Finding Black Jesus
I woke up to a dreary 6 a.m., scrolled through Facebook, read an Adele interview, a Twitter story dubbed “Lost in the Sauce,” and a few other things we all love doing to waste time. I’ve planned my day and visualized the rest of my week. When my morning quiet time is over and my boyfriend wakes up, I’ll hit the ground running to get through today’s obligations. I’ll have lunch with my good girlfriend tomorrow. I’ll prepare for my housewarming all day Friday. I’ll have a minor panic attack because I’m hosting something at my home on Saturday, but then I’ll have a great time. (I still need to figure out when I’m getting my nails done.) Daylight Savings Time starts in the wee hours of All Saints Day, so I’ll be well-rested for church. For the first time in my life, I’m excited about going to church.
My great grandma joined the Catholic church when she decided to send her children to the private Catholic school in my hometown. Her husband only completed sixth grade, and although she had a high school diploma, her dream of being a teacher was never realized. My mom went to that same Catholic school, where she learned her multiplication tables. She practiced them with her grandfather, who had to learn them in order to become a cashier at the company he’d driven trucks for for years. Just like them, I am Catholic, too.
For me, the Catholic church has consistently left much to be desired spiritually, yet there is a richness to the culture and traditions that I find immensely satisfying. I thought that becoming more involved with parish activity would augment and improve my experience, so I became a Sunday school teacher (I quit after a year). I’ve gone to Protestant churches, looking for what my home parish could never give me. I stopped going to church to build my own spirituality (which worked), but I still missed going to church, having communion, and celebrating the mass. I’ve visited all kinds of parishes and even worshiped at a few Cathedrals here and abroad.
Last Saturday, I’d made up my mind to attend mass, largely because my mom’s “Don’t forget about Jesus. He hasn’t forgotten about you,” was haunting me. (Moms are so good at guilt-tripping you into doing what they believe is right. Where do they learn that?) But I’d moved, so I had to plan my trip and figure out how far the Cathedral of Christ the King was from my new place. And, well, it was 20 minutes away. I’m not saying 20 minutes is too far to drive to Jesus’ house, but I am saying that he probably has a house closer to my house.
It just so happens that the Catholic parish closest to my house is a historically black parish, just like the one I grew up in. The difference between my new parish and my home parish is that integration hasn’t whitewashed this one. The current priest is black. There is a choir that sings from the African-American hymnal. The congregation is predominantly black. There are praise dancers! Most importantly, the Crucifix hanging at the altar shows a historically accurate Jesus, with brown skin and wooly black hair. I fit here.
So for the first time in my life, I am excited about going to church. I intend to try all four masses to see which one I like best. I’ve kept my visitor’s card in my wallet all week, just to be sure I’ll have it on Sunday. I’m setting a reminder to get cash back at Walgreens after I take advantage of the Shea Moisture BOGO, because I need cash for the collection plate. I’m taking my boyfriend with me. I’ve invited my Line Sister and her boyfriend. I’ve even asked my family to come visit, because I’ve found my way home to Black Jesus and my spirit is filled.
Raven is a content strategist and #blacksouthernbelle, who enjoys home cooking, nail polish, and Duplin wines. You can find her live-tweeting your favorite shows at Twitter.com/_ravey_, or in your local Marshall’s home decor section.