By now, 2021 is so last year! For me though, I am still basking in my best church moments. Blessedly, one of them did kick off 2022.
In 2021, I began attending online services of a womanist church—a church led by black womxn pastors. I had no idea what to expect, and I was hopeful. My soul was desperate for this church experience to be nothing like what I had lived through up until that moment. From those services I felt the most affirmed, validated, and respected as a disciple of Christ than in all my lifetime attending evangelical churches. Keep in mind: This spiritual healing and liberation occurred virtually. No building was required for this amazing shift.
Here are 3 of my best church moments that renewed my soul:
- A church moment for questions and discussion. I was astounded that there was a portion of the service allowing listeners to use their voice. All of my church experience required my silence unless call-and-response was solicited from the pulpit. In fact, I have seen people removed from church services for asking questions. In some cases, any one perceived to be interrupting the speaker was labeled demon-possessed. Not these womxn. These leaders were scrolling through YouTube and Facebook making sure to answer every question and address each comment.
- A church moment for empathy. During an open forum, one listener shared how she struggled with her feelings toward white people because of the systemic white supremacist underpinnings of the U.S. I was prepared for one of the pastors to preach a scripture to the woman and lecture her about loving our neighbors and loving our enemies. But that did not happen. Instead, she said, paraphrasing, “I hear you. I have felt the same way. It is a struggle.” I wept. As tears streamed down my face, I typed that I also felt the same way. We shared that moment of pain, frustration, anger together. Anytime racial tension showed up in my past church experiences, the pastor raced to lecture us to love our enemies or worst, deny our racial identity. Not these womxn. These leaders empathized and validated the genuine harm of white supremacy and allowed us to feel how we felt without apology.
- A church moment of recognition. At the top of 2022, during a soul-changing teaching, I shared my gratitude and repentance in the live chat. One of the pastors responded and called me “sistar.” Being called “sista” or “sis” is warm and affirming. When you wordology that endearment with the word star, I am set aglow. A large chunk of my previous affirming church moments were centered on how well-behaved a Christian I was or how well I served in the church auxiliaries. Not these womxn. These leaders cheer my being, instead of my doing.
“You don’t always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that’s plenty.” Alice Walker, poet, novelist, activist
While severing from the imperialistic white supremacist patriarchal church, I am relieved I discovered the womanism community. It has been a lifesaver of hope that looks more like Christ than the church of my past.