Partly based on the author's Lyman Beecher lectures at Yale, this is of particular interest for its discussion of the tradition of black preaching--for some 150 years, an important element in American life. The book is sometimes discursive and wordy, but it does portray the ways of worship that helped blacks to cope with cruel and absurd conditions. The tradition spoke (and speaks) to the whole person in a way its white equivalent, in the author's opinion, does not, and has much to offer the Church today. What will be new to most readers is the interaction between audience and speaker. This is not just a question of shouted ""Amens,"" but of a variety of response including a conventional ""Stay Right There"" if a new point needs to be made clearer, and a ""Come On Up"" if the preacher is lagging behind the congregation. The author points to the dangers of overstress, but minor quibbles jump to the reader's mind from time to time. The song ""Amazing Grace,"" referred to repeatedly as a folk favorite, is a John Newton hymn of the classic nonconformist tradition. We are told it is a weakness of the Euro-American Christian tradition that it is built on ""the fierce paganism of Northern Europe,"" while the African inheritance ""with Christian additions"" is seen as an undiluted asset. But on the whole the book delivers a slice of American life well worth reading about.