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Photographer captures worship services

Photographer captures African-American worship services
published December 16, 2007 12:15 am

The expression that Jason Miccolo Johnson captured on Marsha Jackson’s face is one of pure rapture and, Johnson believes, radiates the joy and devotion of the African-American worship service experience.

“The church is the most important institution in black America,” Johnson said. “Yet there has never been a coffee table book or collection of this experience. And it truly is an experience.”

Johnson offers up the proof in “Soul Sanctuary,” an exhibit at the YMI Cultural Center. He created the exhibit from his book “Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience” (Bulfinch $29.95). Like the book, the exhibit takes viewers through the service, from the preparation beforehand to the benediction at the end. Lively, engaging and emotional, the exhibit captures the essence of the African-American worship experience, Johnson believes — transcendence through commitment to God.

With choirs, dancers and instrumentalists, plus plenty of give-and-take between pulpit and pew, that experience is like no other, according to the Rev. Keith Ogden of Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville.

“It’s not something you can make up,” he said. “Blacks worship out of their pain, out of their distress, through the harsh trials and tribulations that they had to face. And that’s where the inspiration comes from.”

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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