Church.

So after ten days and 36 hours on the road, we’re home! I took the kids to Utah and California to visit family and enjoy some “big city” stuff (I’ll share some photos later).But first, I am DYING to tell you about our church experience when we were in Los Angeles.

Okay, so I know I speak heresy fellow WELS-ers, but instead of taking my kids to a Lutheran church, I took them to First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) while we were visiting my brother in Los Angeles.

church

Here’s the thing: each week I take my son to an all white church that doesn’t exactly reflect his heritage or culture, and I spend the entire service wrestling with him to sit still, hushing him when he claps his hands after we sing a hymn, and constantly shushing him. I bring diversity to our German Lutheran church simply by being a half Italian brunette with no German blood running through her veins.So I wanted a chance to get into Baby Boy’s world for a bit. I wanted a chance for ALL of us to experience an African American church and culture. I wanted to experience what it was like to be in the minority — to have a very small taste of what it is like to be in my son’s shoes every.single.day. I wanted Yaya to feel what that is like, too. As a musician and lover of music, I also wanted the chance to experience a musically renowned church.

I wanted Baby Boy — though he is little — to have a chance to be surrounded by people who look like him.

I wondered what it would be like and if we would be welcomed. A white mom raising an African child? Would this be accepted?

We pulled into the parking lot and I watched as black person after black person got out of their car. My mom, myself and Yaya seemed to be the only white people in the parking lot, with the exception of another adoptive mom and a white college student who was attending with his black peer.

I nervously got out of the car, next to two decked out Cadillacs, and heard a woman exclaim behind me, “Oh my goodness! What a handsome boy!  You bringin’ him here for a musical education I hope?” She proceeded to come up and tickle and hug Baby Boy.

We walked across the parking lot as I heard shouts of, “Hi brother!” as they greeted one another. A man in a beautiful purple and gold robe — who turned out to be one of the choir leaders — came out to the balcony and called to us, “Hey there! Where you visiting us from?”

An usher gave us a bulletin and said to Baby Boy, “Oh my goodness! I love that tie!  Take it off right now so I can have it!”

So in other words, it was a welcoming church. And we were welcomed, too, despite the color of our skin.

Now, as a music educator and mother of two I can tell you that ALL babies are musical. But music is in Baby Boy’s soul in a way I don’t see in every child and didn’t see with his big sister. He was born in one of the most musical cities in all of Africa and I am telling you — it is in his blood. When he sits in his high chair at a restaurant and music comes on, he closes his eyes and rocks and twists like an old man listening to jazz.

The service was two hours long. Never once was I wrestling with him, having to chase him down the aisle, or hush him up. He was in his element. He clapped, he danced, he sang.

As for my take on it, here’s some of the things I loved about FAME church:

The hats rival those of the royalty at Will and Kate’s wedding.

The ushers danced IN PERFECT UNISON down the aisle when it was time for offering.

They had a point in the service before the sermon where everyone greeted everyone. With hugs. (And yes, they greeted us with hugs, too.)

You can bring your own tambourine to church. A bedazzled tambourine.

The pastor made a couple of political references during his sermon. That I agreed with.

They have soul line dancing every Friday night. I don’t know what this is but I know that I want to do it.

People talk. Like all the time. During the sermon, if you like what you’re hearing, you stand up and clap. If you’re sitting near the pastor, you give him a pat on the shoulder and a little, “Amen brother!” Who couldn’t use a little extra affirmation and comradery?

The music — oh, the music! It was awesome! Beautiful voices, beautiful choir, beautiful choir robes!

The two hour service felt like twenty minutes.

There were liturgical dancers. Enough said.

Those people were there to give God their absolute best. The music and the dancing took rehearsing and the hairstyles took time and the service was long. But where else would you want to be and what else would you want to be doing on a Sunday morning than standing next to the brothers and sisters of your community in your finest clothes and with your finest music and dancing and preaching and using your finest GIFTS to bring to your Jesus with gratitude and praise? The service reflected SUCH gratitude and praise and joy. Oh, the joy!

I envy their comradery. I envy their joy and zeal.

And I envy their ability to pull off hats with feathers and beads and all kinds of bling.

Someone posted this video on a Congo Facebook group I belong to recently, and it made me laugh. Enjoy!

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Trackbacks

  1. […] not exactly easy for us these days. While Baby Boy danced his way through a two hour gospel service when we attended church in Los Angeles this past fall, he cannot make it through even a few minutes on a typical Sunday. Worse than getting […]

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  3. […] Teach empathy. A few months ago, I took my kids to an African American Gospel church in downtown Los Angeles. A couple of weeks later, out of the blue, Yaya asked me, “Mom — how come all the people […]

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