October 15th, 2010
06:35 AM ET

Church expert: African-Americans’ place of worship changing

By Steve Almasy, CNN

CNN's Soledad O'Brien looks at how some are fighting debt from the pulpit in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special," premiering at 9 p.m. ET on October 21.

African-Americans go to religious services and pray daily more often than the general American population, studies show. And while those rates seem to be holding steady, the places of worship and the size of the groups are changing, says one expert.

Many people continue to attend mega churches, but the small communal gathering is rebounding in popularity, Teresa L. Fry Brown said.

“There is an increase now in house churches,” said Fry Brown, the director of black church studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “They kind of faded for about 20 years. But now more people are having small gatherings. And they may not even call it church - like Bible studies in homes.”

There are a couple of reasons for the change, she said. Some churchgoers find the bigger houses of worship too restrictive or simply don’t trust the leadership of the church.

She said people are meeting more often in club houses, homes and restaurants. And the gatherings aren’t always sponsored through a church.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center reported that 53 percent of African-Americans attended church regularly, compared with 39 percent of all Americans.

Fry Brown, who is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal church, said those numbers seem to be “holding,” even as the role of the black church is changing.

The black church has always been a place where a person could go without being judged, she said.

“There’s still that yearning to be with brothers and sisters who can love you no matter who you are,” she said. “I think that’s a consistent piece that has kept things going. That’s not a panacea because there are areas of woundedness in black religiosity.

“But there’s something about walking into the doors of a black church where I am accepted as myself that still rings.”

For many years, the black church was the hub for teaching, training, employment opportunities as well as acting as a community and social justice center.

“It was those kinds of things, but as more options opened some of that was diffused in some places,” she said, noting the increase in choices came after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “But now there is some kind of movement to re-establish that in some areas.”

- CNN.com

Filed under: Church • Houses of worship

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Free at last?

    At the-WHOLE-truth. You have been misinformed. I agree that all white people are not racist. According to history,white people along with Harriet Tubman and others,helped slaves escape through the underground railroad. White people also participated in the civil right movemen t as well. Laziness and the need to be given something is not a color trait, but a character trait. The government had no choice, but to end segregation, because it was under pressure to do so. I advise you to research how black people toiled the land during slavery. I advise you to research many of the everyday products and foods you use and eat were invented by blacks. Example; the iron, the element in the light bulb that produces the light, peanut butter, the iron,the idea for the stop light and many more. They could not take credit because they were black. To end this post, we were not given anything and do not want anything for free.

    October 17, 2010 at 5:51 am |
  2. Free at last?

    @Jay2..there are no facts to prove black churches are races. During the periods of slavery and the segregation area blacks could not live in neighborhoods that whites would not allow them to liven;therefore there was no choice but for blacks to establish places of worship in their community, which was all black. Generations of family's lived in the community and worshipped at those churches. After the civil rights movement and the abolishment of segregation other tactics were used to keep blacks in all black communities. Because of these reasons the desegregation of churches in black communities has been slow.

    October 17, 2010 at 4:56 am |
  3. patti

    I believe that we all have a different name for one being. Peace to all.

    October 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  4. elizabeth daniel

    i still go to church every sunday with my children

    October 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Rasool Allah (S.A.W) Peace be upon him said:

    1) Four things that make your body sick:

    a) Excessive talking

    b) Excessive sleeping

    c) Excessive eating and

    d) Excessive meeting other people

    2) Four things that destroys the body:

    a) Worrying

    b) Sorrow (Sadness/Grief)

    c) Hunger

    d)Sleeping late in the night

    3) Four things that dry the face & take away its happiness:

    a) Lying

    b) Being disrespectful / impudent (insisting on something wrong knowingly)

    c) Arguing without adequate knowledge & Information.

    d) Excessive immorality (doing something wrong without fear).

    4) Four things that increases the wetness of face & its happiness:

    a) Piety

    b) Loyalty

    c) Generosity (being kind)

    d) To be helpful to others without he/she asking for that.

    5) Four things that stop the Rizq (Sustenance) :

    a) Sleeping in the morning (from Fajr to sunrise)

    b) Not Performing Namaz or Ir-regular in Prayers
    c) Laziness / Idleness

    d) Treachery / Dishonesty

    6) Four things that bring / increase the Rizq:

    a) Staying up in the night for prayers.

    b) Excessive Repentance

    c) Regular Charity

    d) Zikr (Remembrance of Allah / God).

    The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him & his progeny), Also said to communicate to others even if you listen One Verse (Ayah) & this one verse will stand on the Day of Judgment for intercession

    October 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  6. Muneef


    A traveler once came to the Masjid to see the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) after greeting the prophet; he was asked where he was from. The traveler replied that he came from very far just to get a few questions answered. Following is the dialogue between the traveler and the Prophet.

    Traveler : I do not want azaab (punishments) to be written in my account.

    Prophet : Behave well with your parents.

    Traveler : I want to be known amongst people as an intelligent person.

    Prophet : Fear Allah (Jalla Jalalahu), always.

    Traveler : I want to be counted amongst Allah's favourites.

    Prophet : Recite Quran every morning and evening.

    Traveler : I want my heart to always be enlightened. (Munawer)

    Prophet : Never forget death.

    Traveler : I never want to be away from Allah's blessing.

    Prophet : Always treat fellow creatures well.

    Traveler : I never want to be harmed by my enemies.

    Prophet : Always have faith in only Allah.

    Traveler : I never want to be humiliated.

    Prophet : Be careful of your actions.

    Traveler : I wish to live long.

    Prophet : Always do sila-e-rahm. (Goodness towards blood Relations)

    Traveler : I want my sustenance to increase.

    Prophet : Always be in wudhoo. (wuzu)

    Traveler : I wish to stay free of azaab in the grave.

    Prophet : Always wear pure (tahir) clothes.

    Traveler : I never want to be burned in hell.

    Prophet : Control your eyes and tongue.

    Traveler : How do I get my sins forgiven?

    Prophet : Always ask forgiveness from Allah with a lot of humility.

    Traveler : I want people to respect me always.

    Prophet : Never extend your hands of need at people.

    Traveler : I want to always be honoured.

    Prophet : Never humiliate or put down anyone.

    Traveler : I don't want to be squeezed by fishare qabr. (Squeezing in the grave)

    Prophet : Recite Surat Al Mulk (The Dominion) often.

    Traveler : I want my wealth to increase.

    Prophet : Recite Surat Al Waqiah (The Inevitable) every night.

    Traveler : I want to be safe and at peace on Day of Judgment.

    Prophet : Do Zikr (Praises) of Allah from dusk to night.

    Traveler : I want to be in full attention & concentration during prayers.

    Prophet : Always do wudhoo (wuzu) with concentration and attention.

    October 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Black

    White... Unfortunately no. It's taken hundreds of years for whites to Put into place their mechanisms for obtaining and maintaining power over others... So I'd suspect that it would take just as ling for this evil to be reversed. What will signify the end of racism... The end of the perpetrators of racism. Once you eliminate the source, the extremities will follow

    October 16, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  8. Steve

    Any gains the black race has made in this country was severely devastated by the economic downturn. To many, it is back to square one and trying to recoup their losses. And let's be honest, it will be harder for them to recoup than any other race. That is the sad part. While I'm sure there were some who lived above their means until the bubble burst, there is a majority that simply lost their job and lost everything. For a race that has endeavored much hardship thru the years, this is the really sad part. You can get on top of the hill, but all of us know it's hard to stay there.

    October 16, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  9. Gratten darmody

    intervention I resuscitated a skink lizard that got stuck in a hose upon telling an electrician he made a sculpture an exhibit from baker-light rubbish not just a brand of hose and not your run of the mill garbage o when a person joke,s about object identification i say if you were in my shoes

    October 16, 2010 at 3:43 am |
  10. The Veteran

    Black churches are NOT exclusive. They are called black churches because of their perspective, which is often far different than those of Conservative White churches.

    October 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  11. Muneef

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    He (Allâh) has ordained for you the same religion (Islâmic Monothesim) which He ordained for Nûh (Noah), and that which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad SAW), and that which We ordained for Ibrahîm (Abraham), Mûsa (Moses) and 'Īsā (Jesus) saying you should establish religion (i.e. to do what it orders you to do practically), and make no divisions[] in it (religion) (i.e. various sects in religion). Intolerable for the Mushrikûn[] , is that (Islâmic Monothesim) to which you (O Muhammad SAW) call them. Allâh chooses for Himself whom He wills, and guides unto Himself who turns to Him in repentance and in obedience. (13) And they divided not till after knowledge had come to them, through (selfish) transgression between themselves. And had it not been for a Word that went forth before from your Lord for an appointed term, the matter would have been settled between them. And verily, those who were made to inherit the Scripture [i.e. the Taurâh (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] after them (i.e. Jews and Christians) are in grave doubt concerning it (i.e. Allâh's true religion — Islâm or the Qur'ân). (14) So unto this (religion of Islâm alone and this Qur’ân) then invite (people) (O Muhammad SAW), and stand firm [on Islâmic Monotheism by performing all that is ordained by Allâh (good deeds), and by abstaining from all that is forbidden by Allâh (sins and evil deeds)], as you are commanded, and follow not their desires but say: "I believe in whatsoever Allâh has sent down of the Book [all the holy Books, – this Qur’ân and the Books of the old from the Taurât (Torah), or the Injeel (Gospel) or the Pages of Ibrâhîm (Abraham)] and I am commanded to do justice among you. Allâh is our Lord and your Lord. For us our deeds and for you your deeds. There is no dispute between us and you. Allâh will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return." (15)
    Sura 42:13 to 15   

    October 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
    • The Veteran

      One man, no witnesses. Islam came about from the testimony of one man, and zero witnesses. It agrees with and contradicts the old and new testament.

      How did we know the angel Gabriel told Mohammed anything? How do we know that Mohammed was talking to Gabriel? The same Gabriel that told Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus (the one who will be called the son of God)?

      October 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      So you need witnesses for every thing,do you? Well surely Gabriel was only seen by the concerned and not to any body else. But our judgment was that the words were too big for a person who was not a reader or writer to make up at those times over 1400 years ago, had you read the Quran and miracles within you will realize that this was impossible for a man to make it up 1400 years ago? So you see the only witness is the Book of Quran scriptures which is still up to date a miracle that no one can deny.

      October 16, 2010 at 7:37 am |
    • Whaddya Think


      Mecca was visited by many Greeks, Jews, Persians, Egyptians and many of the things he reported were influenced by those cultures and their scientific ideas. His moral code is nothing new either.

      He was visited by an 'angel'? Extraordinary!

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to prove them. This has not been done.

      October 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  12. Teresa Clay

    Humans start to evolve when we realize our ignorance. Someone who believes they are right has decided to close their mind to knowledge. There is only one path to truth.

    October 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  13. ash

    Cap Lock is cruise control for cool.

    Thanks for setting us back some 100 years guys 😀

    October 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  14. eric

    Why do black people insist on having black only churches, colleges, nightclubs, etc when their ancestors fought so hard to not be separate from whites??????

    October 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • Black

      What we fought for was to stop whites from using their white only system to continuously oppress those that were not white, it wasn't about not a fight to be with white people. We were never separate from whites nor are we now, but given the fact that most things in this country are white by design, does it not make sense to you to desire a piece of commonality that was ripped away from most races of the world by white people? Trust me, it was not a struggle to be closer to whites; whites made sure we were closer than we wanted to be....it was a fight to define who we were and to demand equal treatment under the very laws and culture that America prides itself on. Black organizations originated with white people by way of segregation and Jim Crow...we simply found that these member only clubs were beneficial to us in the face of white hostility and white 'member-only-ship"

      October 15, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • White

      > Black

      Do you think you've (collectively) done this by now? I'm not being facetious – seriously, as a black (american?) what do you believe will signify the end of racism as a cultural (not stupid individual) issue?

      October 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • Raison


      That is nasty. "White by design"??? Can't quite get those old-white sunglasses off, eh? Well, have fun being a jerk, then.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • White

      > Black

      whites made sure we were closer than we wanted to be

      Maybe therein the problem really lies.

      October 15, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • Black

      Indeed white. Indeed. Far closer than we wanted to be or ever needed to be. Ever wondercwhat the world would be like if whites never went on their murderous rampage? I do.

      October 16, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • White

      > Black

      What in the world are YOU talking about? I was thinking about enclaves of upper middle class & professional blacks established in Atlanta and similar areas in the country. They could move anywhere they wanted to, but instead set up neighborhoods in suburbs that are almost exclusively black families from similar income levels. But now I'm a mass murderer all of a sudden. Forget it.

      October 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Sami

    Yes, John Quest... He does exist! Comeback line????

    October 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      I have nothing to say that you have not already heard and dismissed. I you believe God exist out side of your head then, that is what you believe. Doesn't make it true that you believe it.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      "I you believe God exist out side of your head then, that is what you believe. Doesn't make it true that you believe it." should read If you believe God exist out side of your head then, that is what you believe. Doesn't make it true that you believe it.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Iqbal khan


    October 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Human


      October 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • Raison

      All I see is an ugly yellow square. Is this some sort of message? Why don't you try using words? I cannot see your message otherwise.
      Please quit spamming this blog with your little ugly squares and tell us what you are trying to say as best you can. If that's some sick-o movie, I'm glad I cannot see it.
      Speak in words or GTFO.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Muneef

      That is sura 55 if want to read it go to Quranexplorer to read it it is too long to paste.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  17. Ousal Dove

    Let me leave you with one last thought before I leave for the day. You have the free will to do good or to do evil. Eche omo.
    Compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, sacrifice, love. Sometimes you may find it difficult, but in the end it really is the best way to go. :o)

    October 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  18. Sami

    Some people worship cattle? trees? Movie Stars? etc. Would you pray to a cow? a tree? or even a Movie Star? I'm saying I chose to believe the God of the Bible as the One true God.... people can make anything their "god" ( career, wealth, whatever but those things won't get you to heaven. May God bless you and help you find your way to the Truth (Jesus)

    October 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Does that mean your God exist or is it just in your head?

      October 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
    • ScottK

      When you say, "May God Bless you", do you really mean that? Do you wish us properous, happy,fulfilling lives? Or do you mean it as in may God "Bless" you to become a Christian and see the error of your ways, and may he "Bless" you right to hell if you don't. That seems to be the feeling I get when reading that message from Christians, kind of the old "May God have mercy on your souls" comment, not a real, wish you well & many blessings be upon you type of thing.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  19. Ousal Dove

    Killo Jo, I am not offended. Peace.

    Human, I think you just like to stir the pot to see wht you can force to the top. You may speak well occationally and even make a valid point occasionally, but I think deeper in you is a mean spirit. I think there are some good people out here, but I also think there are some wolves in sheeps clothing, and i will not allow them (u) to get to me... :o)

    Knowledge – proof reading is for english majors not quick thinking open discussions, take a deap breath.
    Peace be with you all, what ever God you believe in.

    October 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Human

      I guess I am a wolf then...certainly not one of the flock who follows where led... but i commend you on attempting to peal back the layers... We should all be like that...not accepting things at face value. In the end, only God comes to the top when this muddy water finally settles

      October 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Cletus

    Why are they still worshiping the God of their former slavemasters?

    October 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
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