During slavery, we were misled, and denied faith, we found empowerment through faith creating our own “invisible institutions.” With a strong belief, that all are equal in the sight of God, slaves gathered in hidden areas; in the woods usually around a tree or stump, gullies, and ravines to worship, thus creating hush harbors. Church was the embodiment of its people, and hush harbors were safe havens for expression of redemption, rescue, and salvation through clapping, dancing, chanted sermons, and root work. Generally our faith is an understanding, trust, and belief that one’s God will guide, support, and love unconditionally, and by doing so we understand our purpose and learn to trust the Creator. It is through this history of my ancestors, my faith gives me peace.
Situated on the corner of East Lanvale and Guilford Ave, also known as Pastor Felton Williams Way, I learned of a congregation formulated from the Baptist traditions and guided by the Articles of Faith. As I learned on “any given Sunday,” sitting in the pews amongst its members, New Second Missionary Baptist was more than a church; they are a family, a community. Descendants of those who once sang spirituals to communicate messages about secret gatherings for worship or directions for escape, use gospel to inspire and uplift those who walk through their doors. Altar prayers are formed by a circle of holding hands together as one, praying as one, like the ring shout rituals of the past that comprised of counterclockwise singing and praying near and around the altar.
An Ardent Vestige, is an expressive installation that pairs remnants of history together with photographs and sound in order to create an understanding of faith and tradition. Words of faith from New Second’s congregation hang delicately from tree branches surrounding a tree stump, which was once known as our pulpit. The voice of American poet, Maya Angelou, plays as she recites her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, a poem which reflects on the past in order to help us gain perspective of our journey ahead as a unified body of individuals, a larger community.