Skip to comments.'Go Forth And Tell It Like It Is': Roskam Raps At Hip Hop Mass
Posted on 07/14/2004 12:19:58 AM PDT by Dajjal
'Go forth and tell it like it is': Roskam raps at Hip Hop Mass
By Matthew Davies
[ENS, New York, July 6, 2004] Picture this: an altar; an earth-shattering sound system; people of all ages "jamming to the groove"; and an Episcopal bishop rapping and feeling the beat. Its the revolutionary liturgical outreach unfolding in the Bronx and its taking religion to the streets in the language of today -- Hip Hop!
"My sistas and brothas, all my homies and peeps, stay up -- keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell like it is." With this proclamation, Bishop Suffragan Cathy Roskam of New York sent people on their way at the Bronx's third Hip Hop Mass, held Friday, July 2 at Trinity Church of Morrisania.
The new civil rights
Honoring the founders of hip hop, the three-hour extravaganza attracted some big names in the genre, including the legendary Kurtis Blow, King of Rap; Cool Clyde, True Pioneer of Rap; Jeannine Otis, Rap Hall of Famer; and the human beatbox, rapper D. Cross.
The initiative behind the Hip Hop Mass came from Trinity Church's rector, the Rev. Tim Holder, after listening to young people in his neighborhood. "This is the first time anything like this has happened on the East Coast," he said. "Hip hop is the culture; it's the people. When it began it was all about speaking to the oppressor. Hip hop is the new civil rights."
Two dozen Episcopal, Lutheran, Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and lay people have so far joined in the development and celebration of the Hip Hop Mass, including Bishop Don Taylor of New York, who offered a blessing at the first ever street mass on June 11.
Trinity Church has a regular congregation of 150 on a Sunday morning, consisting primarily of young people. "We needed to grow and open the doors," Holder said. "So, in addition to events such as the Hip Hop Mass, we started offering a breakfast after the 8 a.m. Eucharist as there are many kids around here who really appreciate that."
Roskam and Holder spoke about their hopes and goals for the Trinity Hip Hop Mass. "We want to sing the 'new song' of Jesus Christ in the vernacular and language of our younger generations," they said. "We hope that the Trinity Hip Hop will serve as a model for other parishes and communities throughout the city and the church."
The Rev. Martha Overall, rector of St. Ann's Episcopal Church, South Bronx, and a member of the Hip Hop Mass working group which has been meeting for three months, said, "Many children often attend services in the Bronx without their parents. They literally understand that there is something good for them there."
Education and positive messages
DJ Lightning Lance, who with his cousin Cool Clyde recorded the first "scratch" on vinyl, highlighted the message that hip hop should be delivering. "It's not about money or fancy cars or bling bling [jewelry]," he said. "It's about education and speaking for the oppressed."
Agreeing with Lightning Lance, Clyde said that hip hop is about positive messages. "It's a tool we use to escape violence and do positive things with," he said. "We want to tell this to the whole world." To cheers from the congregation, Clyde proposed that everyone gets together to create a hip hop museum in the Bronx to honor the roots of its culture.
Kurtis Blow, the first commercially successful rap artist and author of The History of Rap [http://www.rhino.com/Features/liners/72851lin.html], thanked the Lord that he was able to attend the Trinity Hip Hop Mass. "It's truly a blessing to see all this materialize," he said. "It's the first time I've ever seen anything like this -- hip hop religion in the Bronx." Blow, instrumental in raising up a generation of rappers, declared that he had been looking for a church home and said that, after witnessing Trinity Church, he'd be at the 8 a.m. service. "I'm shivering inside; I feel the Holy Spirit in this room," he said. "I'm going to make it a mission of mine to let everyone in the Bronx know that this is happening. This church is going to grow."
Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr., a Bronx Democrat, said hip hop is a way of life and is about putting emotions into rhythm, beat and dance. "Hip hop needs to be used in education," he said. "If you ask a student to write a song about civil rights they'll learn more than you could ever teach them. We need to attract our youth and young people back to the church."
During the sermon, Roskam spoke about what hip hop means to her and the message that it conveys. "I had always been aware of hip hop but I've learned so much about it from this neighborhood," she said. "The best of the hip hop tradition is love, pride and respect. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. We need to preach the whole word of Jesus, and that is to love everybody. Love wins in the end and that's where our victory is."
The Master Mix and Master Missal, written, adapted and arranged by members of Trinity's congregation and people drawn from the community, translated sections of the Book of Common Prayer into a more colloquial representation of hip hop culture. One of the leading lights of the translation effort is Lamont, a teenager from St. Paul's Church in the Bronx, who wrote the Pontifical Hip Hop Blessing to conclude the mass. Lamont said the mass is a great way to meet new people and show off the best of hip hop culture in the Bronx.
Other highlights included versions of the 23rd Psalm, adapted by Ryan Kearse, and the confession, adapted by Tom Mercer.
The 23rd Psalm
The Lord is all that, I need
He allows me to chill.
He keeps me from being heated
And allows me to breathe easy.
He guides my life so that
I can represent and give
Shouts out in his Name.
And even though I walk through
The Hood of death,
I don't back down
For you have my back.
The fact that you have me covered
Allows me to chill.
He provides me with back-up
In front of my player-haters
And I know that I am a baler
And life will be phat
I fall back in the Lord's crib
For the rest of my life
Confession and Absolution
We confess we have sinned against You and our Neighbor.
We have not done right by You.
We have not done right
by other people.
We are sorry.
We want to change.
Remember Jesus, Your Son.
Have mercy and forgive us.
From now on may we try to do what you want,
To the glory of Your Name. Amen.
God has forgiven you.
It's a done deal!
The Bronx outreach follows other hip hop ministries in Episcopal congregations, notably at St. Stephen's, Hollywood, California, among others. Friday hip hop masses run 5-8 p.m. until July 23 at East 166th St and Trinity, South Bronx.
--Matthew Davies is staff writer of Episcopal News service
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