Thursday, May 24, 2012

Musings on Attending a Black Church

My best friend attends a Black church that is about an hour from our home.  We've gone on a few occasions, but last Sunday was the first time we went with Jayvan.  I remember the first time we went. I was slightly dumbfounded.  I thought that type of worshiping only happened in movies.  Woman shouting and dancing in the aisles and stomping their feet hard enough to make the whole church shake.  Men with their heads tilted toward Heaven and arms raised as they sing from the depths of their beings.  Children joining in and shouting whenever they felt so inclined.  The service felt organic as it followed no known timeline and people wept and sang and shouted until they had enough.  Lexi was shocked by how loud it was.  But. . . It was awesome.  It was so freeing to see people uninhibited and praising God as they saw fit.  It was refreshing and fun.  While we got some funny looks as the lone (solely) Caucasian family, we were ultimately welcomed and shown love.

So, on Jayvan's first visit to an all-Black church it was really fun to see his reaction.  He is walking now and he walked right up to one of the deaconesses and she swept him up and danced with him, all the while smiling at us and singing along to the music.  When the music picked up tempo, Jayvan jumped and yelled in delight (which is of course perfectly acceptable there).  I thought of how in our church, a noisy baby is often met with sideways glances and pursed lips. Matthew 18:3 came to mind:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
How would a little child who hasn't been instructed on the "proper" way to worship behave in church?  How would they react when the music starts?  Would they stand still and listen silently or would they move their body to the beat and exclaim any sound they could make with joy and elation?  Are we doing a disservice to our children by tucking them away in a Sunday School class while we sing along to a predetermined song while being careful not to sway to far to one side or the other and "respect" the people around us?  Yet, even in this Black church, the children were dismissed just before the sermon and I find that appropriate.  As he explained, we do try to make children grow up too fast sometimes.  We need to let them be children and perhaps become a bit more like them.

Don't get me wrong here.  I love our church.  I love it dearly.  My daughter is excited to go to church every weekend and my son's teachers adore him (and the feeling is mutual).  It is just such a stark contrast to attend our suburban Non-Denominational Church on a Saturday night and then attend an urban (Black) First Baptist Church on Sunday morning.  In one service the Pastor preached about the difference between Calvinists and Arminians and in the other the Preacher-Man preached about pimps not being allowed to be members of his church (I laughed to myself as I pictured the jaws dropping in Southern JoCo).  He went on to explain that a pimp is someone who wants all of the benefits without doing any of the work, and to be a part of their small church you had to be willing to help in the church.  Our pastor often preaches about finding a place to volunteer within the church, but I'm pretty sure people would be shocked if he called them out as pimps. 

After the service, there was a baptism (my friend's daughter) and Jayvan walked up toward the baptismal.  The Preacher-Man picked Jayvan up and we joked about not believing in infant baptism, but maybe in a few years he'll make his decision.  More members of the church took their turns loving on our little man, and eventually he needed his Mama to reassure him that I wasn't far away.

We went on to fellowship with our friends and their family over lunch, and I thought about how much this day meant to me.  I won't forget the women sharing their testimonies and the young woman rededicating her life to Christ. I watched people come up and surround her and hug her and pray for her.  I didn't sit with my head bowed and eyes closed while the Pastor asked for anyone who had made a decision for Christ to discreetly raise their hand.  I rejoiced with people who were rejoicing.  I cried (I'm a crier if you don't know that about me) when others cried.  I worshiped my Lord.

We will still attend our church that we love.  It feels like home to us, but I'll look forward to our visits to the other side of town from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN! I was raised in a church that didn't dismiss kiddos (and danced in the aisle) ;)! And when we go back to TN E gets to be apart of the singing! (I do like him away for the sermon ;) but I love sharing the music with him.