The Blues and a Balm in Gilead

Otis Moss III, successor to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Southside Chicago, is a rare national treasure. So is Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair, his latest contribution to the discussion of religion in America.

Steeped in the African-American tradition of Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Cone, Howard Thurman, Gardner Taylor, his father, and other black preachers, Otis Moss invites his readers to “sing the Blues” as a way of moving through the blues to the beat of the good news of the Gospel of the crucified-risen Jesus. Only when the Blues are sung — named and spoken or sung aloud in the moans of suffering — does the Gospel shout make sense.

In a world where the “prosperity gospel” ( the con-job gospel which promises that, if you just believe, God will make your rich and happy) and the exclusivist myopic forms of religion that blame, train, and maim in the name of God, Blue Note Preaching offers a Balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.

As one who has preached primarily among the forlorn children of the Mayflower and former slave-owners, I find myself strangely envious of my African-American colleagues and the Blue Note communities among which they minister. Those who serve the congregations whose Christianity was born out of the degradation of slavery inherit something ready-made and ironically precious which the children of the Mayflower and the slave-blicks do not: a shared, conscious history of dehumanization to which the gospel speaks when it turns the blue history into the Blue Note gospel shout of joyful emancipation.

  • GordonC. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 23, 2016

Blue Note Community

Steve posted this today on his CaringBridge page:

Spent the last 4 days split between hospitals (prepped for chemo, but white blood cells too low, so sent home, echo-cardiogram test for heart irregularities), and being electronically in Chicago (via FaceTime) with 5 Seminary buddies having an emotional reunion. The latter was more fun. Caught up on everyone’s last year, read & discussed a current book on “Blue-Note Preaching” with the author, Rev. Otis Moss III, connected via Skype with Prof. Ted Campbell still sharp in his late 80s, and met Rev. Shannon Kirchner of Fourth Presbyterian Church. Wonderfull conversations!


I, Gordon, was among the five physically present in Chicago. Steve stayed with us the whole time by Skype Monday through Thursday.

The Rev. Otis Moss III succeeded Rev. Jeremiah Wright as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Southside Chicago, the home church of the Obamas. He’s the real deal in every way. What a privilege to spend these days together! We have a case of the blues but we’re hearing the blue note gospel.

  • Gordon