In Trinidad, it's called Spiritual Baptist. In Jamaica, they call it Revivalist. In Cuba, it's called Espiritismo. In Brazil, they call it Umbanda. In the USA, it's COGIC. In Nigeria, they call it Aladura.
And while each of these traditions are distinct from one another, with their own protocols, methodologies and values, they are bound, like children of the same mother; Africa.
Many years ago, before everything was posted on social media, if you wanted exposure to the culture, you had physically seek out the practitioners wherever they could be found. Consequently, on more than one occasion, I found myself attending late night meetings in people's living rooms, trying my best to figure out what exactly was going on.
One Sunday afternoon, I ended up at an Aladura church in L.A. The drums, tambourines and songs were hot like fire! It was reminiscent of the Baptist church in so many ways; the shouting, the wailing and possession were all familiar to me, even if I couldn't understand everything being said. All of that shifted once worship concluded.
At the close of services, the men invited me to help them to move a stone... a boulder, actually! It took at least six of us to get it from the flatbed out front, roll it from the front of the church, all the way into large patio in the back. There, the entire ground was covered with sand, leading up to a verandah. Beneath the verandah, there was a simple altar. I could see where the stone would be placed, right in the center. But, just as I was dreaming of seeing it up close, one of the men politely thanked me for my help, complemented me on my strength and asked me to return to the sanctuary.
I am certain that every one of the folks in that church would consider themselves Christian. Much like my family in Louisiana, who live at the very heart of hoodoo swamp culture, the Aladura worshippers take great pride in their devotion to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. The great stone, the ecstatic worship and the regular occurence of spirit possession have been absorbed into their own, special strain of Christianity.
Just a couple of years ago, I was fortunate to participate in a very deep Spiritual Baptist ceremony in Trinidad. It is called Mourning. The ceremony consisted of seven days of sensory deprivation, accompanied by relentless prayer and devotion. While the liturgy was drawn exclusively from the Bible and the ceremony took place in a church, I assure you, it was 100% African spirituality.
My eyes were opened as a result of the Mourning ceremony. I literally saw what my physical eyes could never behold. It was an experience that I will forever cherish, for it revealed the genius of African spiritual innovativeness.