Friday, June 19, 2015

One Sunday

Of all the terrible details about what happened in South Carolina, I can’t get over the fact that the shooter went to their bible meeting — Wednesday, when you get the true-blue Christians — prayed with them, and then murdered them. It brought me back a long time, to being a little girl when my father had concluded, and won, a case he was arguing for the congregation of Sardis Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. (Some sort of real estate dispute; didn’t understand it then and therefore can’t recall it now.) One Sunday he announced that we were going to go to services, though we were not a churchgoing family.

We walked in and within minutes my little white-gloved hand was shaking every hand in that church, or so it seemed, and everyone was telling us that they loved my father, he’d done right by them, they were so happy we were there. One lady, who made pearl-beaded necklaces, gave one to me, one to my sister and one to my mother. Dad was the world’s most irreverent joker, and he admitted to me before we went that the pastor was all too aware that the man representing them wasn’t anyone’s idea of an exemplary Christian. And I can still remember a point in the sermon, where the pastor thundered, one arm flung at my father like Moses on Mount Sinai, “We have lawyers to explain the laws of man. But GOD made the lawyer, and GOD made the law!” The congregation shouted affirmation, Dad roared with laughter and I can still see the pastor grinning.

After the sermon, which was the only one I’d ever heard in my young life that wasn’t boring, the choir swung into this song, because my father had requested it. It was his favorite hymn. Mahalia Jackson takes it at about the same tempo as the choir.



All I could think Thursday morning was that there are few places on this earth more kind, more welcoming and inclusive than a black church. How lost in hatred and evil would you have to be, not to feel it.

14 comments:

Fiona said...

That was beautiful, Farran.

The Siren said...

Thanks, Fi.

Dan Leo said...

Brought a tear to my eye. As Fiona said, beautiful.

Dan Leo said...

Brought a tear to my eye.

Rebecca said...

I've been thinking of Sardis the last few days as well. This is beautiful, and you put my memories into words perfectly. <3

KC said...

His being there and praying with them before the killings bothered me too. It's as if he savored the moment before acting. What a horridly hateful person. I'm so grateful for the compassionate people. I've always found compassion to be one of your best qualities as a writer. Your post made me feel a little better and I appreciate that.

Lemora said...

Yes, thank you for your comments. I just learned about this unspeakable tragedy yesterday, having been away from print newspapers and radio news for a few days. And I feel as you do about Black churches --no place more welcoming or spiritually vibrant in all the world.

The Siren said...

Thanks so much, everybody. Once in a while I break from movies, when something else is preoccupying me. For those who don't know, Rebecca up there is my sister. We do not always recall things the same way, but we both cherish this memory.

Vanwall said...

Moving and heartfelt, Farran, it's an upbeat touchstone in these grim days, grim days that seem to be never-ending lately; thanks for sharing it.

Heritage Hall said...

On what level did his soul exist, indeed.....Amen

gmoke said...

He felt it. He felt it and did it anyway.

"Roof told police that he 'almost didn't go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,' sources told NBC News — but he decided he had to 'go through with his mission.'"

Jennifer Merin said...

Profoundly moving, provocative and truthful. Thank you for this post.

mas82730 said...

Cormac McCarthy wrote No Country for Old Men, but I'm beginning to think this is No Country for Civilized Humans, it's one giant killing field, a madhouse from sea to shining sea. I just broke when I listened to Mahalia's hymn. Thank you.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I should have known you had a "To Kill a Mockingbird" episode in your life. Than you for sharing it.