“I could only nod. Nell began a new verse, and several people moved forward to line up before Brother James, where they spoke and prayed with him one at a time, some openly weeping. Others knelt where they were, heads bowed toward the rustic benches, issuing unspoken requests directly to God, without a human intercessor. It was beautiful and more inspiring than anything I’d seen in my own place of worship, where we sang the same hymns over and over, and our minister, who’d been there more years than I’d been alive, delivered the same fire-and-brimstone messages Sunday after Sunday, so monotone, nobody shook with fear unless called out publicly by Reverend Creech for dozing during his sermon…
When the last one reached Brother James, and no others stood to follow, Nell began humming the song’s chorus quietly, and the choir joined her in a soothing, almost lullaby. James raised his hands high again, beckoning his congregation once more, and when no one else responded, he lowered them and clasped them behind his back. He offered a spoken prayer to end the service.
After his benediction, the choir sang again to send out the members, this time in a fast and rhythmic chorus. Some sang and clapped along; others gathered up sleepy children or embraced one another. I’d never seen such a joyful group. The state of their clothing, threadbare and outdated in most cases, indicated they struggled with poverty, barely hanging on even as American finally emerged from terrible times, yet they seemed thankful regardless.”
- Julie Kibler, Calling Me Home, 2013