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Drawing on Black church traditions to get in the holiday spirit

A Black man with his back to the camera in a gray and tan checkered suit sits at a keyboard and plays a song
Mayowa Aina
Church by the Side of the Road Minister of Music J.B. Proctor-Mills plays a song at a piano in his office on Dec. 17, 2021, in Tukwila.

As Christmas gets closer, Church by the Side of the Road congregation in Tukwila is preparing for their Christmas service.

Music minister J.B. Proctor-Mills said he's inspired by the tradition and history of the Black church.

"Music has always been in the core and the heart of the African-American church," Proctor-Mills said. "When we couldn't read music, or read, we would hear the songs, that the Anglicans were singing and we would just make it our own."

"Our Nutcracker was the Black Nativity," Proctor-Mills said. "It told the Nativity story with an Afrocentric lens, and that inspired me even now with our Christmas concerts. They told the story in song, but they also left room for worship. So our Christmas concert is not only just Christmas carols, we do other worship songs around the central theme, which is Jesus' birth."

"In the Baptist tradition, you cannot preach until you get Jesus on a cross, buried in a tomb, rose on Sunday morning with all power in His hand," Proctor-Mills said. "Keeping in that same Baptist tradition, if Jesus is not born - He does not die. So without the birth of Christ, you have no resurrection. You don't have new life. You don't have Christianity."

Church by the Side of the Road will host its candlelight service and musical experience at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing