This is Mother Webber, singing about Joy in the Holy Ghost!
While singing, my eyes followed her blouse. Mother Webber’s blouse fixture is so intricate, I couldn’t stop looking at it! It looks like a bow tie or maybe a bib or maybe an extra collar? Who knows? What I do know is the way she fixed it up to span across her contrasting blazer made it even more unique.
One of my favorite photos of Bishop Green sitting outside during the Holy Convocation.
He finished eating pig feet, greens, rice with gravy and corn bread!! The Young Adult Choir was in the kitchen and Mother Christine, a native of Arkansas, helped me with the southern meal.
Sometimes when my plate is filled up with a lot to do and I feel like doing a half job, I scroll to this picture and make sure I put my best foot forward. There’s nothing like doing something for others so well that their appreciation shines through their smile.
I am standing with my beloved Mother Wanda. On the left we are hugging after a church conference in 1998. (That’s my cousin photobombing us). The photo on the right is of us in 2021.
We became close through her niece, one of my childhood best friends, LaKeisha.
LaKeisha was my Holy Convocation best bud.
Anyone who grew up in a holiness church can probably attest to the importance of church conferences, especially the HolyConvocation.
We became friends simply because she wore what I didn’t wear like tight African braids and painted nails and in contrast; I said all the things she didn’t say, like, “of course I like boys!” and “guess what I have a boyfriend!”
Sister Wanda didn’t know about any of that culture exchange stuff going on between LaKeisha and I. While she was very protective of her sweet niece, and did not allow her to hang around the huge temple with just anybody’s kids, she allowed me to show LaKeisha around. I, of course, introduced her to my cousins and best friends. They had one thing in common, they were from the south. I was the only one from the north.
LaKeisha had great respect for all adults. She would constantly ask me if my mom knew about all the crazy things I did- like getting water from the fountain to pour on John while he spoke to Mother Wood.
“Lystria, you shouldn’t be doing that!”
“Why? He hit me and now it’s time for us to get him back!”
“But not with water!!”
She’d run behind me holding my bag and books.
Before she could say anything else, and before Anthony could warn John, I splashed him and the elderly mother with cold water.
As if nothing happened, we then walked back into the sanctuary, just in time to join the saints in singing, One Way to God before Bishop Goodwin started his sermon.
LaKeisha would tell me about her life, her church in particular. She’d ask me questions that I’d gotten used to by all visitors. However, unlike my school friends who would frequent my church, Kee Kee (which is what we called her) was always thinking about aristocracy, interested in the pulpit. She didn’t ask incompetent questions about dressing and hair, but she’d ask questions about the structure of the church that I sometimes had as a little girl- which is why our friendship lasted.
Why are people who don’t know how to sing or play called up to sing and play?
We would giggle next to Sister Wanda before being given “the look”.
Then the sermon would start and she would ask-
Do you have your Bible? Do you know how to find the scriptures?
We would find our way through the Bible and act really serious until she’d pass me a note about the church mother sitting next to us, why is she saying amen to everything Bishop says?
And we would hold our laughter.
Sometimes we got into trouble. Sister Wanda became like a mean auntie then. She’d separate us then explain to both of us why she was doing it. LaKeisha would roll her eyes but I was afraid to roll my eyes or even talk back, because she could have done worse. She could have sent me back to my mom who was also looking at me with a warning eye five benches behind! Yep, we were at the front of the church acting up.
Somewhere between middle school and high school, Keke stopped coming. As young adults, now in college, LaKeisha and I caught up just to tell each other we were alive… via Facebook. But in real life, My mom and Sister Wanda connected. They talked about their similarities. Age. Birthdays. Growing up in the same state. Whatever adults talked about.
Soon the only two left were Sister Wanda and me.
My mom passed.
Long before the church appointed Mother Wanda as a mother, the highest title for women in the church, she reached out to me as a mother would, without any title.
After the wedding, I met the Freemans. A couple native to South Carolina.
What a conversation!
(Sometimes in my head, I have thoughts of the American south and even if they are stereotypes or images of the past, they just don’t go away. It’s thoughts like that that leads to romanticizing the south. Meeting the Freemans did my imagination justice.)
I stood outside talking to family members, when I was approached by Mother Freedman who introduced not herself but both of them.
“Praise the Lord, We are the Freeman’s. And you are?”
I gathered from our conversation that even though it looked like they were married for a while, they were newly weds and very much in love.
“How did you meet? If he is from the North and you from the South?”
“We knew each other and would talk over the phone.”
“Then you just decided to meet and marry?”
“Yes. I told Brother Freeman if he wanted to marry, he would have to move to the south!”
“And he did, so he must really….. love you! Congratulations!”
I, of course, was interested in her dress! I thought it was an amazing outfit!
She also found me interesting and had a lot of questions to ask me about the “Big City”!
The next day, I was happy to see the Freemans again. Once again as a couple.