- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
One sunny weekend soon after I moved from England to Virginia in 2005 I drove to Williamsburg in southern Virginia, a round trip of 400 miles, to explore that historic town. On my map I noticed scenic Route 5, and a couple I asked for directions drove out of their way to put me on the right road home.
Reminiscent of the verdant tree-lined byways of France, the route was lined not with chateaux, but plantations. The sun shone in a clear blue sky and I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and lack of traffic. What must have been genetically engineered crops of corn and barley stood to attention in perfect green array and I glimpsed white plantation houses beyond handsome drives. I had never seen agriculture with prosperity so strikingly displayed.
At intervals I passed many small churches, and as it was Sunday morning and I would miss my Quaker Meeting, decided to stop just before 10 a.m. In the car park of a modest white clapboard church I saw two women. I asked, “Is there a service I can join in?” and first to arrive, they took me in with friendly welcome. “Momma Merle” as she introduced herself was a retired teacher, who had taught many of the congregation. As they filed in she told me their brief biographies.
I quickly realized this was a black gospel-singing Baptist church and mine was the only white face, but as people stopped to shake my hand and chat I didn’t feel like an intruder so much as a welcome visitor. The men were smartly suited and the women wore pretty hats and dresses, Sunday best.
A choir of ten men, with varying soloists, sang in harmony accompanied by a jazz pianist and a vigorous electric bass guitarist of considerable talent. I was reminded of the Blues Brothers film “on a mission from God,” swinging hymns interspersed with preaching, the congregation clapping hands and syncopated swaying. I was thrilled to be an extra. Irresistibly, my body rocked too. Although mostly unfamiliar, the hymns were melodious and easy to follow, I joined in every one. The preacher spoke of a changing world, a culture subject to innovation and stress, people being less concerned with others than themselves. There was humor and humanity in his message. He spoke his love for Jesus and the people encouraged with constant interjections, “Yeah, Hallelujah, Amen!” The word that springs to mind is “Uplifting.”
One chorister, a handsome guy in early middle age, thanked friends for the support he’d received after his recent operation. He said, ‘the good news is, I’m declared fit again, and the bad news is, the pastor will now stop mowing my grass. “The preacher welcomed all, including ’the visitor sitting by Ms. Merle.” The service lasted two hours and I was sorry when it ended.
Outside the church some hugged me, dozens shook my hand and everybody smiled. I was so moved I found it hard to keep my composure. They must be descendants of slaves from the old plantations, born in that vicinity and belonging, in contrast to my own state of rootlessness, unable to call anywhere in the world “home.” I envied their rich sense of community and felt deprived in contrast, my roots planted only in a movable pot.
I’ve seldom felt more welcome anywhere on earth. It was an unforgettable experience and pure serendipity that I stopped at their fine church.
- Editor's Note: This posts is from Chapter 57 of Eileen's book, Plate Spinner. Photo: supplied by author.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Anything characterized by high energy, originality, humor and intelligence is bound to get my attention. I was at an annual fund-raising party for an alternative art center called Nexus in about 1986. Touring the studios I kept being distracted from the visual art by some very interesting Rock 'n Roll. I wasn't the only one. A large segment of the crowd was gathered around the Swimming Pool Qs in the courtyard. Once in their vicinity I was there for as long as they would play. In any field of endeavor certain efforts stand out and the Qs were (are) definitely one Read on →
My beloved colleagues in Teh Media sure get on my last damn nerve. Most of the time it's just from sloppy work or jumping on whatever bandwagon is rolling by at the time, something along the lines of a pet peeve. Like when my Twitter list of political reporters blows up with some hashtag meme instead of actual reporting. Today it's #Obamacareinthreewords, launched by that icon of credibility, Rep. Darrell Issa. It's the second time around for that one -- Rep. Kevin McCarthy launched it the first time last June. (@WhiteHouse even got in on it, tweeting "It's.The.Law." Republicans responded with "arrogance Read on →
When I sat in that old church built in the Gothic style surrounded by the music that the organist was playing, I was thankful to be in such a peaceful setting, far away in body and spirit from the violence that holds so many lives hostage in this world of cruelty and tumult. In a church where people pray for peace, forgiveness and love--all of which seem so lacking in our world--I wonder at times how we manage to reconcile what we wish the world were like and how it actually is. Sitting there in such a calm and safe spot, Read on →
None other than the Harvard Business Review reports that the ability to communicate is the number one trait top executives possess. The ability to communicate trumps ambition, education, sound decisions, and a capacity for hard work. It’s too damn bad the folks on top can’t delegate their talent. Way too many business people cannot write. How well I know. My eyes glaze over at their attempts. Check out most corporations’ mission statements and you’ll need a café latte with an extra shot of espresso. Here’s a snoozer for you: “We strive to globally provide access to multimedia-based intellectual capital and efficiently simplify effective so Read on →