From the vantagepoint of the "modern" world, religion has often been viewed as a lingering artifact of ancient times. Over the course of the 20th century all too many folks have argued that the world was witness to an ongoing process of secularization, leading some to proclaim that "God is Dead!"
Doused for the Lord
On this and every other first Sunday of August since the 1930s, hundreds of church members clad in white have gathered on a closed-off section of West 115th Street near Fifth Avenue to wash away their sins and absorb the healing power of a blessed water that rains down on them from a fire hose.
Ms. Vaughn danced out in front of the crowd, shuffling her feet and bobbing her unmistakable hat to the infectious sound of a brass band. Around her was a sea of white.
“I have the Holy Ghost and fire in me,” she said later.
Occasionally, a pair of hands would rise above the crowd and shake, palms forward, as if soaking up the energy.
At midday, three cars inched through the gathering. Out of one of them popped the church’s national leader, Bishop S. C. Madison, who is 88 and is affectionately known as “Daddy Madison.” A frail man in black robes whose gray hair grazes his shoulders, the bishop was helped up the stairs to a small wooden stage. He, too, began to clap and shuffle.
“All you gots to do,” instructed a man standing nearby, “is stand there and let the heavens open.”
Minutes later, an arch of water gushed out of a hose onto the crowd. Under the downpour, the band continued playing, the faithful kept dancing, and a year’s worth of troubles of the soul were washed onto the hot asphalt.