So it’s Easter Sunday, my classmates and I have planned a day of boujeeratch adventures. I didn’t go to my usual small spirited church. We went to Ebenezer Baptist, historic home of Martin Luther King Jr, where pulling up at 9:07 for a 9am Easter service meant finding parking on a back road. The day’s events would then be brunch at Negril Village and a gathering at a classmate’s house that turned into our usual sloppy mess of round robin “Never Have I Ever”.
I wake up at 5am for the Easter slay because there’s hair to be washed and highlight to be baked. After 4 wardrobe changes, I’m ready for the Lord. When we pulled up 7 minutes late for church and the whole parking lot was full I knew I was gonna get the cute experience on the inside that I was hoping for.
While I had been to this location once before, it had been for Watch Night (New Year’s Eve) service and I was there mainly to hear Jonathan McReynolds sing (insert praise hands). Today I was here for the choir and the pastor. I knew I struck gold when my man quoted Tupac and Chance the Rapper to talk about how respectability politics was causing Black people in the church to internalize suffering.
It was then that I realized I reached church heaven. Don’t get me wrong, I am rooted in my upbringing and the church traditions that have been instilled in me as a result. But I can no longer just sit in a building because it’s the type of church I’m used to. Same old same old won’t do when police are running the streets tearing stuff up. Same old won’t do when 45th passes a law that encroaches on my rights as a human being. Meanwhile, the pastor still only wants to talk about the same dry building fund that has the same pennies it had 5 years ago. Same old will not do when I’m depressed and all they can offer me is prayer when my mind can’t barely formulate words for the Christ.
To back pedal a bit, I knew I was in for something real when he was announced earlier in the service that the church was hosting classes on how to get your criminal record expunged. Upon browsing the rest of the program, I also saw that mental health counseling resources were available as well as the ability to have someone direct you on finding housing…(ETC). For the mental health counseling, they provided someone for individuals to talk to for two 30 minute sessions and if you needed assistance beyond that, they would work to set you up with resources that would provide a further meeting of your needs.
To be frank, I’ve been doing the Apostolic thing so long I can do it in my house. Sunday mornings at this point must do more for me than allow me to work in some intervals of cardio. It’s great, but I can pencil that in on my own. I don’t have to commit 3 hours to that weekly. Plus it’s always there if I need it. But I’d want to be in a place that cares about me as an actual human being and the things I see every day that shape how my personal walk with God unfolds. To hear a Black preacher of a rather large church talk about RESPECTABILITY POLITICS!? And the legacy of sexual violence within our community?? Just huge to me. HUGE. I almost completely left the church two years ago due to those very issues. And here I was listening to a Black man tell me I cared about that.