“Black History Month”
February 8, 2023
Each February, many people in our country take time to honor Black History Month; in fact, every United States President has designated February as Black History Month since the mid to late 1970’s. In observance of Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the life of Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933), who is an important part of our Methodist history.
According to a past article posted by The UMC Discipleship Ministries, Tindley was born down the road in Berlin, MD fourteen years before the end of the American Civil War. He was the son of slave parents, who both died by the time he was five years old. By age seventeen, he had taught himself how to read. Eventually, Tindley would move to Philadelphia where he found
employment as the janitor for the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church. He took night classes and later correspondence courses from Boston University, eventually being ordained in the Methodist ministry, serving appointments in South Wilmington, Odessa, Ezion, Wilmington, Delaware, and May, New Jersey. From 1899-1902 he served as presiding elder of the Wilmington district.
In 1902, Tindley was appointed pastor of the Calvary Methodist Church, which was the same church that had employed him thirty years earlier as its janitor. During his appointment at Calvary, the church experienced great growth in numbers and ministry, growing to over 7,000 members that included African Americans, Europeans, Jews, and Hispanics. Upon building a new church building, the congregation changed its name over Tindley’s protest to Tindley Temple Methodist Church.
Tindley composed forty-seven hymns; some of these hymns formed the basis of the black gospel hymn style for all who came after. They were based on the spiritual and the blues and included elements from white gospel style. Tindley wrote his hymns within the older tradition of African American worship and music that included distinctive preaching and singing styles, lining-out, shouting, hand-clapping, improvised melodies, rhythmic keyboard accompaniments, and congregational interjections of hallelujahs and amens. Tindley’s lyrics are a reflection of the daily lives of African Americans of the time, and speak of poverty, discrimination, suffering, with
deliverance, freedom, and a better day coming. I encourage you to read the words to some of Tindley’s hymns. In particular, five of his hymns are in our United Methodist Hymnals:
• no. 373, “Nothing Between My Soul and My Savior” (NOTHING BETWEEN)
• no. 512, “When the Storms of Life Are Raging” (STAND BY ME)
• no. 522, “If the World from You Withhold” (LEAVE IT THERE)
• no. 524, “Beams of Heaven As I Go” (SOMEDAY)
• no. 525, “We Are Tossed and Driven” (BY AND BY)
Some of you may recognize these hymns as they have been a blessing to many people throughout the years. I encourage you to take time to read more about Tindley and other African Americans, their experiences, etc. throughout this month and beyond.
Grace and Peace