Went to church this morning. Honestly, the whole family barely made it, since at 9:25 am we all of us Hatches sat about the living room, tired and in pajamas, wondering if our presence could be excused this week. 35 minutes til 10 am start time, 20 minute drive….you do the math…
But our church, Allison Creek Presbyterian, decided awhile back to join forces with Liberty Hill AME Zion Church, and it was our turn to go to them. The Hatch family’s first time experiencing a traditionally “black” church. I mean, Liberty Hill had brought some of their worship to us in the past, but this time we got to go worship with them in their sanctuary. Now I’m wondering if anybody from Liberty Hill had their first “white” church experience that day? For many reasons, in the south we still segregate when it comes to religion. I’m curious if this is a southern thing or an all over thing?
Alas, we both tend to self segregate here.
African American churches have a reputation for being loud and emotional with a tendency to drag their services out past lunch. Hunger pangs, anyone?
White churches have the equal and opposite reputation of being stuffy, reserved, and appreciative of pastors able to summarize quickly. Stand strong and mumble through a few old hymns, right?
Now, when you throw two of our groupings together, it can be quite the experience for everybody.
We hadn’t been there five minutes when my leaky eyes started. It’s a curse all women in my family carry. Easily leaking eyes. First off, right in the front pew sat a mother from our congregation whose son died two days ago. Her daughter died not but a few months back, and this week, she lost her son. Well, seeing her not just at Liberty Hill, but sitting in the front row, made me flash back to going to church for the first time right after my momma passed, and Lordy. It’s a hard thing to sit through a service, composed and holding it together or not, after losing family. Every time I glanced in her direction my eyes leaked.
And the energy in the place. I kept sweating from the very beginning, even though the air conditioning was running. Maybe when a naturally reserved person joins in a lively worship service, the whole body chooses to jump into action. All I know is, now I get why all the regulars carried fans. We sang and praised God and stood up, speaking out, proclaiming, “Amen” with all the good and all the hard and even the funnies. By the time my pastor got to speak, we’d been carried on a wave, swaying to and fro (even some of the ACPC folks joined in) and calling out, showing our appreciation through clapping and singing. Clapped half the service, probably.
Now, just as a little background, our poor Pastor Sam had to follow their Reverend Thelma Gordon with his sermon. She’d preached at our church before, so it was his turn to preach at Liberty Hill. He’d admitted getting nervous earlier in the week, being that Pastor Gordon is known all over the whole York County for her preaching. Yet, honestly, he had no reason to worry. Liberty Hill is nothing if not gracious, and we were all just glad to be worshipping together. And when Pastor Sam preached, he delivered a fantastic sermon, one from his own voice, that spoke to all listening. It spoke of the oppressed becoming oppressors who oppressed who then became oppressors. We travelled from Scotland to Ireland to America to South Carolina to Liberia, this same theme repeating generation after generation. And how hopefully, through our love, we might be able to move past it in our community. How the pattern of sin carried our ancestors away from God and how our two communities, linked through a cruel history, could come together today in love to worship the God who loves us all. A straight arrow kind of message for the day.
Finally, after all was said and done, we fellowshipped. I love how us church people like to call chatting, “fellowshipping”. We gathered in their building and we ate together, a simple lunch of salmon sandwiches and summer tomato salad with fresh baked cakes for dessert. Delicious, made by their hands, again the gracious hosts.
Rev. Gordon told two women joining their congregation that today would be a day they won’t soon forget. We’re home now, back on the couch we left at 9:25am. And I have to agree.