I started singing in church choirs when I was a teenager. There I learned to read music and find acceptance among the grown up singers. It was my church’s choir director who helped me find my spiritual voice again after a car accident that fractured my larynx. I went on to study vocal music, compose hymn lyrics and sing in choirs at my college, seminary and several churches over the years.
There is a special kind of relationship that forms among choir members. Something about those rehearsals, with their jokes, irritations and prayer rituals, creates a spiritual bond that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Glorybound takes place in a dying West Virginia town amidst people who are snake-handlers and prophets, to whom biblical language is as natural as breathing, and who cast their lives into exaggerated dramas.
I was baptized in a swimming pool in my childhood pastor’s backyard. I was seven. Asked to make a confession of faith, I mumbled something incoherent through chattering teeth. I was focused on the embarrassing fact that my feet did not reach the bottom; my pastor and my dad had to hold me up.
I got a phone call and it made me angry. It was a follow-up call from a local agency that helps people in trouble in our community. I had phoned them a while back, hoping for some context, some background on a particular couple who was asking our church for material assistance. But they hadn’t had time to respond and a decision had to be made. The people I was talking to were desperate. They couldn’t wait.
The other day, a small group from my church joined others from our neighborhood in a march on Chicago's north side. As we swarmed the streets, temporarily shutting down traffic, I noticed a woman in a car. Some motorists were exasperated, trying to turn around or just glowering at us. Others were supportive, honking their horns to the rhythm of "Siyahamba" as we sang. But this woman did nothing but sit there, parked in the middle of the procession, and wipe tears from her eyes. With visible emotion, she registered shock at this small but mighty band of the faithful marching with a processional cross at our head, proclaiming that black lives matter.
While the crowd's emotion was jubilant and righteous, I couldn't help but feel sad.
For many observers, the rebellion signaled not only the demise of TNR but the inevitable eclipse of thoughtful journalism at the hands of media gurus like Hughes, who purportedly value only the number of links clicked and webpages viewed.
Recently I went to an ordination. I got to be present when a new pastor made her vows, promised to be faithful, put on her stole. I was thinking about how tired I get, sometimes. I was thinking about how everyone says the church is declining, on its way out. I thought back to the weekend before.