For the salvation of souls and the glory of God

November Blog by Mark Laskey

Leave it there, oh, leave it there
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there
If you would trust Him and never doubt
He will surely bring you out
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there

Born in 1880, Washington Phillips was a one-mule farmer from Teague, Texas who recorded 18 Gospel songs and homiletics between 1927 and 1929*.  He made his records on a one-of-a-kind homemade musical instrument that he called a “Manzarene” and on it he produced some of the most otherworldly, heartfelt and beautiful music I’ve ever heard.  This is music from another dimension and time sung with a self-assuredness rarely found in secular music.  Make no mistake – when it came to his faith, Mr. Phillips was confidence personified.

As a jackleg preacher he wasn’t associated with any specific denomination, though he was remembered as a good “church man”.  In his song “Denomination Blues #1 and #2” (remember, 78rpms sometimes couldn’t fit songs onto one side of the record) he cautioned against those who regarded their beliefs and practices as more valid than others:

I wanna tell you people it’s a natural fact
Ev’ry man don’t understand the Bible alike
And that’s all, I tell you that’s all
But you better have Jesus
I tell you that’s all

You can go to your college
You can go to the school
But if you ain’t got Jesus
You’s an educated fool

Given the circumstances that Mr. Phillips was born into – poor and African-American in post Civil War Texas – what a testament (no pun intended) to the role his faith played in his life.  This was music performed for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. “I am born to preach the Gospel and I sure do love my job!” he sang and he meant it.

These songs remind me of Centering Space’s call to slowdown and “Renew • Refresh • Refocus” our spiritual journey and they’re a great way to enjoy the ride.

*Sadly, two of his recordings have been lost to history.

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