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Call and Response in the Whooping Celebrative Sermon Close

Last night while listening to sermons on youtube and other places, I found a preacher who was “whooping.” As we know, the whoop is one type of sermonic close used by some preachers in the African American preaching tradition. The preacher was summarizing and celebrating the truth of the message. The call and the response, which is an important component of the African American Preaching tradition was in full effect. Then the sermon almost came to a standstill and never fully recovered. The preacher broke the call and response by encroaching on the “response” time by changing the length of the phrases. Once the preacher has come to the close and has established a set number of syllables in his or her phrases, the preacher should not break this with a particularly long, or particularly short phrase.

Keep the Length of the Phrases

The Call and Response requires that there is give and take in the close of the sermon. If the people are to celebrate the message, they need to experience it. And to experience it, we must foster it with the call and response.

However, this preacher was in a form where he would preach 5-8 syllable phrases and then allow the people to respond. Then 5-8 more syllables and allow the people to respond. But then he attempted something close to 16 syllables. And the moment dissapated. The number of syllables is immaterial. The important point is that once the number of syllables are established in the close that you do not deviate drastically from that number.

Two Things Went Wrong

Two things went wrong here. First the preacher attempted to introduce something that should have been introduced in the body of the sermon. The whooping celebrative close requires that there should not be an introduction of new material. We are simply celebrating the truth that was revealed in the sermon.

Next, the preacher did not keep the phrases of generally the same length. Let us assume that you are at the very end of a sermon and you are using phrases of 3-4 syllables like this:

Preacher: And God Said,
Congregation: Yeah
P: Let there be Light,
P: somebody
C: yeah
P: is in darkness
C: yeah
P: and needs light
C: yeah
P: is there anybody in here
C: yeah

Now let us say that you want to add a longer sentence you can do a few things. One thing you can do is simply split up the sentence.

And somebody might know of a problem they are fighting with.”
P: somebody knows
C: yeah
P: of a problem
C: yeah
P: that they are fighting

Sometimes repetition is used to tie these short phrases together like:

P: Somebody knows
c: yeah
P: you got a problem
C: yeah
P: unsolved problem

Now if your phrase is too short, you might add in some fillers. I have heard preachers use words like “yeah” or “Hear me?”


In short, once the call and response has been set up in the close of the sermon, then we do not break that give and take by adding phrases that are either too long or too short