feeling the dual consciousness that makes the African American Tradition work. One of the best ways to feel the culture is to be reminded of the experiences of our past. Often these experiences can be tapped by referring to the music. The African American Heritage Hymnal provides a number of hymns, spirituals, and Gospel Songs that you remember if you have been in the African American church. I would encourage all preachers to add this volume to their own denominational hymnal.
How to Use the Hymnal?
Whenever you preach a sermon, always use the Scripture Passage Index of the hymnal in your preparation. Look up all of your texts to determine if there is a song that directly addresses your main text or even one of the other texts. Then keep those hymns in mind as you prepare the sermon.
You may quote the hymn, you may find questions in the song that can guide exegesis. You may structure a sermon around a hymn or song. Allow the authors of the song to help you understand the text. Allow the authors of the the text to help you understand the culture you are addressing. And finally, go ahead and sing them. I just couldn’t help myself when my African American Heritage Hymnal came in the mail. I sang the songs of my youth and was transported back to all of those services where God showed up and touched the congregation. In short, obtain as many hymnals you can find and then use them in your preparation.
Get as many hymnals that you can gain insights and understandings of the text that may inform your sermonic presentations.