Saturday, January 05, 2008

My experience Friday night at an African-American funeral service

We recently converted an African-American family, Eloise, her son James, and her four grandchildren. They have become very dear to me, and I have been continuing to study with them most every week.

This past week, Eloise' mother's long time friend and companion, Charles, passed away. I had met Eloise's mother at Eloise's baptism, and so I called her and offered to help in any way that I could. The funeral was last night way downtown in Kansas City. So I left my parents who had just come in to go and be with this family during their time of sorrow.

It was 8:00 PM. As I walked into the auditorium, I could not see Eloise and her family. So I sat down towards the back middle. I could not help but notice that I was the only white person in the group. I'm sure that Eloise and her family can't help but notice when they worship with us that they are one of only two other families in our congregation that are African-American.

There were many testimonials, and it was clear that Charlie had been well loved. He passed away after a long illness. Then the preacher, who was someone in the family, spoke. He had that typical African-American cadence and sing song type voice--very much like T.D. Jakes. He gave a very impassioned plea for everyone there to accept and follow Jesus. Whereas most times this kind of preaching at a funeral (directly trying to convert people that are there) is off-putting to non-Christians, this one may not have been. It was focused on Jesus as being the source of our hope. Then he closed with talking about Charlie's life.

As I sat there, I thought that it would be good for the different races to worship more together. I experienced this at Wilshire, and I've missed it at Liberty. Our community is 92% or so white, so we are pretty reflective of our community. But Kansas City is nearby, and there is a greater ethnic diversity there. Hopefully Eloise and her family can help us make additional inroads in the racial diversity.

After the funeral, I talked with the family, and they were so appreciative. I hope to be able to serve them more in the future.

I got in my car, and I saw that I was almost on empty. Not good, because I was in an unfamiliar part of town late late at night. But fortunately I had a Garmin with me, and it took me to a gas station.

I got out of the car to get gas, and I saw people staring me down. And--I have to admit--I felt a bit of a surge of fear come up through me. Would I have felt this in suburbia? No. Was it justified? Probably not. I usually deride those who express such feelings. But involuntarily, in that time, that place, and that part of town, I felt it come up. I decided that the need for the church to worship and service together with all races was essential in us overcoming fear and prejudice and becoming one humanity. We all probably have a long way to go. But I am glad I went Friday night. I hope that I was able to bless them, and it is an experience I will not soon forget.

Why do we not worship and serve together more with other races? How can we help change this?