Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yes, That's My Family - Attending Church

This is inside the building of the church that I used to attend - it is a different denomination now.
  As I said before, I started attending my friend Shirley's church in Virginia in August. I attended services for a few months until my daughter was born at the end of October. Buzz was on deployment, so he did not get to know those folks until November, when Callista was two weeks old.

We were not trying to be cagey or anything, but it seemed impossible at first to find a church in Norfolk where we felt comfortable. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning…," and things have not changed that much in America. I went to an Ice Cream Social with Shirley and really liked the people, so I decided to attend services at the almost-all-white church. It was 100% white because two elderly black women moved into a retirement building down the street and it was too far for them to attend their old church across town. I was a young, white, pregnant Navy wife who was enfolded into the flock.

When Buzz and I attended after the birth of our daughter, people were nice enough, though I could tell some people were surprised to discover that my husband was black. I met some wonderful people from that church that are still my friends. We were members there for seven years until we got stationed in Puerto Rico.

Two incidents bothered me. One was after Buzz and I became members of the Diaconate. It used to be that the Diaconate was made up of all men. This church had communion every Sunday morning, served by the Diaconate members as the people sat in their pews. Some of the older people would not accept communion unless it was offered to them by a Deacon. It was ironic that some of the Elders who blessed the communion and passed it to the Diaconate were women, but those people didn't seem to care about that. A lot of the Diaconate were offended that those members would not take communion from a woman, and they started saying, "What if they won't take communion from Buzz?" It was not going to be the last time that the issue of color would be dragged into a discussion about people not liking other types of people. In the end, the minister said that we (the Diaconate) needed to love and accept people who did  not love and accept others.

The second incident was when we had been church members for over six years. When we went to get our family photo taken for the church directory, there were some people that my friend Laura pointed out. Later, when I asked her why she was pointing out that couple, she said that they had left the church when Buzz and I became members. I did not know what to think when Laura told me that. I felt guilty at first, because the couple gave the church a lot of money and he was an Elder and she was a Deaconess. When they stood up at a church board meeting and announced their intent, the rest of the board members told them that they were welcoming this interracial couple into their church, and if they did not like it, they could leave.

That people stood up and did the right thing at that church made me feel such a wave of love and gratitude for them and what they did for us. After all, it is the kind and wonderful things that people have done for me in my life and not so much the crappy stuff that lingers and makes me a better person.

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