A new pastor in Clinton Hill gets his gospel straight from Jay-Hova.
Presbyterian minister Jamison Galt kicked off his inaugural sermon at Christ Church on Lafayette Avenue on Sunday night, preaching to a crowd of roughly 100 souls about Jay-Z, the self-described savior of hip-hop.
“What’s a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” Galt asked, reciting the chorus from “No Church in the Wild,” a smash single by Kanye West, Jay-Z and crooner Frank Ocean.
“You should know these words — one of your own prophets has said them, a neighborhood son,” the 34-year-old said. “Shawn Carter, more popularly known as Jay-Z.”
Even before Galt’s young congregation moved into Emmanuel Baptist Church at the corner of St. James Place, his preaching made headlines when The Local, a Fort Greene blog, reported that he would use his first public sermon to rail against Jay-Z’s sinful lyrics.
But Galt said that the blog got it all wrong — there’s meaning to be had in the Book of Hov.
“I wasn’t going to take on Jay-Z, because I really like his art,” said Galt, who preached in private homes for the past two years before shacking up in the Clinton Hill church. “He grew up here — he knows what it’s like to experience the good and the bad and to talk about it. He’s expressing what it’s like to live in the city for most people today.”
The self-proclaimed “god of rap,” who grew up in the nearby Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is known to hip hop listeners a skilled wordsmith who often rhymes about drugs, sex, and money. Though he has also rapped about more virtuous subjects like love and fatherhood, Jay-Z has been criticized by some religious music fans for likening himself to the messiah and denouncing the church.
Still, Galt believes the rap mogul’s lyrics can teach an important lesson.
Jay-Z’s verses show how life in Clinton Hill can be “survival of the fittest,” according to the minister, who linked “No Church in the Wild” to recent upticks in crime — including a rash of gunpoint robberies and the murder of a Prospect Heights woman who was burned alive in an elevator.
Galt is a fan of Jay-Z’s songs, but during his sermon, he trashed one of the rapper’s most publicized business ventures.
Jay-Z owns a small portion of the New Jersey Nets, the basketball team scheduled to move into the Barclays Center at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues this fall as a part of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega project. Despite plans for a “meditation room” in the arena that could host a house of worship, Galt compared the Atlantic Yards development and similar projects to the Tower of Babel, calling them “massive monument[s] … without god.”
Galt attributed the “non-believer” lyrics to Jay-Z, but an analysis of “No Church in the Wild” conducted by The Brooklyn Paper and corroborated by the hip hop experts at RapGenius.com indicates that the rapper never uttered those lyrics; Ocean belted them out instead.
For Adam Patrick Jones, 27, Galt’s Hova-inspired sermon was a call to action.
“A lot of people who live here pride our diversity, but there’s not a whole lot of unity,” Jones said. “Now I want to invest in the neighborhood.”
Elsa Sheerer, 21, didn’t take much stock into the pop-culture references.
“It’s not that we endorse everything Jay-Z says in his songs,” she said. “Ultimately we’re unifying around Christ.”
Galt will deliver the second part of his “No Church in the Wild” sermon on Sunday — though he said he won’t be talking about Jay-Z; he’ll be teaching about relationships with family and the community.
“Jay-Z is a neighborhood voice,” Galt said. “A lot of us not only enjoy the beats, but understand that he expresses something that is true. It’s so easy to live in our neighborhood and build your life to feel like you’re the one who has to protect yourself.”
Christ Church [279 Lafayette Ave at St. James Place in Clinton Hill, (718) 369-7972] on Sundays at 5 pm. For info, visit www.christchurchclintonhill.com.
Reach Kate Briquelet at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.