Singing The Gospel

Dr. David G. Roebuck

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.

On Friday evening, April 3, I joined my voice with the voices of more than one hundred other singers and scholars proclaiming the familiar words of what is now one of America’s best known gospel songs. This much loved tune was the first song of an evening singing hosted by The Center for Popular Music in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The singing was part of “Farther Along” - a conference on the southern gospel convention singing tradition. Albert E. Brumley first published “I’ll Fly Away” in 1932, and I like so many others grew up singing it in church services and gospel singings.

Today the Church of God and Pentecostal movement use a wide range of musical styles. Many no longer sing Southern Gospel music, but the popularity of Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” video series reveals that this is still a much-loved tradition. Certainly it has been an important part of our heritage. Our own Church Hymnal is one of the best known songbooks and many Church of God ministers and families have written songs and produced recordings over the years.

At the Farther Along Conference, Lee University’s Dr. Donald LeRoy presented a paper on the history of the Church Hymnal and Charles Towler spoke about the lasting legacy of the Church Hymnal. He also generously provided copies for the Friday evening singing. Jacquelyn Royal, from the staff of Lee University’s Squires Library, told about our efforts to digitize and preserve Southern Gospel recordings as well as catalog songbooks.

Whatever the future of this style of music in the Pentecostal movement, it has had extraordinary influence. We cannot fully understand where and who we are, if we do not know our heritage. At the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center we are committed to collecting and preserving songbooks, record albums, scholarly interpretations and other materials related to Southern Gospel music. We invite you to make donations of materials to add to our collections as well as financial resources to help us preserve them. We also welcome your visit to see what we are doing to preserve this and other aspects of our heritage.