The Hip-Hop Church
From the LA Times
He goes by the name of Pastor Flo.
As he stood in the pulpit of the Hip-hop Sanctuary New Generation Church, all eyes were on him.
"They say we can't have hip-hop and church," said Flo, a lay preacher whose real name is Roosevelt Sargent. "I say this is real church. It's just presented by and for the hip-hop community, but don't get it wrong, this is a place of praise and worship."
In the dimly lighted church, a chorus of agreement rang out.
Murals of the Last Supper dangled from the wall. A deejay scratching bass-booming, wall-thumping music worked from the pulpit. Churchgoers wore do-rags and New Era fitted hats, and clutched worn Bibles.
With traditional churches seeking ways to revitalize interest in worship — particularly among the young — the distance between hip-hop and religion is closing.
And although some churches in mainly urban areas of the U.S. devote portions of services roughly every month to hip-hop congregations, this Baptist church in Moreno Valley is one of the first to present its worship services in hip-hop terms.
"What this indicates is the fact that the black church recognizes that hip-hop has more of an appeal than religion to black youth," said Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at USC and author of "The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop." "It's a case of them recognizing that their message is old and tired, and hip-hop gives them an opportunity to reach a new audience."
The movement has been applauded by some as a means to draw in those who otherwise show no interest in religion. It has also been called a fad and a shallow take on Christianity.
Felix Roger Jones III, pastor of All People Unity Baptist Church in Redlands, says he has concerns about hip-hop-oriented churches based in large part on the mainstream segment that glorifies violence, street gangs, lavish lifestyles and misogynic views.
"My ears are up as to what individuals who call it hip-hop church are about," he said. "It is a gimmick to an extent. Are you preaching from the word of God, are you disciplining people like Jesus did, or are you just trying to experiment with hip-hop?"
Flo, 33, says he has received plenty of e-mails and phone calls discounting his methodology. READ IT ALL