Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Went To Black Church Tonight... Am I Supposed To Be Black?

Since we moved two years ago to our dream home/property, we were forced to leave our church. We loved our church. It was perfect for all of us at the time and we felt good being there. The people were very nice, fun, young, and non-judgmental. I loved the pastor's sense of humor and the size of 800+ people, the coffee bar, the media presentation, the cool stage props and backdrop. I loved everything about it. But since we moved an hour away, it's a little unrealistic to continue to go there. We moved to a much smaller area and there aren't as many progressive large churches here, so we've church-hopped. It's like bar-hopping, except there are communions with grape juice instead of shots with Jagermeister.

When we shopped for a house two years ago, all four of us had our "dream" requirements and those had to be fulfilled in order for us to move. It had to feel right for everyone, not just one or two of us. We knew the minute we looked at this place that it was meant for us and we were all in agreement.

I think we just found that in a church. Only thing is, it's a black church. Have you seen my picture? We are what some black folk might call "whitey." But I love this church and all indications were that they loved me right back! I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be black. I'm so convinced after tonight that I wonder if maybe Jesus wasn't black. He must not have been, though, because if he was black, the preaching in the Bible would have had more exclamation points.

I have black friends, by the way, who will hopefully tell me whether or not it's disrespectful to call it black church, but the distinction needs to be made for the purpose of this post so I'm sticking with the term with no offense intended. Is it more PC to call it "African American church?" I don't know, so I'm just calling it black church because I've honestly never heard the term "African American church." It sounds like something a prissy-pants would be forced to say.

My oldest daughter and my husband went there on Sunday while I was at the winery, so they had prepared me. I know what you're thinking. You're either thinking, "Sinner!" or "I want some wine."

I was a little afraid I would feel out of place or like they wouldn't want me there, but there is none of that in a black church! It was like going down south to my grandma's house in Kentucky, except there was more hugging at black church. I even got a group hug on my very first visit tonight! People hugged me that I didn't even know before they said, "Hello." We weren't the only white people there. They were few, but there were others there, so it wasn't like they were hugging us because we were special. They were just hugging us because we were there and that made them happy. I could tell they pour love on everyone who walks through that front door.

As always happens when you're where God wants you to be, the subject of the class tonight was exactly to the tee about several things I am currently dealing with. It's scary how God can pinpoint your life via a speaker when he really wants to. I had to reign it in. I had to shut my mouth. I had to keep from speaking up and dominating the conversation. There were at least five different times when I could have spoken up, but I only spoke out once. For me to hold my tongue is torture. So of course the speaker even talked about that very thing! Every word seemed aimed at me. My neck will probably be sore tomorrow from nodding vigorously in agreement.

If you know me, you know my speaking style and the kind of places I like to spend time. You wouldn't expect me to love a small church whose parking lot is full of potholes, the porch light hangs precariously from it's anchor, the speaker says, "If you ain't got the Holy Spirit, then you never gonna have nothin'!" and proper English is second to a black vernacular I'm not accustomed to. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not making fun. It was raw and real and unadulterated. I understood most of what was said, but the important thing is that what I didn't understand... well, I felt it. There were no bells and whistles needed. I must admit, I miss the coffee bar though.

I don't care how they talk. I understood the language. The spirit of that place dwells within me. It was a spirit of love, truth, transparency, hope, and faith above all things worldly. They "get" God. I want God. I've missed the passion for God that my family and I once had - together.

I just took this picture recently of the giant cross in Effingham, IL, the town
I used to live in and thought, "Now what am I going to use that picture for?"
Ask and ye shall receive, sista!


I always wondered if I'd like a black church. I remember having a conversation years ago at my old church with a gal who told me that in a staff meeting, they asked the staff what could get the church more pumped up and she responded, "More black people!" She was right. They Amen when it hits them, they wave their hands like nobody's looking, and they love God without a doubt. It's a real life Madea movie.

I once said that I must have been black in a previous life because I love T.D. Jakes, I love Oprah, I love Barack Obama (okay, I'm going to lose some of you there), I love Tyler Perry, and the list goes on. I felt right at home there tonight. I have a feeling someday they will refer to me as Sister Cindy. I've only been there once, so time will tell if I am really an outspoken black woman in a little white girl's body.


35 comments:

  1. The best church is the one that feels like home to you!

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  2. My family and I went to a predominently African-American church in St. Petersburg Fl. one easter.  It was the longest service, and the best service, I have ever been to.  Your post made me remember what a wonderful time we had there, and how welcome we felt.  I enjoy visiting churches, of all faiths, and experiencing the spiritual side of life through their eyes. Keep us posted!   

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  3. I am not religious. And although I was supposedly "raised" Christian (I use the quotes because really, in the end, my family weren't regular church-goers), I eventually became an atheist. It's only been in the past five or so years that I've been able to believe in God in a way that makes sense to me. I don't associate my belief with a particular religion though. All of that being said? If I were forced to go to church I would definitely choose a black church (and I've been...and I loved it) because what I experienced there was pure joy...and to me, that's what God is. An energetic, joyful force of energy!

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  4. I believe the church where we feel called is the one where we belong, whatever the congregation looks like, and whether that's true for a day, a month, a year, or a lifetime. As you know, based on where Jesus was born, he was likely a lot darker than the blonde, blue-eyed, conservative hippie, movie-star version mass-produced and hung from kitchen nails across America. An African-American friend of mine grew disillusioned with church for many years because he dared to suggest that Jesus might have been dark and his mother scolded him for talking sin. When I was a reporter in Anchorage, Alaska, I interviewed a church official who said something to the effect of, "If you think America isn't still segregated, go to church on Sunday." Cindy, if you can chip away at that barrier a little more, it seems that in itself is a blessing. And if you find yourself singing louder, I hope you share that new habit everywhere you go.

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  5. Hi Cindy, good for you for finding a place where you felt a connection!!  Who cares what color the folks were if they welcomed you with open arms then I say, AMEN!  I am also an Obama fan, in fact, my step-daughter Jessica recently met him and I posted a photo on my personal FB page - feel free to friend me, you'll see!!! 
    Lisa
    www.lisagradessweinstein.blogspot.com

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  6. God is where you find him and He most certainly was at your "black church". Maybe it should be called a church of color? I don't know but the important thing is you felt at home there.

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  7. Home is where the heart is - that's what they say. And a true heart, in my opinion, knows no color or nationality, it just knows people! Thanks for the comment, Mike!

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  8. Aw, Cara, you make me smile! Thanks for the nice words! Good words, too. I agree! Mass produced indeed! It's sad what we humans do to each other. I hope that for the most part, no matter what my views are, I continue to spread love, humor, and well-presented reality with my actions and words.

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  9. Ok, Lisa, I sure will :) because I was going to friend you anyway ;0) How cool that she got to meet him!

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  10. Right on, sister! You have it right with that description of God. I think he has a heck of a sense of humor too. I have gone through quite a journey in my life, went to church, didn't care about church, wasn't a believer, wasn't sure if there was a God, etc. until I had my own experiences about 10 years ago that led me to be a true believer. I was lucky enough to have an awesome church before and I hope this one will be great too. I don't ever want to feel "forced" into going, that's for sure, and I was just about getting that way these past couple of years because our family just wasn't connecting at the churches here. We frequented what I would call a "dead" church. I liked the pastor and some of the people I went to church with there, but for the most part, I was bored to tears! This church promises to be full of excitement. I like that :o)

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  11. Oh Kendra, I'm sure there will be more stories. And I will do my best to respectfully share and keep everyone posted, as always.

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  12. I've never been one to see skin color, so I say if you like the church, it doesn't matter if it's predominantly black or white. It's a good church. :)

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  13. I love my Everyday Underwear peeps. Awesome, Kelly! Thanks for the comment!

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  14. So why does it have to be a black church?  Can't it be Pentecostal, Methodist,  Baptist, New Assembly of God or even Catholic instead?  Sure the people that attend a church define it, but their skin color doesn't have to label it, right? 

    If it feels like home and you all feel good there, go, do, enjoy!

    BTW - anyone I've ever talked to that went to a black church has had the same experience - they were floored by how accepting the people were.

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  15. Hello, Brian. Thanks for the comment! I have actually been to all of those types of churches. I suppose I should explain that I live in a predominantly white area, so that is why it was worth a blog post, in my opinion. There is a small black community there and I was kind of "in their territory," if you will.

    I have been to all of the types of churches you mentioned, but with predominantly white parishioners. The funny thing is, I don't even know what denomination this church is and I wouldn't care much either. The last church I loved was technically "Baptist," but it always felt like it was non-denominational. I don't get into the technicalities of being a believer. That's not my style. This one felt "real" and that is what draws me...

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  16. Hi, Cindy--I'm new to your blog, but I am on She Writes, where I found the link to this post.

    I think if you felt God there--if you felt acceptance and love and comfort--then it's the place for you. Those are the most important things to me when it comes to church.

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  17. Tina, I so agree! And thanks so much for stopping by Everyday Underwear :)
    Cindy Brown, Humor WriterIf you need prescription medication to treat B.O.Y.B. (Bored-Off-Your-Butt)syndrome, please check out my humor blog, Everyday Underwear...http://www.everydayunderwear.com/
    Subject: [everydayunderwear] Re: Everyday Underwear: Went To Black Church Tonight... Am I Supposed To Be Black?

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  18. Sometimes there can be a joy in embracing the art and diversity found in cultures other than the one we grew up in.  That is where we find respect for the humanity of others.  And after a while, when we've looked at hundreds of interesting and diverse cultures, we realize that there is only one race; the human one.  Everything else about the existence of multiple races is a myth.  But just because it is mythology does not keep it from being believed.  And that it is believed, there will always be dominators who will exploit it.  The only way to stop the exploitation is to pull back the curtain, and unmask the Wizard of Oz.

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  19. As African-american, this blog post reminds me of when my European American or white friends would visit or end up in Harlem. Typically, the comments would be along these lines--- "I was the only WHITE person in
     ( audible gasp) Harlem."Listening to those kind of comments was always painful and sad for me. Painful--because these are people who think of themselves as liberal--a word by the way, that I detest, and open-hearted. If all they could see out of gorgeous cultural-rich historical Harlem was how someone else's skin color measured against theirs---meant they were as narrow as  a carrot. And sad, because I cannot connect with what I identified those comments   to be--- a passive aggressive form of racism--and that meant distancing from those people. The sadness also meant--we as human beings have not evolved as much as we would like to believe.Specifically with this post-it's the anthropological-type observation of other human beings--not .. say-- Garifunas--Afro-Carribean in Guatemala or Post-wall East-Berliners  but these people are Americans..and her post  borders on condescension. The blogger lets us know --she's pc--After all she has "black friends" (some of my best friends are black) She uses a 60's terminology "whitey"-- an inflammatory word and suggests it's widely used among blacks--which is false.her observance--- "Black People Actually Show Genuine Emotion!! They Were Nice! Who Knew Black People Could Welcome- Other Races~~~~~~~~~~~FYI--There ARE actually churches--African American East, --African Methodist....etcbut the blogger was uninterested in that---she was more interested in being condescending about black identity--her poking fun was commentary on that issue.  ~~~~~~~~~~ I don't care if "they" talk that way. Who is "they"?? Down south--people of either color --talk that way.   so so sad.I am actually going to be sure that I am unsubscribed from this blog.I know prejudice exists--but I do not want it in my inbox.   

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  20. ???? Boy, you sure twisted that post way out of proportion! Sorry to rile you up, "unsubscribing" (whoever you anonymously are). I guess you are talking to me. You suddenly go into calling me "her" and "the blogger" in your tirade. Please send me your ruffled feathers for my feather duster. And lighten up! Sorry to see you leave Everyday Underwear and sorry that you took the post in a negative way. As you can see from the other comments, my true fans "get" me. Spread the love, spread the love! Sheesh.

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  21. Hahaha, as a fellow black girl stuck in white body, I get you sister. I never noticed if I was the only white girl but I noticed if I was around only white people—like the first time I went to Burlington VT twenty-five years ago. Scary.

    And not being color blind doens't make one a racist or a bigot any more than noticing someone is Italian, blond, or different in any one of the myriad ways we humans differ from one another. Noting that the congregation is black is a classification not a qualification, your intent to demarcate this church from your previous was pretty clear.

    I wonder if Unsubscribing opened up a dialog with her white "friends" (she has no respect for) to discuss her views, to educate and enlighten them or just dismissed them as she does you. Shaming people for making mistakes does nothing to end misconceptions, bias, or discrimination.

    This attitude just perpetuates the fear of being perceived as insensitive to multicultural differences and keeps us from talking. We are unable to ask questions for fear of being accused of bias, nor point out to others when they've perhaps made an inappropriate comment (yours fell more towards stereotyping "They"—not all black people sing, amen or otherwise behave as if they are related to Madea, and you needn't be black to feel a kinship to Oprah, or support Obama "4 more years!")

    You don't know unless someone tells you. So Cindy, I felt your excitement and open-hearted joy at find a place you connected with. I get using the label black church-because that gives me an instant identifier along with your other descriptors which paints a picture of a particular type of church, and congregation. Stereotyped and slightly insensitive sure but out of malice or prejudice? Certainly not.

    Could you have painted that picture without race? Sure, Baptist, enthusiastic, warm, embracing, welcoming...Perhaps your new holy rollers would welcome a discussion on how our unconscious bias can be counter acted with open dialog and exposure to other culture.

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  22. Lynne, I love what you said! Now that is the kind of appropriate wrist slapping I can appreciate and take as honest and good critique! Thank you so much! I am actually going to be doing a sort of follow-up post this next time and I would like to include a summary of your comment and highlight you as an example of a kind and proper comment of this type.

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  23. HI Cindy, I loved your blog...it made me feel connected and raring to go to this black church filled with love and the spirit. Then "unsubscribed" butted in and burst my happy bubble. I'm so glad your family has found a great church of loving people.

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  24. Awww, don't let "unsubscribed" burst your happy bubble! I sure didn't. I know what I meant and it wasn't at all what "unsubscribed" said, it was what you felt when you read the post. Thank you, Judy, for stopping by and leaving your comment. I appreciate it very much :0)

    Subject: [everydayunderwear] Re: Everyday Underwear: Went To Black Church Tonight... Am I Supposed To Be Black?

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  25. Don't recall the part about chillin with God including a coffee bar.  Guess I don't get your point, does the atmosphere drive the conversation?  

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  26. Yes, this went out there after "I was the only white person" but you did anticipate something like this with the "Am I supposed to be black" tagline...didn't ya?

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  27. So sorry to not make my point clear. The church I used to attend had a really neat coffee bar (technically, they called it a cafe) with lattes, smoothies, etc. where everyone could congregate, standing or sitting at tables or on couches and playing a game of chess in the nook, and visit and have a cup of joe at their leisure during church hours. I did reference this coffee bar in the first paragraph. This new church was very bare bones and did not have a coffee bar.

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  28. I am confused by this comment. To be very clear to the readers, I did not say, "I was the only white person." I do not know who said that. The commenter said that somebody else said that. I said that we were not the only white people. I'm not sure what you were getting at there.

    Additionally, my tagline was dual meaning. The first meaning was to indicate that they may have looked differently upon me, being a white newcomer in a predominantly black congregation and would they accept me? It was sort of poking fun at the possibility that the black church might be prejudiced against me, which in all reality, I completely knew they would NOT be and that they would not care about my skin color. It was meant to be light-hearted poke at myself, not at the black community.

    The second tagline meaning was to implicate that I resonated so well with this group of people that it made me think, "Perhaps I was black in a previous life," or was meant to be born black and somehow came out of white parents instead. Again, a light-hearted poke at myself in trying to figure out who I really am, which is an ongoing journey in life.

    I have found that when people read me, they don't always get what I mean or what my intent was and that's unfortunate, but it is also the nature of the beast when you are a writer - and I get that.

    Thank you for your comments and please don't be afraid to visit again :0)

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  29. What I loved most about this essay was your willingness to share your apprehension in stepping outside your comfort zone and the joy you felt in being welcomed unconditionally. It's wonderful to discover that no matter where we come from, what we look like, how we decide to worship (or not) that there are far more similarities between people than differences. I betcha in no time you won't even think of your new house of worship as "black church," but simply "church." Can I get an amen to that? 

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  30. Well, you have a resounding "Amen" from me, that is for sure :)

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  31.  Hi there,
     I'm happy to hear you found a church you felt comfortable in.

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  32. Cindy, I appreciate that you were honest, yes calling a church a Black church is appropriate., but what really matters is that the Holy Spirit met you there, God knows his business even when we don't know ours.  Augie Hicks

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  33. Augie, thank you for the comment. Our family went again this morning and we had a great time. We really love it!

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  34. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

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