When: August 2008
Where: Patuxent United Methodist Church in Huntingtown Maryland
Why I wanted to do this: I love new experiences, I want to try everything and think it's wonderful to expose yourself to others way of life.
Cost: free...but you should put a few bucks in the offering.
How I paid for it:
What I would do differently: Stayed another week so I could have gone back the following Sunday!
Something I would recommend? A MUST! FOR EVERYONE!
Would I do it again? I WILL visit this church again, hopefully many many more times.
Was it life changing? It was, I will have this incredible memory for the rest of my life, it made me not only conscientious of the way a person feels when they are the minority in a group but empathetic to their feelings.
Would this make a good gift? Well, maybe not a gift persay but I do think this would be a wonderful experience to share with someone.
My experience at the Gospel Church:
*****A few people who have read this thought this sounded racist....relax IT IS NOT! It is simply my honest point of view and a few desperate attempts to be funny.
I had always wanted to visit a gospel church, my friends and I would joke about crashing one of the many all black churches in downtown
. And why not, could there be a better place for young privileged white kids to hang out than the poverty stricken suburbs of Pontiac Michigan ? Mind you that when I say that we were privileged I do not mean that we were heirs to the Johnson and Johnson fortune by any means but when we look at the lives of others who have nothing that’s when we realize that we really do have it all. Detroit
So this one did kind of begin as a joke, as if we were about to walk into some church and be the only white people in the room when we lived in a town and went to a high school where they’re were no black people. Well, once when I was a junior a mixed kid attended our school for a few months and then as mysteriously as he came, he was gone. Surely it was some sort of social experiment that didn’t take. So when I say that I don’t know any black people, I truly do not, this is not a choice, I just basically have never been around any. With that I said I am very serious when I say that I was out of my element when I attended the
Patuxent United Methodist Church in ….by myself. I was in Maryland for two weeks helping my Aunt move and I wanted to go attend church while I was there. The first Sunday I went to a church-all white people- where they criticized you and it was so quiet I am certain that every person in there could hear me breathing heavy after I arrived a little late. It seemed as if no one wanted to be there. I could find no reminiscence of happiness or joy. Within a few moments I knew that I would never in my life return to this church. The church that I chose to go to the next week was in every sense the exact polar opposite. Maryland
We were driving home one day and passed a beautifully understated church atop a hill, I said maybe I would go there. Bob piped up from the back seat that he seemed to remember someone telling him that it was primarily black attendees at the PUMC. That was it - I knew I must go-it was time. “I’ve always wanted to attend a gospel church, that’s where I shall go this Sunday” I said without batting an eyelash. And yes I did use the word “shall” for I always use formal speech when I get excited about doing something ridiculous.
It was the morning of, I wanted to make sure I got there early. After all no one wants to be tardy when they are the only white person walking in a room filled with 200 black people they’ve never met. After parting my hair down the middle and buttoning the lower button on my polo shirt I was off. No not yet, I needed something else, I know, a seashell necklace. Now I was ready for my big adventure. I pulled in, parked my car and got out. This was it, it was happening. Immediately an older African gentleman came running over to me and with a thick accent yelled something at me in a frantic tone. O crap, what did he say, am I not allowed to be here?? No crackers? I was very nervous. O, ok, I just have to back my car in because the parking lot gets so full it is too difficult to back out. So I have only been here for three minutes and I feel so stupid. Reverend Tungi must have noticed how awkward I felt and he came over and gave me a hug, my first of many. I felt a little better but now I was on my own as I walked up the cement stairs into the church. Would they be mad that I was there? Maybe no one will notice me. No they notice me, and they keep coming over and giving me things. Pens, a Bible, a Hymnal, a personal info card, a return visit to pick up my info card. It is obvious that I am the only person they are paying special attention to. I feel very strange; I have never in my life been a minority or a spectacle for that matter. Now I totally regretted wearing my polo shirt and seashell necklace. I felt a glare coming from my blondeok- just go with the flow and listen to the message, you’ll be out of there soon. And by soon I mean three hours later. Approximately the first whole hour was devoted to singing. The most beautiful singing I had ever heard. This is what angels must sound like. Their voice graced my ears with probably one hundred songs that day. Everyone and I mean every single person there had such talent-they could all be professionals.
It was everything I had hoped for; it was hot, and loud, and everyone was dancing and jumping around so fervently that I could feel the floor moving beneath my feet, people kept yelling “Praise Jesus” and sometimes they would just walk up front and begin talking- telling a whole story while everyone was singing-this was not on the program- the pastor was riled up and had to take towel breaks as he was working up quite a sweat. It was so magical. I should have been black! All the ladies have on brightly colored dresses with hats! Hats! I love hats! They were loud and happy and having the time of their lives as was I. I couldn’t stop smiling; it was such a wonderful place to be. That came to a screeching halt, it was the part I had dreaded, I knew it was coming, it was the part where they ask if there are any newcomers. I decide to say nothing. I thought maybe I could pass for someone who had been there before. They kept asking…I kept not saying anything. Isn’t it obvious there is a newcomer? I don’t think it really needs to be addressed! And I could just see it now, if I stand up surely they will hand me a microphone and force me to sing them a song. The ladies next to me patted my hand and told me to stand up “no, I’m very shy” I politely say. Will they just get over it already! Oh no, now she’s standing up…”WE GOT A NEW ONE RIGHT HERE!” she bursts out while erratically pointing at me. I was no longer white, I was now the color of a ripe tomato. “stand up child” says the pastor. I stand, everyone turns around. They are clearly waiting for me to say something. I got nothing. I KNOW! “I’m Allison, I’m from
.” I sit down definitively for that is all the information I am about to give up. Perhaps when I go back in the future, I shall have something more important to say. As if I didn’t feel self-conscious as it was, now I was even more embarrassed. Michigan
Three hours later it was over. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want it to end! One of the attendants brought me another pamphlet. It was always a different person bringing something to me, like if there was an alien in a restaurant everyone would want to walk by it to see how it look and smelled up close. The ladies next to me hugged me and thanked me for coming- perhaps another method to discretely get a whiff. Then the pastor walked straight towards me to shake my hand and tell me that I am welcome anytime. He then hugged me. I waited in the line to walk out the front doors like everyone else. They were all shaking the pastors’ hand. Now it was my turn…he hugged me again, that wasn’t enough I received a third hug, it was official-they didn’t mind me being there. I was on top of the world, I felt so loved and happy. I’m not gonna lie I half expected someone to invite me to a large home cooked brunch. That didn’t happen, sometimes I think that things that would happen in movies are going to happen to me…they usually do not. Once after a 3 month reprieve from work I expected to return to balloons, smiling faces and everyone singing the song from Hello Dolly when she returns to the restaurant….that didn’t happen either. They just told me what I had to do for the day. It’s always a big let down when these scenarios played out in my head do not happen in real life.
I was so taken with this church that I sent them a thank you note telling them what a magnificent house of worship they have. I truly felt the spirit of the Lord like never before there. This was in 2008 and in October 2009 my dad and step mom went to MD and went to PUMC. My dad told them that I had been there the year before and talked about it so much that they wanted to see it for themselves. Pastor Blackwell said that he remembered “Sister Allison.” Then went on to preach about how happy he was that they had reached people in
I learned a lot that day. I now know how black people feel when they walk into a room or town with mostly white people. It was a big step going in there, I almost turned around and left before I walked in, I am so glad I braved stepping out of my box of comfort and went in. I will go to this church again, hopefully many more times in my life. Any time I go out east to visit my aunt and her boyfriend. Or if I ever get my dream job and need to move to the DC area, I think I will become a member. We shall raise our kids in this church.