The church I grew up in did not sing gospel music, per se, but more contemporary types of praise music mixed in with hymns… Um, choruses? They were often performed slightly off tempo thanks an abundance of acoustic guitar and hand percussion. They'd best be compared to camp songs if you'd like the non-theistic version. So it is not that music, but the music that I heard on Sundays in college and in my dorm room (thanks to my roommate) that I find myself humming in the shower and dancing to across the living room. I started listening to gospel music again when the babies were little and we had left church-going for good and I needed the comfort that gospel music brought to my spirit–words and melodies that mixed up hope and love and folk religion all together and unapologetically.
The boys give me a lot of side eye over this.
It is deserved.
And… somewhere else inside of me wonders if these words and melodies will fill them or render some familiarity as they grow up and leave. They will be part of the "unchurched" and yet– church– in all its cultural significance, will be a part of who they are: showing up for their neighbors, singing, dancing, believing in the power of love to heal trauma and move us forward.
Someone I love reminded me of this:
There is always something to do.
There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well.
And while I don't expect you to save the world I do think it's not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.
There is a good chance that my family will be caught up in one way or another in the horror of this world of brash Executive Orders. It's a world that preys on people's fear and takes no account of the real human toll. What will you do when your neighbors do not return home from picking up their children from school? Oh. Maybe you don't have *those* kinds of neighbors. I do. But never mind. Will you notice when there's no one left to cook the food at your favourite restaurant? What happens when you can no longer find produce at the grocery store? What will give you pause? When academics are deported? Do they have to look white? Do good things? Live properly? How many parking tickets are they allowed to have? What if their children get free lunch at school?
Wait. Mine do. Should that make a difference?
I grew up in a river valley. The water had been drained and dammed and the now fertile farmland was parceled out by The Crown to settlers. I grew up on land stolen from the indigenous river people that was offered to those colonizers– those refugees from Europe– in exchange for their agricultural expertise and piousness. My grandparents worked hard. They were marginally successful. But only marginally. They owned a small dairy farm and my great grandmother lived in a back bedroom my grandpa added on for her. When my dad was a toddler, he contracted Polio. My grandpa prayed the prayer of Hannah from the Old Testament, and beseeched God to spare my dad's life. He survived, just as the barren Hannah gave birth to Samuel. When my dad announced that he was going to Bible School and then out into the world, my grandparents gave him their blessing, knowing that this was the promise they had made their God years prior.
You see, it was all "blessing": blessed with health, land, opportunity to succeed or fail, opportunity to be successful after failure. These are the stories that we get to tell ourselves when we equate the fortune of privilege with the notion of unearned blessing– or worse: We work hard, we will always be rewarded.
My dad now works in company with his indigenous neighbors seeking to reconcile the sins of our forefathers.
It all comes around if you let it come at all.
Experts in the Field— an Essay by Bonnie Nadzam. This is a brave and beautiful piece by someone I know to be the same. Her truth telling is powerful and uncomfortable. I am horrified and I am amazed and I vow to be believe people when they show me who they are.
What I really want to say is that all of these things happened to me, that none of it was okay, that I didn’t deserve any of it, and that I have nothing to be ashamed of. But the truth is it has all diminished me, silenced me, terrified me, and shamed me. We know, don’t we, that men, especially those in positions of power, try to hurt, tame and control what they fear, and cannot or will not try to understand. And we trust that women, individually and especially together, are tremendously powerful. If ever there was a time to disregard those who won’t believe our stories, now is the time to speak very plainly about the behavior of those men who assume we’ll be swept away by their poetry, or politics, before we understand what’s happened. Says James Baldwin: “The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim…she has become a threat.”