There is no doubt that when one is made to feel welcome, it is a wonderfully gratifying experience. All of our nerve endings seem to react in a pleasant manner, and our faces and our body language reflect exactly what is going on in the social section of our brain. One cell tells another, "Hey, partner, we are having a grand time, and these people we are meeting seem to like us. Let's stay awhile."
All of those feelings raced around in my head on that Sunday I visited Big Calvary Baptist Church, located between Edgemoor and Richburg, right next to the pasture where Charlie Culp's cows graze happily and hear wonderful music on Sundays and practice days.
We were there on the front row, my friend Minnie McCullough and I. She, as usual, was dressed "to the nines" and I, as always, wore something black that keeps me safe in the fashion world.
Everyone spoke to Minnie, and she introduced me to her friends, members of the choir and the various pastors who were there.
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A young evangelist, Ricky White, offered a prayer, welcomed everyone, and the choir sang. Young, entrepreneurial camera operator Mike Huntley took pictures that would appear on TV that afternoon. The Big Calvary choir, well known in the tri-county area, was front and center.
Over in the left-hand corner of the choir sat an elegant, gray-haired man: thin, handsome, with a mustache clipped to perfection, groomed to meet every possible fashion dictate of the day. William Featherstone stood, then the choir rose, and he, in a clear voice, sang the first line of the hymn. This sweet a cappella presentation filled the church, and then the harmony of the choir and their rich voices followed his lead. It was a moment of amazing spirituality. The way this choir sang and the way their voices blended bespoke years of singing together and the pleasure they take from their talent. Not all the singers were young. Indeed, some were over the 70 mark. However, through practice, their voices have changed little, and this choir continues to strive toward vocal perfection.
Then, the Rev. Rodney Adams, a young man with a young and serious message, stepped forward. He talked about things that I had seen and experienced in my New York living days. He laughed as he told about carrying his boom box every Sunday morning on the bus playing spirituals while all the church-bound ladies smiled and applauded this religious young man, whom they believed to be on his way to worship.
Whoa, friends, this smart fellow had his R&R tucked in his pocket. The spiritual part was just for the bus ride. He was on his way to play basketball in a local park in Brooklyn.
It was years before God grabbed him by the arm and said, "Hold it, man; you are going to belong to me."
And belong to him he does, for it is in this church that he teaches, with a cadre of helping hands, how to study, how to treat your neighbors and your parents, how to know the history of the Bible and how to live a good and Christian life. Even little children are being taught the gifts of getting along and being kind. That sweet church on S.C. 901 is a champion of worship, along with a model for learning.
There was so much that touched my heart on that Sunday morning: the sweetness of the folks toward their fellow communicants and me; the laughter that this preacher man brought to them. It made me feel as if God was close by and letting me know that, through all of my sinning, there was hope. It was a good feeling to an old lady who has done her share of running up points on the minus side.
Then, there was a coming together at the front of the church. Other pastors, missionaries and evangelists prayed with them, trying to give hope and enthusiasm through religious direction, counseling women with problems, people who were sick or troubled or those who were searching to find a solution to a difficult problem. It was a serious moment for everyone, a moment of deep reflection, a moment when, no matter who you are or what you are, truth forces you to marvel at the power of religious faith. After this day in that church, I have come to believe that the giving of hope is a gift of magnificent importance.
Being invited to this service by Minnie and John McCullough was a generous kindness, one that would be impossible to repay, because of the story of the boom box and the felt spirituality of the congregation. Of course, seeing and hearing Mr. Featherstone was an added bonus.
If you have a free Sunday, visit this little church, listen and be welcomed. It is good for the soul, the heart and possibly a failing ego. Their welcome will make you delighted with yourself. So come as you are and help them celebrate this month that is dedicated to honoring black history. You will indeed be rewarded.