i’m a white chick in america. most of the places i go to i am the same color as most of the people around me. there might or might not be asians, blacks, hispanics where i’m at but i’m seldom in a situation in which i’m the ONLY white woman in the joint. this morning was a little bit of the strange.
meeting (so far) 275 facebook friends in person, i’ve learned a lot about how everyone struggles with or finds comfort with their faith. this year, i’ve been to churches and synagogues, i’ve had long conversations with people of faith and people who profess no faith whatsoever. i have had a laying on of hands in both the reiki and the christian tradition. i have meditated with friends, prayed with others. i have been forgiven for past wrongs by facebook friends, and i’ve come to know peace in my relations with some facebook friends. i have surprised by traditions i have i been shown. i know facebook friends have prayed for me.
when i was growing up, my adoptive mother mrs. patrick tunneled towards a notion that i was a partner to satan. not just possessed, because possessed would sort of mean that i still existed as a great daughter but i was being held captive by evil and you want to find the exorcist who will tease that satan out of your kid. no, no, this notion was that me and satan–well, we had a lock on that fall from grace stuff. we were entrepreneurs. we were doing a road trip on the saved.
this notion became a certainty for her and i came to believe she would kill me. . . and would regard killing me as doing good for the world. as soon as i reached that conclusion about her, i knew i had to get out of the patrick household. which i did when i was just shy of fifteen. i am fifty one years old and it is still tough to think about God and tough to think about my adoptive mom.
my f2fb friend #275 dave gotaas doesn’t struggle in the same way. his grandparents were missionaries in what was the belgian congo (present day democratic republic of the congo) and his parents were missionaries in south america until dave was in eighth grade. the family then came to live in wilmette and dave’s father took over the winnetka bible church. dave is sure of his faith but sometimes unsure about how the world around him can reject God.
i got home from new york city late last night and frankly was in no mood to get up early and drive to the south woodlawn neighborhood of chicago for a church service. but i was intrigued by the fact that dave often visits other churches and that this one is the chicago church he most admires. in fact, he had introduced me to dr. byron t. brazier seniors and junior a few years ago at a rotary meeting. dave is a church service connoisseur.
we pulled into the parking lot at 63rd and south dorchester and dave’s pick up truck was pretty much the wreck of the yard (no disrespect, dave!) also, i realized that although dave was wearing a nice enough suit and i was wearing the arlynn uniform of black skirt, sweater, and boots, we were horrifically underdressed. i have been told by many pastors that God doesn’t care how you dress on sundays. that might be true, but the God the parishioners were coming to see at the apostolic church was a God they wanted to impress, they wanted to honor, they wanted to show respect to. and they were respecting each other by wearing a hat, a corsage, a bespoke suit. as someone who saw parents at new trier graduation wearing “i’m with stupid” t-shirts and jeans. . . i was impressed.
as we walked from the parking lot (well, one of four parking lots surrounding the church), every single person greeted me and dave with a “praise the Lord” or “praise God”. . . .
i was a little intimidated, as we took our seats, because dave and i were the only white people in the sanctuary which was filling up rapidly. a half hour before the service started there were five hundred people. then eight hundred, then a thousand people ready to worship together as a family. it has been said that sunday is the most segregated day of the week, with americans dividing themselves into “black churches”, “white churches”, “korean churches”. . . i guess that’s probably true. i don’t see many blacks, hispanics or asians at my catholic church.
i really felt the presence of God. in the singing. in the praising. in the hands held up to receive the blessings of God. people interrupting each other in their rush to praise Jesus and to reinforce rev. byron brazier’s message. i counted thirty five people who were received at the pulpit because they had been baptized and then had made the decision to join the church. at the end of the service, brazier asked if anybody wanted to come into the family of God, to be baptized, to have the peace of the love of God. eight people walked up to the pulpit, three of them children. much praise was given.
the sanctuary has an interesting feature: set into the wall behind the pulpit is a built-in tub (kind of like a jacuzzi) about twenty feet above the three choir rows. brazier finished the service and then he donned a white robe and, with an assistant similarly enrobed, he entered the tub from a door i couldn’t see. the eight people, one by one, came out to be immersed in the water. they had changed their clothes into white robes with white caps to protect their hair. water spilled over onto a retaining wall. people clapped and gave praise. and then prayed for the next and newest baptimist. i wanted, with every fiber of my being to be baptized. p.s. i didn’t take any pictures because i would consider that to be sacrilegious but if you want to see the inside of the sanctuary, go to the church website at http://www.acog-chicago.org
and why didn’t i get baptized? why didn’t i go? if i felt like i could, why didn’t i? part of it, i was the only white chick. i didn’t want to draw attention (more attention) to myself.
but also, damn, the shower caps, the white robes, i’m one of those gals whose priests just put a teeny drop of holy water on you. . . no dunking!