Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers and Other Messenger
By Robin Caldwell
Author: David Ritz
Photographs by Nicola Goode
The Sunday gospel brunch hosted by Oprah blessed my soul tremendously. Witnessing Shirley, Gladys and then Patti blow up the mike on Tramaine Hawkins’ testimonial theme song Changed moved me to tears. The lyrics, music and Spirit-charged singing transcended time and place, and I who was in front of a television in Cleveland, danced and cried with the folks on Oprah’s lawn. I was blessed.
Five minutes after the credits rolled, still reeling and grooving to Oh Happy Day in my head, I picked up Messengers (Doubleday) by David Ritz. The blessing continued as I read the first paragraph of Ritz’s introduction:
“In the course of writing this book I became a Christian … I say this to explain that the energy driving this project is both personal and passionate.”
Reading Messengers was both personal and passionate. If David Ritz (Brother Ray, Divided Soul, Howlin’ at the Moon) could change during the process of writing his book; I could change reading it. And I believe I did.
Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers and Other Messengers of the Word is a small book packed with powerful zeal. Nicola Goode’s beautiful, artistic black and white photographs punctuate the written words of the twenty-nine messengers featured. Goode’s ability to capture joy, sorrow, introspection—a full range of emotion—on the faces of these people is amazing.
Yet it is the words or messages that will capture and seize the hearts of readers. The portraits are more like testimonies—transparent and intimate. And the common threads contained in each testimony exemplify how the Word transcends experience and station.
Messengers serves as a meeting place for the known (Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, Noel Jones) and celebrated; as well as the unknown and uncelebrated. Like Oprah’s gospel brunch, Messengers is a praise gathering of people who have had profound encounters with the love, grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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