On my quest to find some semblance of a spiritual home (or at least resting place), today I took the advice of my lovely bff Phyllis Tickle, who is convinced that I'm Anglican, to check out the Anglican Communion.
At first I resisted the notion. "I am NOT (insert nebulous idea of what it is to be Anglican here) Anglican, " I said to myself. But she insisted that I had all the hungers, and all the sensibilities. She's been Anglican a long time. I'm sure she knows what she's talking about. And I totally trust her.
Still, I was a little annoyed because wasn't it hard enough to have to figure out if I were Orthodox or Catholic? And now this!
I took a hard look at my life and realized I have several deliciously marvelous Anglican friends, who I want to be just like when I grow up. I have more of DMAFs that Roman Catholic friends. And frankly, I have no Byzantine Catholic friends at all. Maybe she was right! And what a tragedy it would be to be Anglican and not even know it.
So I began to seek my inner (and outer) Anglican.
I've been thinking of providing practical ministry to the housing project where I lived for some of my childhood. You wouldn't BELIEVE what it looks like now. I'm beginning to think social justice begins at home, literally, and there's much to be said about a church home right where you live. So, I looked for an Anglican Church in Inkster, and believe it or not, for a town six miles square, I found one.
Every city has it's mythology. Inkster is no exception. Said Anglican church is called St. Clements Episcopal Church (see piccha above). I've never been to a service there, but I'm going to venture to say that it's probably predominately African American (Inkster is very segregated. We just don't mix it up like all that). Now, I could be wrong about St. Clements members, and if I am I'll gladly report back. So think of this African American Episcopal church in the heart of Inkster. And the mythology attached to it? Weeeeeeell, all my life people who don't go to St. Clements Episcopal church has called it, Black Jesus Church.
While yes, they're (most likely) an African American congregation, I don't think they worship a decidedly "colored" Jesus. Like him:
He looks great, doesn't he? Look how good those dreadlocks look, even with the crown of thorns. His face is sober, yet approachable. I could totally understand a few 8x10's of Him dotting the walls.
They didn't promote an image of Christ like this one either. You gotta admit, he looks awfully nice. He's got a toddler, and some daisies or something. It's easy to believe a God who digs small children and gives people flowers loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life.
I'm definitely not seeing the St. Clements faithful getting into this black Jesus. Though the cornrows look like a whole lot of fun. He's smiling, too. I dig the more upbeat images here. For people who have been historically subjugated in America, and who battle disparaging stereotypical images in the media, I think we're pretty positive about how we view Jesus. And to me, that testifies of the hope and resilience we found on these shores in Jesus Christ, who we didn't, from the start, get the most fair picture of.
So, why is St. Clements called Black Jesus Church?
Well, I'll tell you.
You can't see if from the piccha, but on the side of St. Clements Episcopal church there is a
He's been there as long as I can remember. Hanging with his arms over his head like he was literally crucified on a tree. He's immense! Powerful! Stylized and sharp angled, wearing a modest robe with hood. For the 'hood? I dunno, but you can't help but be impressed by him. He's legend in Inkster.
When I moved back here in August, St. Clements was having their Vacation Bible school. They invited all the kids in Inkster in that age group to attend for free. I'd loat my flier in the craziness of living out of boxes. So, when I asked my neighbor Mickey if he still had his flier for the program at St. Clements he said:
"You mean the kid's thing at Black Jesus church?"
Black Jesus Church.
What was I thinking calling it St. Clements, especially when talking to somebody who was old!?
When I was a teenager, we had a terrible storm here. One of those numbers where the sky turns green. Lemme tell you, beloved reader, a green sky always means trouble. But not for Black Jesus. He got a little bit jacked up, but in the end, when a lot of property was damaged all over town, Black Jesus still stood! My brother took a piccha of him after the storm! Wish I had it to show you.
If he hadn't already been hanging there crucified already, I could imagine him raising a single, black fist in the air. He'd triumphed over the elements! Black power, for real!
I don't know why, but in the materials I collected today, and from a peek at the online history they give of the church on their website, nobody mentions that big, honkin' black Jesus.
Not how long he's hung there. Was he there from the very beginnings of the budding parish? A gift that came later? I dunno. And why can't you see Him on the church's piccha!? No photo of Him in the parish photos on the website, either.
Maybe it's taken for granted that everybody in Inkster knows he's there. Maybe they're a little salty that people call their parish Black Jesus church, totally dissin' it's patron saint. While there is a drawing of him on a flier, I could get no satisfaction finding any history of him.
Still. You gotta love something that homey and delightful. I plan to attend Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning. Maybe someone will tell me about him then.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Pax et Bonum!