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October 2021

Psychiatry. 1980 May; 43(2): 120-8.

Possession, prayer, and testimony: therapeutic aspects of the Wednesday night meeting in a Black church.

Griffith EE, English T, Mayfield V.

The value of the church as a psychological support system in the daily lives of many people is taken for granted. Yet, assiduous attention has not been paid to the specific mechanisms which churches may use to achieve this end. Even less attention has been given to black churches, particularly those which are independent institutions, with a loose regional or national affiliation to the well-known major denominations that allows the maintenance of the church's own autonomy. In this paper, we describe the Wednesday night prayer-meeting in an independent black church and outline the structure of the service which facilitates its use as a vehicle for mutual aid. We also discuss the ways in which members of the group experience the service as therapeutic. The utility of this exercise for some black people is explored, and the manner in which it may serve as a coping device is delineated. This special church service is presented as a model of a therapeutic group experience which functions to help some black underprivileged people adapt to the stresses of urban living.

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