A Black Dot in a White Church

ON MY OWN! No stupid parent telling me what to do. I am in a new city, away from family, and nosy neighbors. I am my own man. Leaving home, your never quite prepared for the independent life, you thought would be free and easy. I wasn’t prepared for live challenges. Your parents handled everything! Now its on you.. In a new town with one friend who had a girlfriend. Suddenly, your alone, I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of being in new town.

Determined to make friends, I decided to go to church, on Sundays for now. A local domination of the church I was raised in was a few blocks away. Before, I entered the building, I knew the congregation was white, being the only person of color wasn’t an issue for me.

As I entered the sanctuary, there wasn’t a single person of color or off color, everyone was white. A few people shook my hands and I was directed to a seat. Heads, turned. “In my head I heard “Edith! there is a colored guy over there”. People were actually very nice. By the fourth week ,I asked for a event calendar.

The next Sunday, a man with a neck tie that was way to short, gave me a melon colored brochure about another church (with the same name) on the west side of town. several miles away. The following week, the same man with two other males asked me how I liked the church? I was only 18, but I couldn’t recall anyone ever asking me how I liked a church. ” I said it was okay”

The following week, the three men were standing outside and one of them, said that while I was welcome, they thought I would like the other congregation on the other side of town.. “I like this one, I told him” Although its been a sometime, I clearly remember him being dumbfounded. The man with the short neck tie said we thought you would be more comfortable at the other church, where the people look like you.

Listen, I didn’t fall off a southbound turnip truck! I knew what they were alluding to all along. It never occurred to me that a member of the church would ever approach me about race. I felt comfortable with the congregation. Some members introduced themselves,, I received quiet waves from some members and was invited to attend other church events.

My feelings were hurt.

The following Sunday, I took a 40 minute bus ride across town to a small church. The congregation was all black, the minster, was very young. In his sermon, he said women who where pants deserved to be raped! That shook me to my core! He preached about the times (70’s) and how people had forgotten about God! His sermon seemed to be geared towards woman and their sins. In retrospect, he was in his twenties and perhaps he was rejected by women or struggled with women. I’d been a Christian all my life and have attended many churches and revivals and never came across a minster so cruel. I knew I would never return, but his words troubled me.! Desperate, I called my mom, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher.

She told me, that I should never follow the words of man, only follow the word of god. Decades later, it made sense, my mother who read the bible daily, would argue with ministers, preachers or any man in the pulpit, if she believed their interpretation of the bible was wrong, she never trusted a man to lead her, only God.

From that moment forward, my relationship with the domination ended. Its very possible, I overreacted, I was 18. As long as I could remember, I had questions about religion and the church. I was told, that my church was the only path to heaven. As a child, I thought to myself how could a loving God kill people that didn’t belong to our church? What if they didn’t know about our church, would the go to hell?

Decades have past. Did the white men drive me from the church? The answer is complicated, I think over time I would have eventually left. At 18, I knew one interpretation of God. Some people questioned the mechanics of the church or congregation yet they stay. The congregation is often like an extended familiar family,for some, despite the dysfunction, you don’t leave your family. Generations of my family, have been members of this particular domination for well over more than a hundred years. Many of them quietly believe, that I am going to hell.

On my search, I found a church where everyone is welcomed. Unlike the church I grew up in, Individuals weren’t turned away because of their hue, clothing or body odor. Its not unusual for professionals sitting next to addicts. People often talk about stories of Jesus socializing with the downtrodden. Even as a child I questioned ,the actions of the Elders of my church turning away someone because of their dress. I didn’t have the words then, as Christians weren’t we supposed to emulate Jesus?

Segregation exists today in Religion. Some say people are more comfortable with their own. However,many churches aren’t welcoming to people of color. Some whites are often uncomfortable being the minority. When a family relocates to a different city where they’re the minority,they may find the local churches unwelcoming as I did in 1974.Unlike many members of my family, I lived in an integrated world, my friends come in different colors and their backgrounds were often different than mine. As a result, I’m rarely uncomfortable being the black dot.




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