Chicago is a segregated city and as you move south from the University of Chicago you move into the heartlands of Black African America where white faces are the exception. I travel half an hour to an Episcopal Church on South Dante Avenue – the Church of Messiah – St Bartholomew.
Most of us can hardly conceive what this part of the population have both experienced and suffered. Prejudice (still deep in the hearts and minds of many today); oppression; a people who were sunject to the most terrible experience of slavery and marginalisation. Second Class citizens who have had to struggle for survival and hope.
Here is a picture of a family who migrated in hope for a better future. The history of African American peoples is rich, diverse and disturbing.
I can only touch the surface of so many years of history. If you are interested in delving further and deeper then have a look at the work of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black culture (www.schomburgcenter.org) for a brilliant collective of archives that open up this history.
This is by way of some necessary background – for Messiah Church is a black church within the Episcopal tradition. The Mass is at 9 15am and I receive a very warm welcome. While the Church is empty (almost ) at 9 15 it is very full half an hour later. I love the way people try and slip in unnoticed!
There is a joy and love about this congregation that brings tears to my eyes. Their openness and attentiveness to the liturgy are hard to express in words. But my – does it overflow when the music starts. These are people who were born singing. It is deep within their culture and way of being. And do they sing – from a place deeper and more harmonious than I have ever heard! With real joy and conviction and belief that what is happening in this Eucharist has the power and possibility to transform from the inside out. Wonderful. I find my foot tapping and even a gentle movement from side to side as they ‘make it rock’.
Now I wonder what would happen if I asked you to make it rock! Dance and Move and feel the rhymn of Gods love. These were the hallmarks of this small community.
This is what I shall take away and think on. Two other things.
1. This is the first time that I have ever experienced a sanctuary that had only women in! Six of them – all serving the altar and leading the worship. Very liberating.
2. This congregation were very bothered about the world beyond their neighbourhood. In the notices there was a conversation about how best to respond to the people of Burma. Money was being raised and prayers offered for the work of relief there. Social action and justice were the fruits of Trinity Sunday worship.
So – more prayers from the Pew for the community of Temple Balsall and a rich feast of worship and music for Trinity. What an extarordinarily rich and diverse tradition the Anglican Communion is – and how we need to listen and learn from those differenet from us – and how making it rock (baby) is really rather good!!
And so perhaps poetry is the best way of expressing some of this?