For Smokie Norful, the musical heritage and the ministry traditions of the African-American church Black church were integral parts of his upbringing. The son of a pastor, he learned the ways of God and the role of ministry in the bosom of the AME church.That rich inheritance inspired his passion as a recording artist and songwriter, while laying a firm foundation for his current work as Senior Pastor of the nondenominational, Chicago-area ministry Victory Cathedral Worship Center.
“Music is an instrument of communication and an outlet of passionate expression,” Smokie says. “It has always carried our messages, whether it’s our heartfelt love or our desperate pleas for God’s attention in our lives.We are a passionate people by nature, so the fact that music is such an effective vehicle for expression makes it a natural progression within our church experience.”
On April 23, 2010, at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Convention Center, Pastor Smokie Norful, along with Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr. and the AME’s 12th Episcopal District, gathered to celebrate the musical legacy of the African-American church. Joined by several of the shining voices of this generation—including Joe Ligon, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, MelvinWilliams, Sheri Jones-Moffett, Keshia McFarland, and Myron Butler–Norful returned to his roots, paying loving tribute to a spectacular canon of songs.
Songs That Carried Us captures the excitement of that historic night. “The songs on this project have been staples in the Black church experience for many generations,” Smokie shares. “These were the songs that were instrumental in my grand parents’ faith walk, and the amazing truth is that they haven’t lost any of their power.”
As an award-winning songwriter, Smokie’s admiration for the music of the African-American church goes deeper than the emotional impact of the songs. “The most moving component of the older, traditional songs is the richness and meaning of the lyrics. The hymns were so thoughtful and had such an incredible theological message,” he says. “There was no way I could go through my whole music career and not rehearse and introduce this music to our church family.”
Songs That Carried Us stands as a landmark in an admirable career. With this project, Smokie Norful links the generations, giving honor to the past, celebrating the present, and pointing toward the future.