Anne E. Streaty Wimberly, Nurturing Faith & Hope: Black Worship as a Model for Christian Education (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 210 pp.
In Nurturing Faith & Hope, Anne E. Streaty Wimberly explores black worship as an educational model. Anticipating questions about worship as education from the very beginning of the book, Wimberly quickly notes three reasons for her thesis of worship as education:
- First, existing forms of Christian education are yielding diminishing returns.
- Second, worship is the heart of congregational life.
- Finally, many people are ready to explore more holistic forms of Christian education beyond the classroom.
Wimberly ties her model to Charles Foster, a Christian education scholar who has already posited the importance of organizing Christian education around central congregational events like worship. So although worship and education are often seen as two almost completely discrete activities of the church, Wimberly shows how the move to worship as education is not new and indeed is a natural progression.
Wimberly takes nurturing as a primary educational goal, and so her book explores the various ways black worship nurtures its participants. The first section of the book is organized into what appear to be elements of classical/systematic theology (though those terms are not used), with Wimberly exploring how black worship nurtures faith and hope in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the human self. Wimberly also explores how black worship explores the topics of sin and salvation.
In the next section, she explores how baptism and Holy Communion in the black church nurture faith and hope. Wimberly notes how both of these are identity-shaping events and gives examples of how black worship leans into this identity-shaping role. One particularly engaging example of this is the act of naming that occurs at baptism, which stands in stark contrast with the black experience of being “disrespectfully named” from slavery onward (106-7). In the act of communion, participants are given a “Welcome Home” table in contrast to some of their homeless experiences (literal or symbolic) (121).
Finally, Wimberly explores how three particular elements of black worship nurture: preaching, music, and praying. These elements, in various forms, are present in just about all churches, so in many ways, this content translates most easily to many different contexts. In these chapters, Wimberly puts a healthy focus on narrative, imagination, lament, audacity, and other key concepts not often associated with education.
Bottom line: Educators would do well to invest in these concepts of black worship in order to better nurture their learners.