Last week, when I reminded him of that conversation, he said "Really? Did I say that? There might actually be two." He paused, "Including you."
But I was still up for it because the mystery behind a gospel church has always intrigued me. Now that I've been to Keion's church, I can tell you honestly I have never enjoyed a church service so much in my life.
Anyway, I tried to be inconspicuous which is challenging when you're the only white person. I sat all hunched down, thinking no one would notice me. Then Pastor Brooks asked the visitors to stand. Reading my panic-stricken look, Keion apologized, "I didn't know they were going to do that." After a slow-motiony minute of standing up in all my Caucasianess, the pastor asked the members of the church to share their hospitality with those of us visiting. I can't tell you how many people came up to me, shook my hand, smiled and made me feel as "right at home" as someone like me can feel at a church.
In case you forgot, I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran. If you've heard Garrison Keillor make fun of Lutherans, you know why we are such an easy target. But sitting in Keion's church, I kept thinking "This is fantastic!" There I was, in the middle of people expressing joy in their relationship with God through testifying, clapping, "amen-ing" and singing like I've never heard. Lutherans just don't do that.
Here, when the congregation sang, they sang with their whole hearts and voices and bodies. Early in the service, the Men's Choir sang a song so moving, tears rolled down my cheeks. Even members of the Men's Choir had their hankies out. As a matter of fact, so many of us were weepy, a woman was handing out Kleenex. The lyrics were something like "When I think of all the things I've done that I should not have done . . . something something . . . I'm so graceful for His mercy." (Sorry for the bad paraphrasing.)
Watching those men sing and sway and sing some more like they really meant every word, and thinking about my own missteps and moments I wished I could undo, well, everything just came together. Or, more accurately, came apart. It was as if my heart broke open.
After the song, Pastor Brooks said "Something just happened in here. Either some of you all have done some things you feel bad about or you just like good music." Everyone laughed. He went on, "I have a feeling, it was a little bit of both, wasn't it." And before long, he had us laughing all through his sermon.
I'll never forget that church service.
I feel like I should have a point, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's this--if you ever want to go to a church service that will stay with you in all the right ways, I'll put you in touch with my friend Keion. And I'll go with you too. I'll even bring Kleenex, just in case.