Stewardship of History: D.C. Church Welcomes PBS Filmmaker as Guest Speaker

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Northeast

By Carl Stagner

Not unlike other resources given to God’s people to use wisely, the history of a people—the heritage of a church, included—ought not be idolized, but certainly respected, stewarded, and preserved for generations to come. The topic of careful preservation of the gifts of our past emerged as one of several prominent topics discussed in a recent special presentation at Third Street Church of God in the nation’s capital. The Washington, D.C. congregation welcomed award-winning filmmaker Stacey L. Holman, whose work has often been seen on PBS, as guest speaker in mid-February. Her visit enhanced, for all whose attention was captivated by Holman’s depth of knowledge and experience, the value of looking back at our stories among the people of God, exploring the roots of gospel music, and celebrating Black History Month.

Stacey Holman’s accomplishments are many and meaningful. Not only has she directed and produced multiple documentaries which have gone on to air on PBS, but she has also won awards for many of those creative works. The latest among her releases is a docuseries simply called Gospel, which just premiered on PBS on February 12 and 13. Offering insights into the creative process and leading intriguing conversation about gospel music’s incredible history—as well as “its interplay with Black preaching styles”—Stacey proved a highlight during a month full of special activities celebrating Black heritage.

Rev. Dr. Cheryl Sanders serves as pastor of Third Street Church of God. Her reflections on the recent experience gave her a lot to ponder at the practical level.

“The big takeaway I would share from our conversation with Stacey Holman,” Pastor Sanders explains, “is the importance of collecting and digitizing our old family photos and home movies as a way of preserving our family and church histories. The PBS documentary miniseries Gospel includes photos and home movies that belonged to the father of gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey. Many of us have old photos and videos stashed away in the attic, but we underestimate the value these images may have for filmmakers, historians, and our own future generations. In an era when politicians in many states have passed legislation to restrict and suppress the teaching of Black history in schools, it is perhaps more important now than ever for us to encourage the preservation of key artifacts of Black music, culture and religion. Gospel demonstrates the influence of Christian faith on Black music and culture, and presents a window into the future evolution of gospel music to inspire broader and more diverse audiences to embrace the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Holman’s enthusiasm for gospel music was noted by Pastor Sanders and the congregation. As a product of her passion, the documentary—approved for general audiences—is already receiving broad appeal and acclaim. But, as prominent of a filmmaker as Stacey Holman is, the congregation couldn’t help but note she’s also down to earth and incredibly gracious. Pastor Sanders recounts how Holman mentored a young man from Third Street Church of God after meeting at a summer camp for aspiring filmmakers. Further demonstrating Holman’s kindness was her willingness to take time out of her busy schedule to visit with Third Street Church of God; the premiere of Gospel was to take place the very next day!

“At Third Street Church,” Pastor Cheryl Sanders concludes, “we celebrate Black History Month as an opportunity to learn from, and about, people who excel in different arenas of Black religion and culture.”

Watch and listen to the February 11 conversation with producer Stacey Holman and moderated by Third Street’s minister of Christian education, Dr. Alan Carswell: https://www.facebook.com/ThirdStreetCOG/videos/369218585996953. To watch all four episodes of the Gospel documentary, visit https://www.pbs.org/show/gospel/.

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