First Sunday

Reflections on Ministry Experiences in the Black Church

By Thomas W. Spann

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Thomas W Spann - First Sunday - Front Cover

About The Book


Have you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of some of the practices and rituals of the church? Have you ever paid attention to how the Lord’s Supper is presented in traditional Black Baptist churches? Are there church protocols that are invisible until you cross one? Have you ever considered the features of Black Church funerals? These questions and considerations are carefully addressed in this easy-to-read exploration of the worship life in many Black churches.

In First Sunday: Reflections on Ministry Experiences in the Black Church, Dr. Spann explores his own experiences growing up in the Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Karnack, Texas. From these experiences and others, he extrapolates themes and nuances that help to understand some of the whys behind what we do. Thomas Spann leads readers through detailed commentaries on the relationship between the Black Church and its community, the Lord’s Supper, Special Days, and features of Black Church funerals. He offers a helpful study guide for personal use and for discussions in small groups.


Study Guide: I have included a Study Guide that can be used individually or in small discussion groups. It can be amended by the user in deepening reflections on the significance of many church experiences, practices, and expressions. The user is encouraged to look at her or his church life in light of the guiding questions.


What’s inside




Excerpts from Deeds




Chapter 1: Pine Bluff Baptist Church


Chapter 2 The Lord’s Supper or “Circament” Sunday


Chapter 3: Cultural Practices and Expressions


Study Guide

Chapter 1

Pine Bluff Baptist Church Background 

Pine Bluff Baptist Church is located about seven miles northeast of Marshall on the Stagecoach Road, also called the Pine Bluff Road. It sits down in a flat that once was crowned by towering pines, thus the name Pine Bluff. The Stagecoach Road, along which the church sits, was once the transportation artery between Shreveport, Louisiana and Marshall, Texas. The actual mailing location of the church is Karnack, a small town on Port Caddo Lake.

Many Black churches that were organized after slavery began in brush arbors, a structure built from surrounding tree branches and natural foliage. There are examples of Black churches in the south that were named after surrounding trees such as cedars and oaks; (e.g., Cedar Grove, Live Oak, Oak Grove, Blooming Grove). No surviving records exist to substantiate where the first pioneers of Pine Bluff Baptist Church met. Due to the abundance of pine and sweet gum trees in the area, it is conceivable that Pine Bluff Baptist Church was organized and started in a brush arbor or in an abandoned hay barn owned by an organizing family. Some of the early families in the surrounding area included: the Singletons, the Harrises, the Connors, the Campbells, and the Jacksons.

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I begin the book with Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Karnack, Texas as the window through which I am looking, not only at particular practices and expressions in this church but in the Black Church in general. Pine Bluff has a special place in my heart since it is the church where I was baptized and acknowledged my call to ministry over fifty years ago. What is said here about Pine Bluff could be said about neighboring rural churches in Karnack or Leigh, Texas, but I use Pine Bluff because of my personal relationship with it and because it has had such a powerful influence in shaping my ministry.

Dr. Thomas W. Spann has authored several books.

Click on each title to read more and to place your order.

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