Twitter Trend 'At a Black Church' Highlights Traditions, or Attracts Stereotypes?

File photo dated August 19, 2009, of the Twitter icon displayed on a laptop.
File photo dated August 19, 2009, of the Twitter icon displayed on a laptop. | (Photo: AP Photo / Press Association, Martin Keene)


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The hastag "#AtABlackChurch" was trending much of Tuesday morning on Twitter, with users giving their take on traditions and quirks they believe are exclusive, or most dominant, in churches frequented by African-Americans – but are some of the suggestions simply highlighting traditions, or perpetrating stereotypes?

The African-American Lectionary, a collaborative effort by the African-American Pulpit and the American Baptist College of Nashville, notes on its Cultural Resources page that there are indeed some traits apparently dominant in black churches, such as worshippers lifting a finger in the air to exit the sanctuary.

Aaron Fuller ‏ acknowledged that move, writing on the Twitter trend, "Someone gets up during service and holds up their index finger when walking out."

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Steven Charles suggested, "They put up their finger to excuse themselves as if it makes them invisible or something..."

There were many Twitter users who suggested that worship meetings at black churches can go on beyond the noted service time.

"[You] are likely to die of starvation...hours on hours of service," wrote Anthony D. Lawler.

Another user seconded that motion, writing, "During prayer, you have time to leave the sanctuary, go to McDonald's, use the bathroom and still make it back for 'Amen!'"

Ayrenne' McClinton ‏ chimed in, writing, "#AtABlackChurch there isnt a set ending time.. you leave when the pastor feels like it."

Travis Brown, echoed another "quirk," suggesting that African-American church-goers are often called on to acknowledge their "neighbor," usually the person sitting next to them, and to give the person some kind of message, usually reflective of the preacher's comments.

Another Twitter user suggested that those with positions in the church often face the most pressure.

"[It's] sometimes hard being a singer, preacher, or a musician, because we get judged the most!!!!!" wrote Le'Quita Mckoy.

Someone using the Twitter name "RoyaltyAboveAllElse" suggested that one of the hardest working, or most involved, members of the church is usually the pastor's wife.

"#AtABlackChurch the first lady is involved in almost every ministry," she wrote.

Vincent Curry suggested that preachers are known to get vocal encouragement or feedback from the congregation during sermons. "During the sermon, at least one person is going to say 'Preach!' he suggested.

Marques Gomillian ‏ suggested that African-American churches are welcoming, writing, "#AtABlackChurch It's always love when you enter. No matter what your race."

Another user, Michael Baiyewu, suggested that a certain musical instrument can usually be found among black and white congregations.

"#AtAWhiteChurch and #AtABlackChurch there are always Tambourines in the audience for people in the congregation to play with," he wrote.

A user named "@RoyalBossette" felt, however, that usually "someone is over doing it with the tambourine."

It wasn't clear how the Twitter trend got started Tuesday, but some users on the social media network were using the phrase to also promote spam messages.

According to an in-depth look at religion in the U.S. produced last year by PBS called "God in America," the term "black church" has its roots in the phrase "the Negro church," the title of a sociological study on African-American Protestant churches published in 1903 by W.E.B. Du Bois.

"In its origins, the phrase was largely an academic category. Many African-Americans did not think of themselves as belonging to 'the Negro church,' but rather described themselves according to denominational affiliations such as Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and even 'Saint' of the Sanctified tradition. African-American Christians were never monolithic; they have always been diverse and their churches highly decentralized," according to PBS.

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