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. I knew not to wear baggy clothes lest someone mistake me for a thug when I walked down the aisle.
- 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. I knew not to raise my voice lest someone label me being over aggressive.
- 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. Don’t get upset if people don’t sit near you…they’re probably just nervous.
- 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. Walk through the door knowing no one, and then 3 years later have half the church know your face.
- 2. Dance country, get good, and now, it’s fun.
- 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. DJ one event and see what God does—lots of functions, and lots of love.
- 5. Volunteer and be present, and people know you.
- 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. Watch God allow every attempt of yours to fall short to His, and still keep following Him.