In 1962, Cathedral Of Love Missionary Baptist Church was a storefront place of worship on the south side of Chicago. It was the place where my then divorcing mother took me to worship every Sunday. At 4 years old, I could not quite understand why we would get up early every Sunday morning during those brutal Chicago winters and catch 2 buses simply to go to church.
In hindsight, as a 54-year-old adult, I now understand it all too well. It was the place where my mother was able store our belongings after we were evicted, when my father did not pay the rent during the divorce proceedings. It was one of the places where my mother found the courage through her faith to believe that life was not over, but starting anew with new friends, contacts, and a faith community willing to support her. I know that another such place of support was on the phone with my Gram, who lived in Cleveland.
Devotion (the short introductory worship service conducted by the deacons of the Baptist Church to usher in the Holy Spirit) was always one of my favorite parts of church service at Cathedral of Love. Deacons Gaston and Humble would come to the altar and begin the devotion by hymn lining. For all of these years, the image of Deacon Humble starting devotion with a hymn line of the old spiritual “This Little Light of Mine” has stayed with me. It has been a constant reminder to me of the challenge to try to let my light shine and as the second verse says “stay on my bended knees, til I die…til I die.”
After I moved to Cleveland at 5 years old to live my Gram, it was commonplace for me to come in from playing to the sound of my Gram hymn lining in the kitchen, as she washed dishes or cooked dinner. She would quietly select a song (Yes Jesus Loves Me and Amazing Grace were 2 of her favorites) and engage in worship and praise right there in the kitchen.
Our faith, worship, and praise as African-Americans are constants in the historical evolution of us as a people. This devotion has always been and still is manifest through songs of praise and worship, with an undeniable uniqueness that can best be experienced when the melodies, harmonies, and spirituality are absorbed first hand. This devotion to our faith and praise has always been our safe harbor from the embattled existence that is such a significant portion of our history.
I was taught at an early age that it would be my safe harbor and it still continues to be. I am grateful to Deacons Humble and Gaston and the people of Cathedral of Love for their warm embrace to my mother and me when we were in a difficult time in our lives. I am grateful to my Gram for always teaching me that faith will see you through. I will never forget the hymn line and often walk around my house doing my best imitation of Deacon Humble, to the amusement of my children and Catholic raised wife.
This attachment is a fascinating video clip about the historic hymn line and its place in African-American faith. Read, learn, and share….especially with your children…Have a Family Meeting!
Most importantly, though, let your light shine!