Habari Gani? Imani!
Well, that feeling in my spirit that something was going to happen at Watch Night service last night was right on point. I’m not trying to be messy; I’m putting this out there on behalf of other women in ministry.
Ours is a female-led ministry of Dance and Mime, as the majority of them are. At the moment, we have (left to right) Monique, her adult son, Charles, myself, and Jenise, our Director. Earlier this month, Jenise and I met with Monique’s pastor to be clear on what he wanted us to do for Watch Night Service at his church. We left the meeting with the understanding that we had from 10pm to 11pm to “do what you do.” That was it. No more specifics than that. To us, that meant that he’d envisioned two separate services that night–ours and his. To me, it meant that he was reserving the right to inject some form of sabotage into our presentation. I didn’t like the sound or feel of that, but I have argued with pastors before and lost, simply because they were “the pastor” and could do whatever they want. We’ve been told that to our faces, and I did not want to hear that again, so we accepted his terms.
As Artistic Director, I went to work on our Order of Worship (the “program”, if you will). I knew that we were being treated like the warm-up act that gets the audience ready for the “real” service at 11pm, but Jenise and I were okay with that–as long as we had that hour to do our style of worship, free and clear.
Fast forward to last night. Reasonable turnout. Receptive vibe in the room. At 10:45, while Jenise ministered her solo, I noticed that the pastor, who’d said that he wasn’t coming in till 11pm, strolled into the pulpit and took his seat. Now, this is the type of pastor who likes to sit on his “throne” and survey things, so I just let it go. My testimony and solo were next, and I did them. I finished at 10:50, with time for the four of us to do at least one of our two last selections.
With no warning, the pastor stood up, took the pulpit, and took the liberty of closing out our worship, then and there. “They’ll come back later in the service,” he said to a very confused congregation. I was also confused–among other things–because we never agreed to be part of “his” service. When he called “the praise team” (we looked around before realizing that he meant US) to do another selection, I looked to Jenise, who told us to do the only selection left for us to do, since Charles had to leave at 11pm. I bit hard on the bullet, and we ministered our closing selection.
Immediately afterward, I started packing up our equipment to leave. I was quiet and respectful as I put everything away, which is a far cry from how I would have done it fifteen years ago. During this process, this poor man was trying to stir people up for devotions (yes, that old-school, testify-or-sing style that we’d spent 50 minutes trying to avoid). Complete silence. The only voice in the room was his, and the Holy Spirit had left the building. Jenise said that a lot of people got up and left when we did. I believe her.
Why am I telling you this, and what does this have to do with Kwanzaa? Glad you asked.
Today is the day that we focus on faith. Life is empty without having something to believe in. Whatever you believe in, I guarantee you that, at some point, your faith in it will be tested.
I used to have blind faith in people who called themselves Christian. In ministers. In pastors. In the sanctity of church. When the White Evangelicals showed their true, racist colors, and ministers shut me out of church-sponsored training classes, and pastors lied straight to my face, and church became more of a business model than a place of worship, my faith was shaken. Enough stupidity will make a weak person lose faith in God. My faith–I realized–was more in people than it should have been.
I’m awake now. Eyes WIDE open.
I believe in God. I believe that people have the capacity to do good. I believe that God has the last word in justice. I believe that good eventually triumphs over evil. And I believe that this world is due for a reckoning. Concerning this Watch Night issue, I believe that God will deal with Pastor ManChild far better than I ever could.
My faith is no longer in people but in principles. Last night’s shenanigans did not shake my faith in God or in people. Nothing shakes you when you see it coming.
Happy Kwanzaa! See you all next year!