The following is a poem and further reflection on being a black man in a mostly white church by Spencer Aubrey, in honor of Black History Month. Please read, reflect, share, discuss, and rejoice that Spencer is a vital part of your church community.

For a while, it felt like this:

Sunday Black

A church pew looks different
wrapped in black cloth and hooked with metal fasteners.
But, my skin looks the same,
regardless if metal is attached to it.

I was hoping for a conversation today,
but I guess a smile is all I get,
gliding past the greeters into the sanctuary.

Maybe it’d be different if I weren’t single, walking.
Maybe I’d be different if I wasn’t a black man. No talking

as I move to the front, because it’s easier:

no one has to hear me when I sing
(loud choir voice),
and I only have one direction to awkwardly greet people
before the Scripture reading.
I wonder if they’ll ask me my name this time,
or will they not be interested in my life? Ask, I’m
an open book.

If I don’t initiate a deeper conversation,
it generally doesn’t happen;
                                                           actually that’s false,
                                                           it happens once every few weeks…
                                                           I stopped counting a long time ago,
                                                           but that’s not entirely true.  Shoot,

I’ll have to bring that up in a time of confession,
like the last six times I gave in to temptation.
And, I’m still convicted over godly repentance;
the worldly type, I feel like, has been my only pretense.

I wish it wasn’t so hard to come before the Lord and let him know I need Him.

Speaking of marriage…
It’s funny, the only weddings I get invited to are the ones I do the music for.
Guess I shouldn’t have dated those girls in the pew.
It’s like my whole community is journeying in unity,
                                                                                                           sans me,

and I’m just looking at You, God, asking,

“Why do I feel so alone when you’re here?  Why do I feel so alienated from my peers? ”

My fault for the                                                              brokenness,
I guess it rolls with the same consonance as                   blackness.
And, since it’s easier for people not to understand         either one,
                                                                                       I’ll just stop there.

Sometimes, it feels like this:

Have you ever felt alone in crowded room?  A room where the bodies in proximity feel cold, though life-like, but fail to connect past a, “Hey, how are you?”  A room where you wish the static from carpet to shoe would be enough to shock their heart into feeling past the how-do-you-do’s and into the fragility of the inner you—the real you.   But, there are rules—unwritten statutes that confine conversation to compartments that I walked into church with:

  1. 1. I knew not to wear baggy clothes lest someone mistake me for a thug when I walked down the aisle.
  2. 2. I knew not sit alone next to single white women in the pew lest they get uncomfortable and people around us start staring (I’m used to the looks, they are a combination of curiosity and fear; though for her sake, I’d rather her not get used to them).
  3. 3. I knew not to raise my voice lest someone label me being over aggressive.
  4. 4. I knew to speak “proper” in certain circles lest people around look down on me or assume I was less educated and didn’t take me seriously.
  5. 5. Don’t get upset if people don’t sit near you…they’re probably just nervous.
  6. 6. Don’t be too nice, or else the girls will think you’re trying to hit on them.

I know these things and more, yet what I still didn’t know is why I had to know all of this, and most have no idea what I am talking about.

Now, mostly, it feels like this:

People still see the fact that I’m black, but those who have taken time to know me, know me for me, and not me as just black.

  1. 1. Walk through the door knowing no one, and then 3 years later have half the church know your face.
  2. 2. Dance country, get good, and now, it’s fun.
  3. 3. Date poorly and see how quickly some people’s demeanors turn from greeting to fleeting when you walk into a room, because you messed up—not because you’re black.
  4. 4. DJ one event and see what God does—lots of functions, and lots of love.
  5. 5. Volunteer and be present, and people know you.
  6. 6. Send a pastor, that doesn’t look like you, a list of all the terrible things you’ve done and watch him say he doesn’t love you any less. Thank God for that.
  7. 7. Watch God allow every attempt of yours to fall short to His, and still keep following Him.
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