As a kid, I asked my uncle why he never went to church when he came home to Tennessee. His sisters would go with their children and I can recall the church--pews without cushions, my grandfather singing and the smell of pine. His response was he hadn't found a church where you could be a Buddhist Baptist at the same time. He loved the hymns, but wasn't caught up in all the fire and brim stone rhetoric. It wasn't until after he passed in 2004 that I heard what Paul Harvey would describe as "the rest of the story".
My uncle was a senior in high school in 1964. He had left Cosby High School to go to Newport High School (the city school) because it was the only school in the county to offer calculus. Denton Baptist had youth led Sundays and when it was his turn to put together the program he wanted to invite the gospel choir of his new school. There were African Americans in the choir and the preacher, who was originally from South Carolina, told him that they were not allowed at a white church. My uncle preached that Sunday on intolerance and Jesus' love for all people. As I am told he used a fire and brim stone approach to the preacher's prejudices. I'm not sure if he stormed out of the church or quietly went back to his seat, but in my mind he stormed out with gusto. In his sermon he told the congregation that he no longer intended to be a Baptist and requested that an official letter renouncing him in the Southern Baptist fold be sent to him. My uncle got his letter and my grandfather didn't go back to the church until the South Carolina preacher was replaced which was about two years later. I don't know that my grandmother ever went back. This event had changed my uncle in ways I'll never understand. I was always proud of my uncle, his accomplishments, his influence on my life and after hearing this story I realized how lucky I was that he left a mark on my DNA.
In Charlotte I attend St. Martin's Episcopal Church. Last November, I became an official Episcopalian and have never thought twice about finding another church home. From the moment, I walked onto the grass bare lawn I knew there was something different about St. Martin's and the best I can describe it is an open, loving community where everyone is welcome. The smiles can be seen on the faces, but people here tend to smile with the eyes and the heart. This month I attended my first Pastoral Blessing (in other words--a gay wedding). The men who were having their union blessed are my Kanuga mates and I make them laugh with my Cosby stories--seriously people it is hard to find better material than my family--both sides. Typically, there is at least one cocktail before the heavy eastern Tennessee accent bubbles out.
I don't usually have a lot of emotion when it comes to wedding ceremonies. At this ceremony I couldn't help but have the biggest smile and near tears because somewhere in the middle of it all my heart opened to what was really going on--I was watching the world change and in one micro step. In this service, our collective humanity was showing its fullness at acceptance. This was no better said than by Father Murdock in his homily (without fire and brim stone) in which he reminded the audience that God loves us all regardless of the labels society places upon us. In my own world, witnessing this even was just one generation from how my uncle became the Buddhist Baptist.
To my friends Bryce and Jarrett, I wish you great love and happiness and I hope that I will always be able to entertain you both for many more Septembers on the porch at a Kanuga cabin. (This is where I plug that we want to be placed on the main row from here on out or until one of us turns 80--not naming who that will be first--not it.)
(Photo courtesy of facebook and poprockphotography...ya'll she really rocks as a photographer. Please see her work on facebook )
24 May 2011
02 May 2011
I have a confession. I love small towns, especially small towns that modern times have forgotten. This weekend I helped celebrate the nuptials of Emily and Jonathan Hines in Bennettsville, SC. Bennettsville has a certain charm, but nothing compared to the off the interstate adventures I had with just me, the CRV and a camera. Ok let’s be honest, there isn’t an interstate that connects Charlotte and Bennettsville so the whole ride was just full of treasure.
My first stop was the Pee-Dee river that divides Anson and Richmond Counties on Hwy 74. There is a boat landing on the eastern side of the bridge and I stopped for this picture.