Hallelujah And Homegoing - 06/07/13
If you've never attended services at an African American church, you're missing out on an amazing life experience. There are no repressed feelings, no memorized lines and no hesitation to clap, comment, laugh or cry. It's uplifting and inspiring.
I've gone to Sunday services a few times at traditionally black churches in Austin. But I'd never been part of a Homegoing Celebration until this week. Isn't that the perfect name for a memorial service? The belief that you are "going home" is front and center. In this case, it was my friend, Joyce Adejumo, going home to be with the person she loved most in the world, her son, Mitchie Mitchell. He died in 2007 after a long life of health struggles due to a drunk driving accident.
I was asked to be one of the speakers at Joyce's Homegoing Celebration. Joyce and I got to know each other through the many stories I did with her over the years. She was a tireless lobbyist for stricter drunk driving laws in Texas. Joyce was an incredible person who poured her passions into the community and into mothering her disabled son, despite the many hardships that came her way. I was honored to play a small part in the celebration of her life at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church. She was the most faith filled person I've ever known and had so many reasons to lose her faith.
Unlike most funerals, I came away from Joyce's celebration feeling fulfilled and hopeful. When a sanctuary is filled with audible amens and applause, mourning is mixed with joy. I don't know why our religious traditions are so different. Dare I say, we white people typically have a more boring, rote church experience. I may be a little biased because nothing makes me feel more spiritual than a good gospel choir.
I was a bit hesitant to speak at Joyce's funeral for fear I might be a fish out of water. But I've never felt more welcomed at a church. And, I've never spoken publically before and gotten so much intermittent applause and positive comments during my speech. When I walked away, Pastor A.W. Mays, said," Amen, that was great." I've never had praise from the pulpit before! I must say it was both heartwarming and humbling.
So, the next time you see me at church (which sadly isn't too often), don't be surprised if you hear me saying hallelujah, applauding the music and the sermon or raising my hands in praise. I've already told my husband there will be no funeral for me when my time comes...only a Homegoing Celebration.