Back in December (or maybe mid-November), I had called a meeting for people at my church interested in working on Black History Month to come to a meeting; no one came. So decided just to do it (largely) myself.
One of the pastors had recommended this series A History of Racism in the United States from an entity called the Thoughtful Christian way back in May of last year, and it looked OK to jumpstart a discussion.
The Adult Education Committee, which I’m on, decided to try an experiment with two different offerings in January. On January 30, it would be my BHM part 1 v. the last piece of a study of the gospel of Mark. People wanted to do both, but ultimately, Mark won out and I had three or four people. My ego wasn’t affected, of course. Of course, it wasn’t. My ego wasn’t affected. Yeah, right. Still, it was an interesting discussion.
It was fortunate that February 6 would be a joint FOCUS service, albeit at our church, so there would be no adult ed programming. So, since I knew I’d be going down to Charlotte, I asked someone, Annette from the choir by name, to get some folks to bring in some artifacts for a display, and she/they did.
February 13, I was scheduled to lead class #2 about racism. I had come back from Charlotte only a couple of days before and the wife, the daughter, and I were still all EXHAUSTED. Somehow, did adult ed while Lydia did Sunday school, then we all went out to eat.
I had secured the speaker for February 20, who sent me an URGENT message that I needed to meet with him the Thursday before that Sunday at 6 pm. So I did, and he decided he wanted me to “interview” him for the Adult Ed class he was leading.
The drag was that, since I was with him on Thursday evening, I couldn’t be at choir that night. Thursday evening has a particular ritual that I’ve been enjoying of late. I take the bus from work to downtown, buy and eat a gyro, go to the library and look at the books for sale, then go on one of the computers and work on my blog for an hour, the only practically guaranteed blogging window I have each week. Then I go to choir. Interrupting the ritual, while ultimately useful, and arguably necessary – face-to-face DOES work better than e-mail – it really, as they used to say “harshed my mellow.”
The morning of the 20th, the speaker, Donald Hyman, was great in the sermon at the 8:30 service, the 9:30 bit on Fredrick Douglass, and again at the 10:45 service’s sermon, which was somewhat different.
There is this presentation of something called the kente cloth each year, and there had been folks lobbying me that a certain older member of the congregation gets one as well. I don’t generally pick the person, but I might have forwarded these e-mails to the folks who do, had I not been…distracted by the month’s events. The cloths were presented to Donald and to the choir director, Michael Lister.
Now, because I missed both Thursday night rehearsal AND Sunday morning rehearsal, I couldn’t sing in the choir; just didn’t know the music. It’s always strange for me to be in the congregation when the choir is singing. As an introit, they did a staggeringly magnificent arrangement of Don McLean’s Babylon, which I had talked about with Michael before I went to Charlotte. It’s based on Psalm 137, one of Donald’s suggested texts; the music was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard in my life. Later, the choir did a version of Wade in the Water, with a guest soloist from the College of Saint Rose; Donald said the group compared favorably with the Fisk Jubilee Singers; I had the strong sense that most of the congregation didn’t know who the Fisk Jubilee Singers are. The offertory was some song I did not know. But it had lyrics about “my mother going home to glory” and I sobbed.
February 25, I had ordered a cake, and folks, including my wife, cooked. Again I led Adult Education. I also sang, and I was fine until the recessional, which was Lift Every Voice and Sing. It must be that I associate it with my home church, or maybe it’s the part about ancestors, and I have no direct living forebearers. In any case, my voice cracked. Afterward, I just wept uncontrollably.
Since Lent is so late this year, on March 6, I led the fourth segment of the workshop.
This particular BHM was PARTICULARLY draining. And I’m not going even get into the conversations about race and racism, except to say this: I’m now convinced more than ever that the discussion about race in America is NOT finished.