The James and Archers of Greenburgh, NY and have been members of Union Baptist church forever. I mostly attended service with Grams, but there were times I went with an aunt or a neighbor. To this day, I don’t recall why on this particular Sunday, Grams did not attend service, all I knew I needed to cease the opportunity her absence presented.
To understand the middle class African-American family in the 70’s, all one had to do was visit a Baptist church. This is were we learned patience, proper etiquette, and disclapine. Sunday’s started Saturday afternoon. Little girls got their hair washed, pressed, and got a roller set of pink sponge rollers or paper curls. Your clothes were ironed and hung, shoes polished and depending on what was on the menu, Sunday dinner might get started.
This Sunday was no different. My hair was patten leather black shiny, finished off with a red plaid bow that matched the trim of my dress. White socks pulled up to reach right below my knee and black Mary Jane patten leather shoes shined to perfection.
Walking to service was always an experience. We lived close enough where I could walk with my cousins to service. Walking up to Union the brown brick building stood with a majesty that always gave me goose bumps. I would find some dandelions or any other flowers I could pick on my way to church to lay them down at the Jesus stone. I know you’re wondering, “what is a Jesus stone?” Whenever a new church is build, a little piece of Jesus is buried and a stone with the year the church was erected is placed, making it an official church.
At service I enjoyed the choir and Rev Mason give a lively sermon. I sat at the edge of me seat waiting for that moment. Rev Mason didn’t disappoint, he opened the front pews for those wanting to profess acceptance of the Lord as the son of God and be baptized. On cue, I skipped down the aisle and waited to be seated in an open space in the front pew.
I patiently waited for Mrs. Jones to ask for prayers for her son in the military, and Mr. Ken to finish his long list of aches and pains. When the Deacon got to me, I stood up and slowly announced “I love Jesus, he is a son of God and I’m ready to be baptized!”
I turned around to see all the adults admiring my cuteness and even caught one of my cousins sticking his tongue out at me, which earned him a swift back hand from our aunt. After service, everyone gushed over how cute and brave I was and my grandparents did an amazing job raising me. I was even allowed to get a second doughnut after service.
As magical that Sunday had been, I was a tad bit confused when Rev Mason came by the my grandparents’ home the following Wednesday. All of sudden I got nervous and tried not be noticed, so I ran to my bedroom I shared with my cousin.
“Charmane! Get downstairs right now!”
Grams wasn’t a yeller, so I knew was in trouble. I slowly descended down the stairs, carefully stepping on each step quietly and deliberately until eventually I was on the first floor.
The adults wanted to know why I wanted to be baptized and did I understand what it meant. I calmly explained the Jesus stones (clearly trying to show off my higher level of intelligence), and how I didn’t want to go to hell (Grams gave me a look when I said hell) and I thought it was what they wanted. By the end of my explanation, I was in tears and Rev Mason, Grams and her best friend were laughing. I was confused by their laughter and looked at them as if they had lost their minds. I got another knowing look from Grams and I was sent back upstairs to my room.
I don’t know what was discussed, but I wasn’t baptized and had to start attending Sunday school every week.
I no longer attend church on a regular basis. I love the institution, flaws and all, I just lacked the patience for the drama. I couldn’t find the grey, everything appeared to be black and white. And as a parent of three kids, I was worn out by time we arrived every Sunday late. Going to church was stressing me out and I wasn’t leaving full from the word. But I knew who was sleeping with who, which kid was a demon child, and who was broke.
Pancake Sunday’s was birthed after I stopped going to church. Every Sunday I spent mornings with my family, making pancakes and relaxing. Do I regret our children missing out on the experiences I had growing up? Yes and no. Yes, because even ADD, church provided lessons in discipline and patience. The community gained was amazing. But, I don’t miss giving up my entire Sunday, gossip, indoctrination, and judgment.