Local Church Celebrates Black History

Singing Freedom celebrates African American Spirituals

READING, MA — First Congregational Church of Reading, United Church of Christ (25 Woburn Street, Reading, MA) will be honoring Black History Month with a special worship service on Sunday, February 4 at 10 AM. 

“Singing Freedom: The Hidden Messages of the Spiritual” will be led by Reverends Chad William Kidd, Anastasia Kidd, and Emelia Attridge, accompanied by the church’s Chancel Choir. The special service will include the history of African American spirituals and writings by Black theologians. 

The Christian worship service is a part of the church’s regular Sunday worship program, but church leaders want the community to know that all are welcome, regardless of faith tradition this Sunday. To elevate Black history and show appreciation for this integral part of American music tradition. The worship service will include Christian themes, prayer, and Communion, however, church minister Rev. Emelia Attridge wants the wider community to know that they are welcome regardless of religious tradition on this special Sunday. 

“The African American spirituals are an important part of Black American history as well as American Christian tradition,” said Rev. Attridge. “While this is a part of our congregation’s Sunday worship service, what is more important is to open our doors to anyone in the community also seeking to learn more about this history and reflect on efforts towards reconciliation.”

Rev. Chad William Kidd has been the Music Minister of First Congregational Church for 22 years, and has organized this special service with a “Lessons and Carols” type of structure. Like how on Christmas Eve, churches will read scripture, followed by singing a Christmas carol, this service will feature readings of Black theologian Howard Thurman and historical commentary of the spirituals, followed by the singing of spirituals including “Every Time I Feel the Spirit,” “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” and “We Shall Overcome.” 

Rev. Dr. Anastasia Kidd is a member of First Congregational Church, and will be co-leading the service alongside Rev. Chad Kidd and the church’s minister, Rev. Emelia Attridge. 

“This church is known for its impressive music program,” Rev. Attridge said. “Music has been cited as an important part of the life of this church since the 19th century, and since that time, it has also advocated for racial justice. This service follows a long legacy of this church’s traditions.”  

First Congregational Church of Reading, United Church of Christ was the home to Reading residents who founded some of the first Anti-Slavery societies in the country, one of which led by the women of the church. As the founding congregation of what was once “South Reading,” and then called “Third Parish,” the congregation would have been the only church in the community and therefore where any free and enslaved Black and indigenous people of Reading would have attended Sunday worship alongside its free and white residents prior to the law changing in the 19th century when it was no longer required for Commonwealth residents to attend public worship.

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