It is early on a Sunday morning. I feel like I’ve been up most of the night with a hungry baby. My husband is snoring on the couch. I am in the chair in the living room with said hungry baby who is apparently content at the moment. I should go back to sleep. But it doesn’t feel like that will be possible. And as I have not posted here for 20(!) days, my goodness, it is time- past time. Many times I have thought- “Ooh… I’ll blog about that!” But somehow, blogging time is limited these days.
We will head to church in a few hours. We’re still worshipping with two congregations, in one building, most of the time. But today one of the dilemmas of said arrangement presents itself again. Church number 2 begins its worship just after church number 1 finishes at noon. But when church number 1 has a special fellowship meal it is usually when? At noon. In the past we have skipped fellowship with one community for worship with another. But this week we were feeling that we’ve had more opportunities to build relationships in church number 2 so we’re skipping worship service number 2 and participating in the Fat Sunday dinner with church number 1. It turns out that the service we’re missing is an extra special worship service with church number 2 and that is a bummer, but I think we’ve made a faithful decision.
Today may be an intentionally an extra-special worship service at church 2, but, in our experience, almost all of them are. It is most frequently after worshipping with this congregation that I think “Ooh… I need to blog about that.” So, given that I’m missing worship time with them today. I’ll take some blog time on them.
Perhaps any distinct faith community would present a new participant with a whole host of new and formative experiences, but as this community is predominately African-American, I am finding myself introduced to far more newness than in any of my prior church experiences. So new experiences I don’t want to forget?
- It was important to us to have both congregations involved in the baptism of our daughter. This was tricky to arrange as church number 2 has Sunday School for all ages during the worship time of church number 1. So I asked if the pastor and one elder could join us. They agreed. And then the Sunday before the entire congregation was urged to participate. The decision had been made, on the part of the church’s leadership, that anyone present for Sunday School would enter the sanctuary for C’s baptism. I need to do a full blog post about the baptism on the other blog (my midwife has been waiting for it for a long time!), but right now I just want to remember all the people, of all ages (so many little kids among them) streaming in and filling one side of the sanctuary. And I want to remember the pastor of this congregation lifting Caroline high as he prayed a prayer of blessing over her. All the other assistants with the baptism reached and looked up towards her. He prayed to the only one more powerful than her. I have never experienced something like this in baptism. It was simple, beautiful, and powerful.
- On baptism of the Lord Sunday we joined the entire congregation in heading a mile down the road after worship to the Y for the baptism of a man who responded to the altar call some time ago. Shortly before he responded to the altar call he was released from prison. I could not imagine that after a two hour worship service people would all relocate for more worship. But they did. The director of music stood on one side of the pool singing “Take Me To The Water” and everyone else, circled around that pool, joined in. There were some folks, not from the church, there getting exercise in the pool. They just kept on, perhaps a bit puzzled, but mostly seemingly unphased. The young man being baptized and the pastor, in his full African attire, waded waste deep into the water. The pastor boomed out one of the Gospel renditions of the baptism of Jesus and then immersed the young man eager for a fresh start three times in the pool and when he emerged the third time the entire congregation erupted in applause, in hoots and hollers, and alleluias! The rejoicing bounced off the walls, intensified by echo. So many were shedding tears. I have NEVER before been witness to such a powerful baptism. And what a way to celebrate baptism of the Lord Sunday, eh?
- We’ve been singing in the choir. We committed to singing just up until the birth of our child, but once we were able to get back to it, we have. Though I have sung in choirs before, many choirs, this is an entirely new experience. Only once in all the weeks we’ve sung with them has there been sheet music to be read as we learned. Usually music is taught by ear, phrase by phrase. Kev says we hear “One more time” A LOT at these rehearsals. The musician doesn’t play from sheet music either. He plays by ear, beautifully. The one liability to this method is that, more often than not, Sunday rolls around three days later and I can’t, for the life of me, remember what we learned on Thursday. And I can’t consult my sheet music for a refresher. So, regularly, getting into the choir loft is an act of faith. The Spirit is going to have to kick in, because my abilities are not sufficient for the task. And usually… all is fine, or better than fine. This was never more true than a few weeks ago when, on Thursday night, we rehearsed a piece which, apparently, they had rehearsed the week before as well. It wasn’t quite coming together at rehearsal and the choir director said he felt a need to pray on it and consult with the pastor and indicated we may or may not be singing it the following Sunday. If not he’d “just pull something out of the bag”. My eyebrows went up at this declaration and I exclaimed “Um, my bag, in this context, is very shallow!” (Cause, remember, he’s not pulling sheet music out of the bag.) Everyone laughed. “If it is call and response, I may be able to wing it, but otherwise?” “You’ll be fine,” he said. Sunday morning it came time for the anthem and the choir members all got out of their pews and started to head to the choir loft. One of the more seasoned singers grabbed my arm and started feeding me the lyrics and plan just before we entered the loft. “It is basically an echo,” she said, “Just follow along.” Gulp. At the moment the specific lyrics aren’t coming back to me, but it was something about not intending to tell anybody, but not being able to keep it to oneself. Back and forth we sang about this. I watched the seasoned singer for harmonic cues. It was slightly terrifying, slightly fun. All of sudden the microphone started being passed and folks started inserting verses. “I wasn’t going to sing my song.” “I wasn’t going to move like this.” “I wasn’t going to tap my feet.” etc. etc. More than once people looked at me, raised eyebrows and tried to give me the mike. I had no idea if folks were making up verses or inserting pre-prepared verses. I was NOT taking that microphone. But, I had a verse in my head “I wasn’t going to love my neighbor.” (or something like that) And shoot! I wish I had just sucked it up and done it because… the whole sermon was about the imperative to love, and our struggle to do so, the whole service, really, was about showing love to one another. I am seriously being schooled in trusting the Spirit through this choral experience. Oh… and Kev and I soloed on MLK Sunday on the African-American National Anthem. The only song we’ve sung that I knew ahead of time and for which we actually had music (figures). It felt strange to be soloists, on this song, on that day, as we are the only white members of the choir. But it felt like an honor. I hope we lived up to it.
- Every week the pastor’s charge is particular, rather than general. Perhaps you recall that I shared that he charged us to change two concrete things in our lives and to share with him what those changes were going to be. I opted for rejoining W.W. and losing 40 pounds by C’s first birthday and for doing more to intentionally create and care for our home (with all sorts of specifics attached to that- doing better at change number 1 than change number 2, but I’ve made strides in both). In any case, Kev and I often talk about whatever the charge was during the week. And we often live it out. It feels good to have something concrete to focus on in our faith lives every week. I’ve never before experienced such directive and practical charges. And I appreciate them.
- The congregation in general, and the choir in particular, has been invited to go to Selma in a few weeks for an anniversary commemoration of the bloodiest day in the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will be preaching and many from all over will be gathering. We are intrigued… not sure if we’ll be able to join in this new experience or not.
We are so grateful God has led us to not one, but two congregations and that, in particular, we’ve found this shining witness to Christ. Alleluia!