Murder in My Mother's Church
a building used for public Christian worship.
"they came to church with me"
synonyms:place of worship, house of God, house of worship; More
take (a woman who has recently given birth) to church for a service of thanksgiving.
Last night, in the middle of a lightning storm, I woke up with these words in my head,
These are the words to a song I sang in my high school gospel choir. I guess someone knew I would need them in the morning.
Because when I did, I woke to the news that 9 people were shot and killed in a church in Charleston. 9 Black people in a Black Southern church were shot and killed during bible study in 2015.
You see, I have a complicated relationship with religion. I consider myself a questioning Christian because I have lots of...questions. But my mother is a born again Christian and often ends tales of her past indiscretions as "before she knew Jesus". This is not to say that she does not think critically about religion, because she does, we just have different approaches.
She attends New Providence Baptist Church in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina. Not unlike "Mother" Emanuel AME Church where the massacre occurred last night, New Providence was founded by enslaved people. So when I read about the hate crime this morning, I was hit in the gut. This was murder in my mother's church.
My mother is a proponent of slave history. Some may even say she's obsessed with slavery. Her retort? "No one ever tells the Jews to just 'Get over' the Holocaust! So I'm gonna keep talking about slavery." So in February we did a "dramatic presentation" on church and slavery called "How We Praise". This is a selection of a text that was read that Sunday morning.
These people stole away to the basement of their church to use prayer and Scripture to ease the hurt and build a buffer against the pain of this world in the same way that their ancestors did hundreds of years prior. And armed with nothing more than religious books, holy affirmations and their holy Black spirits, they were murdered. In the same way that their ancestors were hundreds of years prior.
Denmark Vesey built and helped to found their original church. The same Denmark Vesey that organized a slave revolt in Charleston in 1822. He, and 36 enslaved people, was hanged for it. Then the church was burned down. So they worshipped underground until 1865. Underground. Like in a basement.
There is supposed to be safety in these tabernacles built with sweat and perseverance and hope. Structures built to allow space for love in a world that doesnt always love us. A place to shout and cry and dance and dream and loose our demons. To get closer to that spiritual freedom that has yet to be found in the flesh. For many, the church was a way to create the world we wanted to see. Which is why the people welcomed the killer into their house with open arms. Because God's house is for all; even if "God's country" is not.
Today I pray a prayer that my people have been praying for hundreds of years.
Lord, hear the cries of your people. We are praying for freedom and peace. Even if I dont live to see it, make this ground fertile soul for my children and my children's children. Amen.