The Valley of the Shadow (#ArethaHomegoing Reflection 2)

Some things about Aretha’s homegoing didn’t really hit until the next day. Rev. Jesse Jackson’s words was one of them.

Linda Brown died earlier this year (in March, if I’m remembering correctly). Her name might not be familiar to you, but she (and her family) are important names in American history. Linda Brown is the reason we have the case Brown v. Board. Linda Brown was 75.

Aretha Franklin was 76.

Emmett Till, had he not been murdered, would have been 77.

Jesse Jackson is 76 (his birthday is later this year).

John Lewis is 78.

Maxine Waters just turned 80.

Diane Nash is 80.

Marian Wright Edelman is 79.

Andrew Young is 86.

What hit me Saturday morning was that the younger end of the Civil Rights generation is leaving us (Andy Young would more technically be in the middle). And we are still fighting many of the same battles they were. The same is true in Unitarian Universalism.

Psalm 23 talks about walking through the shadow of death. Aretha’s homegoing was a celebration of fearing no evil. Of knowing that Aretha felt she really had a shepherd. Of knowing that Aretha felt she was going to rest in the bosom of G-d.

Yet, it wasn’t just about Aretha. It was about us too. About knowing we belong to somebody. Of know that, even in the midst of the shadow, there is no reason to fear; G-d is with us (whatever one calls that which is beyond us).

So…even though Aretha is gone, she is still with us. Her spirit walks beside us as we continue to walk through the valley of the shadow and fight the fights that need fighting.

Crowns and Church Fans (#ArethaHomegoing Reflection 1)

Multiple streams of the Black church flow through me.

I grew up in the evangelical/conservative wing of the Disciples tradition.

My mother, her sister, and her brother grew up Methodist. And while none of the three of them are Methodists anymore, I still have Methodist relatives in my extended family (mostly on my father’s side).

The bulk of my family, on both sides, are Baptists. National Baptist. Progressive National Baptist. A few American Baptist. All of my preacher relatives are Baptist.

I have Black Catholic relatives.

I have Lutheran relatives.

I probably have some Pentecostal relatives if I sit and really go through the family tree.

So every part of my religious heritage was on display at Aretha Franklin’s homegoing on Friday. The great. The good. The bad.

Which brings me to the title of this post. What was on display, even more than the gospel music, even more than the horrific theology of the eulogy, were the things that cross denominations.

There is a pageantry that comes with the Black church. A pageantry that I miss more and more the longer I am in UU circles. There is a feeling in the Black church that church is different. Not ordinary. That it is a place where we put our best forward and display it.
This pageantry is why so many of us are in LOVE with Queen Mother Cicely Tyson’s hat. Why we’re talking about how great Pastor Shirley Caesar looked in that glittering gown. How clean the men looked in their suits.
Aretha’s homegoing was CHURCH. Church on a grand scale.

And church fans. I don’t know if anybody outside of Black church knows about the meaning of church fans, but they were a staple of my youth. No matter which church I was at, there was always the church fan from one of the local Black funeral homes in the hymnal rack. It did not matter which season it was, there were always church fans. And you could be certain that the Church Mothers would be fanning themselves or using them as extensions of their arms.
Some even had their own fans, like Chaka Khan had on Friday (did you notice she had the words to the song taped to the fan?). Whether paper or fabric, quite often they would match the outfit the person wore that day.

Where’s the pageantry in UUism? Has there ever been pageantry in UUism?