Cheerful men in orange vests waved us in and a middle-schooler with sparkling eyes opened the door for us. We made our way through a lobby big as a ballroom and slipped quietly into seats near the back of the crowded sanctuary. Late for the welcome, we exchanged quick waves and smiles with the trendy-looking young couple seated just behind us and the woman in a yellow dress to my right.
Lights were dimmed as a tattooed man with a microphone led the band and congregation in energetic worship, lyrics projected with bold graphics onto massive monitors on either side of the stage.
Though I was familiar with some of the songs, others were new, so I just listened. And as I listened, I felt a groundswell of joy rise up and fill the room. Hands and voices and hearts were lifted, engaged and moving, celebrating as one. I’ve never sensed such a near-palpable presence of Love and I bit my lip to keep from weeping. I recalled the words I heard once, “Tears mean you’re standing on holy ground.”
The pastor, a linebacker of a man, admitted that he’d set aside his notes when he sensed that he was supposed to speak a different message that day. The message he preached was simple, heartfelt, and incisive, sparing no blunt words when blunt words were called for.
After the service, I made my way to the bathroom, where several women shared a friendly nod with me. When I came out, the pastor was with my husband and we chatted briefly. Before he turned away, I threw my arms around him in a spontaneous hug, thanking him for the beautiful, unforgettable experience.
Am I allowed to say that my husband and I were among only a handful of White people there that day?
The people of that church have experienced the society we share through a different lens, but in that sacred space, skin color was irrelevant. We were simply brothers and sisters, embraced by Love.