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Well, I wrote this while in seminary in 2007 and here we are in 2023. Many years later. It is still one of the most visited articles on the site. So I thought I would look at it again. and perhaps add more later.
As noted in the original article, I am by no means an expert on whooping. Whooping is not something that is often done in my own ecclesial tradition, but I noticed that there is little information available on the web so I decided to write up a few posts on the subject.
It is usually spelled either as “hooping” or “whooping.” Go into many African American Baptist or Pentecostal churches and you might hear it. There is even a white version called the “holy whine.” (As Henry Mitchell notes in his book, Black Preaching.) Some churches don’t think you have preached unless you have done it. Others look down on it as problematic. I have looked on the web and seen it referred to as a “carnival.”
While everybody doesn’t put it down, some would minimize it. I have even heard some preaching instructors say that it is nothing more than an increase in intensity for your sermons. While there is often an increase in intensity, a “whoop” usually means more than just that.
Concisely stated, Whooping is when the words of the preacher begins taking on a musical quality. The speaking blends into musicality. Jasper Williams believes that the “whoop” is always unique to an individual. He also suggests that all who wish to whoop should just practice it and listen to other whoopers for inspiration.
It is very difficult to describe it in words so here are two examples of whooping found on youtube. First is a Baptist example from the Rev Jasper Williams preaching the Eulogy of one of the greatest whoopers of them all C. L. Franklin:
Now here is an example from a Pentecostal pastor Bishop Norman Wagner
In my view, whooping is a part of our own African American heritage that should not be tossed aside without at least some reflection. While it is true, it is not the end-all of great preaching. It is true some folks may use the whoop to hide poor sermon construction or content, but is it not true that the same can be said for any other sermonic device?
Some of the greatest preachers do not whoop, but then again some great preachers of today and yesterday whoop. It is a part of our heritage that can be a tool for the effective preaching of the gospel.
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