Southside Presbyterian Church was founded in 1906 as a congregation for members of the Tohono O’odham nation. This history and heritage are important to us as we continue to honor the faith, culture and language of Southside’s ancestors and the current Tohono O’odham members. Though it was begun as a congregation for them, the first members were generous in their welcome of others and almost from the beginning Southside was a diverse congregation. Though much has changed throughout the years, some things have remained the same: our commitment to being an inter-racial congregation, a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and our desire to work for the establishment of the beloved community.
There are a variety of reasons people step through the doors of Southside Presbyterian Church but it is almost universally expressed that the reason people keep coming back is the long and rich tradition of Black Gospel which stirs the heart and grabs a hold of the soul. The importance of Black Gospel to Southside is not simply that we find it aesthetically pleasing but rather it is the very soil in which our faith takes root and grows like a tree planted by the waters.
There are some of us for whom Black Gospel is our native tongue— it is our solace and strength. When we lift up our voices we find them united with our ancestors as we draw on their hope, courage and resiliency. To us, its words, melodies, and rhythms sound like home — but at Southside we rejoice in finding a broader welcome than some of us have found in the churches of our childhood.
There are also some of us for whom Black Gospel is not our native tongue but we too have found comfort and courage within its music. Some of us have heard the struggles and the faith of our own ancestors in the music of our African American siblings and some of us are being introduced to this language of suffering and survival, hope and faith for the first time. But whether or not we have personal resonance in the rich history of Black Gospel, we all are able to catch the Spirit of God moving us towards a future free from all pain and suffering. And when our voices join together in song, we feel the power of the people of God who are united around a common dream of the beloved community. Through Black gospel music we hold space for our pain, through this music we create an imaginative space where we can catch a glimpse of the world we long to see, through this music we draw the courage and strength to go out and build this beloved community. May this music, which is the very music of heaven, live in our hearts forever.