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Remembering an ‘unwavering sense of fervor and faith’

AFP/Claudio Reyes/Getty Images

I met Jesus at 19, while kneeling over the white porcelain tub in the bathroom of our second-floor apartment on Chicago’s West Side. No frills. No theater. No lights, camera, or action. Just like the church, back then.

I remember… And my pen captures the pain of my heart.

As a boy, I witnessed the devout church mothers — in their whites and sophisticated crowns — and the fiery preachers — in their neckties or collars — lay hands on the sick and the sick recovered.

I remember feeling in the midst of the sanctuary an unwavering sense of fervor and faith exuded by my grandparents and other saints who assured that “we” could cry unto the Lord and He would hear and also answer.


I remember the authenticity of faith and worship. The sense that God was real — not a figment of our imagination. Not some cosmic candy machine. Not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and we, at best, minority shareholders.

Not corporate. Personal.

I remember the sense back then in the church that God was still the God of old — an ever-present help in the time of trouble. That God was at the core of the cure for what ails troubled families, communities, nations … That God the Almighty would incline his ear unto the cries of the poor, the widow and orphan, even a Chicago ghetto boy.

Back then the church had the sense that God still worked miracles. Still held after centuries a balm for His people’s social circumstance and souls. This is the church I remember…

I remember the crescendo of the saints’ wailing, echoed by incessant praise and worship that spilled from their mouths in pure submission as, “Yes, Lord” and “Thank you, Jesus…”

I remember the tingling I felt when the Spirit had come as the saints yielded their program to His. It was moving, humbling, glorious…

Oh, how we danced, lifted our hands or sat crying, lost in an invisible cloud of praise and intimacy with the God of the Universe. How we poured our sins and cares on the altar in a cascading waterfall of tears and repentance. Oh, how we felt empowered to face and conquer our obstacles, fears and troubles.

I remember the church trumpeting — and living out — its mission: “To reach the lost at any cost.” I remember: “A child saved is a soul saved plus a life.”

I remember the open-air tent revivals. How the service would come to a grinding halt whenever someone sidled to the front and said they wanted to be saved. Oh, how the saints rejoiced as wayward sons or complete strangers lifted their arms in weeping repentance.

I remember the prayers of the old church mothers we knew as “prayer warriors,” calling like morning birds early Tuesday and Friday mornings. How their requests were not about wealth or worldly influence but about the desire to be more like Jesus. Prayers for the Lord to take them to “higher heights and deeper depths.”

Prayers to walk humbly according to His plan and in His purpose.

I remember when the church was less about us and more about those who dwell beyond its walls. And I remember when we sang old songs of Zion that made the cares of the world melt like candle wax as our hearts burned like the flame.

That’s the church I remember.

The memories fill my heart, a heart whose tears are the words that flow from my pen. Not so much as a critique of the church. But my soul’s cry for a church that the young man inside me once knew and still remembers.


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