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The Hip Hop Prayer Book

Church Publishing Inc.

When I saw “The Hip Hop Prayer Book” was up for review I jumped at the chance to take a look at this resource.

Having grown up rap dancing through school discos, and listening to rappers I thought this would be up my alley.

I have to confess I have previously preached a sermon as a rapper and moon-walked in the pulpit.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Hip Hop and the Word was God, it don’t quit and it don’t stop.” So begins the Hip Hop Prayer Book.

The Book is a collection of liturgies, psalms, prayers and Bible stories. It is based in the Anglican Tradition and comes out of an Episcopalian church in the South Bronx.

In the midst of the poor and black, stood a beautiful Victorian church, half-filled with white people who commute to worship there.

The congregation asked the risky question, “What is the best way to reach our community?” and thus was born their 6pm Hip Hope mass; striving to once again bring the message to the people in the vernacular.

I love the story, I love the idea, but I must confess I found the book held onto the tradition too strongly.

It wasn’t as radical as I wanted; remember I’m not high Anglican.

But perhaps the proof is in the tasting and pages on a book only go so far. [Interestingly on that, their web site is no longer available and I wonder if the authorities in the church have signalled their feelings on the mass.]

There are some great raps rewrites of psalms, passages and prayers in here. I hope to make use of this book, and encourage any closet rap fans to get a copy.

But perhaps the biggest thing is that regardless of how real the book was keeping it, unless rap comes from your soul it wouldn’t work in most churches.

It would end up a performance or a joke. Wherever you are, speaking in the vernacular wells up from with-in.

This works in the Bronx, and good on them, but has limited scope in Australia.

That being said I love the book – if nothing else it challenges us to once again be filled with the Spirit and speak in the other tongues of those around us so that they might hear the Word of God in their own language.

Reviewed by Rev Paul Clark Minister Burdekin Uniting Church and author of From the Hive drama series.