Call and response: Can I get a witness?

Instead of the typical Verse of the Day, we are going to take a close look at the Phrase of the Day for May 10, 2018:

“Can I get a witness?”

The phrase is said to have  its origin in the African American Church during the 19th Century where members of a congregation would share their personal testimony and “bear witness” of God’s divine presence and intervention in their lives. After sharing their personal account of how God came through and made “a way out of no way,” speakers would then address the audience by asking, “Can I get a witness?” Within the community, those who had experienced a similar move of God in their personal lives would respond with a hearty “Amen,” vigorous hand-clapping or raising hands or some other form of affirmation.

In reflecting on the Phrase of the Day, I also thought of the expression “Call and response” which I discuss in a previous blog post from which this excerpt is taken:

In music, particularly in jazz which incorporates improvisation, we find a technique labeled “call and response,” whereby a musician issues a phrase or line, and another player answers with a phrase or comment in response. The same technique is also seen in other areas of African American culture involving speakers, such as preachers or ministers of the gospel or worship leaders who issue a series of calls, and the audience, the congregation, or group being addressed answers with responses.

“Can I get a witness?” is the call, and the group being addressed responds in some way to affirm the speaker and to bear witness of the same. ”The question raised is also the title of the following:

Can I Get a Witness?

This is the third time I am coming to visit you
(and as the Scriptures say, “The facts of every case must be established
by the testimony of two or three witnesses”).

2 Corinthians 13:1

Can I get a witness? Tell me what do you see?
Can you testify God is who He said He would be?
Probing the depths of God’s love, what do you discern?
We embrace afflictions that we might truly learn
To please the Master, striving toward our destiny.

As we stand, do you see bond-slaves now set free?
Those transformed who yearn for deeper intimacy,
As the passion for God’s Word continues to burn.
Can I get a witness?

Assess the whole of our life’s work done heartily
As to the Lord, who reigns for all eternity.
By grace, far beyond any wages we might earn,
Wherein we boldly stand blameless at Christ’s return
When we will hear “Well done, you have served faithfully.”
Can I get a witness?

Philipps, Craig, and Dean raise the same question: “Can I Get a Witness?”

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