History Made Fresh

18 02 2008

I didn’t go to Buckhead Church yesterday, instead I went to church with my parents and we visited Big Bethel AME Church in Midtown. It was actually pretty awesome because it took me back to old school church. Church that I grew up with. Church that I tried to forget…Back when the choir used to march in from the back…when the pastor knew your name…Back when we stayed in church for 3 hours, sometimes more, because Sunday was the Lord’s day…when people still did altar calls…

It was Founder’s Day so the choir had on their African outfits and they marched in to some song that was either Zulu or Swahili, I can’t remember but it was great. The sound of the drums and the bongos made my heart sing. As the pastor marched in behind the choir, he smiled and shook everyone’s hands as he came down the aisle. That kinda made me feel good because it just reminded me of the days when the pastor used to know you and your family and when the pastor used to stand in the back at the end of service and shake people’s hands. We don’t really do that in churches anymore. We’ve gotten too big for that. But now I see why some people place such a value in that. It makes you feel good.

But the greatest thing about the service was that it reminded me that I have a history that is full and rich. If I can say one thing about growing up in the AME church, it was that they made it a point for us to know our history. If we didn’t know anything else about our past as African Americans, we knew about Richard Allen and how he started the AME church as a slave who was not allowed to worship in the white church.

The choir did an awesome rendition of the black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." One of the teenagers did a mime to Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. I thought to myself how amazing it is that this kid knows that speech and now has a special connection to it because of that church and because of the mime. Being there gave me such a great sense of pride in who I am as an African American woman, and I think that pride was instilled in me even as a child growing up in that tradition, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

Another thing that I appreciated about yesterday’s service was that it was good to be in church again where the people celebrated loving God. Sometimes I really miss the freedom of expression in worship that you find in African American churches. It’s nice to be among people who don’t mind clapping, dancing, waving their hands in the air, and at times even wailing loudly or crying out during the middle of service and no one look twice. At the same time, I don’t miss being in church for 3 hours. I guess everything is a trade off. I don’t want to leave Buckhead Church. It’s just a good feeling to revisit your roots every now and then and get a fresh perspective on the history and tradition that you often try to forget.   

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