Greater Mt. Zion
Originally published 7-15-12
So here’s the thing, I’ve never been a church going person, but have always been a praying person.
I’ve always hesitated to use God in everyday language in public but never hesitated to talk about God privately.
I don’t have an all-encompassing belief system, even though I was raised Catholic and can wear a rosary like nobody’s business, I won’t declare to you that I am a certain religion and embarrassingly I recently learned the difference between the old and the new testament, but I will declare that I believe in a higher power that both love and guides deliberately.
It has taken me 29 years to really seek out a church and faithful community, a community that I can lean on from each Sunday afternoon to the next.
A few months ago, as I was contemplating my love life – the only issue I allow to keep nagging at me, the other day I bought cocktail napkins that say, “My life is perfect I’m looking for a problem to drink about.” - I just felt like I didn’t have any more answers. There were no more people I could ask for advice; I had become a frequent flyer in the self-help section of Barnes and Noble and Oprah was just not coming through like she used to. I had exhausted my life lines. Then life surprised me as it does from time to time and my girlfriend casually mentioned she had found this great Baptist church on the East side of Austin and she described it as different and exhilarating and chock full of good music. I agreed to go more as a cultural experience or Sunday activity; little did I know how much of an impact it would have on me.
The next Sunday, I woke up and put on my Sunday best, a dress my mother and grandmothers would approve of, and I headed to church.
As I walked into the Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church in East Austin, I looked around and realized, there were no: crosses, no altar, no place to kneel, no hymnals in the pews, no white people. Huh? No white people? Correct. It’s a Baptist church in east Austin and it’s glorious. Ladies wore adorned hats, there was choir that was joyful, there were dance performances, there was a band, a preacher, and more hugs than anyone could ever need.
The service was uplifting and energizing. We sang, clapped, danced and hallelujah-ed our way through a two hour service. (All this was foreign to me as Catholic’s rock it out in 45 or less and the most movement during mass is when you turn to your neighbors to shake their hands and wish them peace.) It was lovely and fun and beyond fulfilling. I cried and laughed and held hands with strangers. At times during the service I marveled in the universe’s timing. I knew I was thirsty for something more, but I didn’t know just how thirsty and I certainly didn’t know for what. When I walked out of church I felt like I had been showered in “feel good.” I felt like my life’s direction was a little clearer.
I realize this introduction to religion seems fine and dandy and I don’t know if I’ll ever be religious per se, but I think if people can gather to pray for a better world and better lives and they can lift each other up in the process, then that’s a beautiful thing.
I’ve attended regularly in the past few months and I’ve realized I was hurting and that I’ve slowly been healing. My church is a hospital for hurting people.
I hope in whatever church or group you’re a part of that you both give and receive empathy, hope and love and purpose.