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Church Mothers and Pentecostals in the Modern Age

Church Mothers and Pentecostals in the Modern Age

(p.83) 5 Church Mothers and Pentecostals in the Modern Age
Clarence E. Hardy III
NYU Press

This chapter explores the role of black Pentecostal women leaders in the evolution of Afro-Pentecostalism into an urban religion from its beginnings in the Mississippi Delta and upper South. Drawing on the work of early religionist Arthur Fauset, it considers the place of Pentecostals in the history of black religious culture in the modern era. More specifically, it examines how the so-called church mothers such as Rosa Horn, Lucy Smith, Mary Magdalena Tate, and Ida Robinson built regional empires of faith, often with themselves at the center of power. These women eschewed the categories immediately available to them while establishing new religious communities that provided alternative conceptions and creative forms of discourse about religious experience and the divine. They also reshaped fading concepts of Victorian respectability and reimagined new possibilities for religious leadership. In remaking the “politics of respectability,” these women replaced discourse about the (black) nation with the physical body as the principal site to imagine the divine and shifted to a religious modernism better suited to the demands of twentieth-century black urban life.

Keywords:   black Pentecostal women, Afro-Pentecostalism, Arthur Fauset, religious culture, church mothers, religious communities, religious leadership, respectability, religious modernism, urban life

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