As a young child in Detroit, I used to watch my father get ready for church. To me, he seemed to be his happiest. He shined his shoes as he got ready and I remember him tying down his hair with a white handkerchief to make certain that he looked his best.
It was an era when people of color genuinely believed in dressing up in their Sunday best to honor and worship the Lord. He also sang as we prepared to go to church. Those were happy times for our family. We lived in a house out in Wayne, but we drove into Detroit for church services.
There was a high ledge outside of the church that we children balanced ourselves on as we played. I slightly remember the services and the music, but I do strongly remember going into breakout rooms in the basement. I will never forget when we once bobbed for apples. There was a huge tub on the floor filled with water and apples. We had to hold our arms behind us and get on our knees and try to bite down on an apple and make it our own. It was a challenge and I do not recall succeeding in getting an apple.
Church has been an important part of my life over the years. Going to church and listening to spirituals offer nourishment for the soul. The songs alone have helped me to hold on and keep the faith until the tide changes when things are looking bleak. It is the human condition to feel uncertain when working through a problem. Those songs help me to know that “every problem has a solution” as Stevie Wonder sang in You Will Know.”
With those early lessons in mind, I have made it a top priority to find a church home whenever I anchor down in a new city. I have attended Hillside Chapel in Atlanta; Unity and First Church of Religious Science (readings) in Memphis; Christ Universal Temple in Chicago and Christian Science in Boston and currently. All of the beliefs and principles have helped to shape me into the person that I am today.
Thank goodness many churches now stream online when we cannot get to a physical church building. YouTube is also filled with great gospel and spiritual songs ranging from the old-school or traditional to the newer inspirational artists. The bottom line is to keep the faith and to find whatever the soul needs to keep the feelings of despair at bay. Whether it is hearing a good sermon, listening to a powerful choir, or picking up a good self-help book or pamphlet, it is imperative to find a healthy balance. I have followed in my father’s footsteps and as Robert Frost wrote in The Road Not Taken, “And that has made all the difference.”
November 5, 2022