“Christ Gospel…believes in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, and Christ Gospel services are exuberant celebrations. People sing, shout, dance, clap, run, praise, and worship God with all their being and all their might.”
August 28, 2019 11 AM
I had set out to visit a Seventh Day Adventist Church, but when I arrived at the completely empty building, I remembered their services are on Saturdays, not Sundays. Rookie mistake. So I set back toward home deciding that if I saw a church sign that had an 11 am worship, I’d stop.
Lo and Behold, I drove right by a Christ Gospel Church which advertised 11 AM worship on the large illuminating sign in front. I made a u-turn and drove back into the packed parking lot. Not a soul still parking, however, only me. In my athleisure wear, I approached the main doors where two men welcomed me. When I saw they were wearing jackets and ties, I asked if I was dressed appropriately. They said, “you’re fine, come on in.”
I opened the door to the main sanctuary and was almost blown back by the sound. Everyone was standing, many were clapping, some shouting, and all singing songs of praise. I took a seat near the door and hoped to go unnoticed. However, being only one of about five white people and wearing virtually gym clothes, probably made that impossible. Almost all the women wore dresses, skirts, or pantsuits. The men wore coats and ties, or at least button down shirts. Yeah, I wasn’t going to remain incognito here.
Immediately, a woman came up and spoke directly into my ear, because you can’t hear otherwise. She asked my name and how I found them. I said I was driving by and saw their sign that worship started at 11. She said, “actually, we begin at 1030.”
We sang a few more songs, followed by prayers, announcements and then the Bishop’s sermon. That’s the title for the main pastor, I believe, and not for an overseer of a set of churches. From the website on Christ Gospel Churches, however, it’s not clear how the denomination is run. Reverend Bernice R. Hicks, who died at 99 in 2018, started the church in the 1950’s. She continued preaching into her 98th year. If you google her name, you will discover both an interesting and controversial person. I listened to one of her sermons, given at 84, and she shouts an unknown word (ANISKA?) every so often, almost like she has an uncontrollable tic.
Whatever their beginnings, I didn’t notice anyone speaking in tongues, but they could have. It certainly was a lively and interactive group that often responded vocally to the pastor’s sermon and the other speakers.
My attempts to hide were totally ruined when the pastor’s wife spoke about the “women of power” in the church, whom she wanted to recognize. She then asked all the women to line up down the center aisle to receive a gift. I planned to stay in my seat or escape out the door. But the ladies around me would not hear of it. They practically dragged me to the line with them. After a full hour of worship, for which I was a half hour late, we waited another half hour to receive our gifts. We were presented, one at a time, with a homemade corsage and a trophy, which said: “Women of Power/Precious and Dearly Loved.” Then, another woman gave a short talk about the power of women for about twenty more minutes.
Then we were herded to a side room to receive another bag of goodies. Oy vey. With my arms full of gifts, I finally made my exit. It was almost 1 PM.
I can’t get past the strangeness of the denomination’s beginnings. But as to this local church, they are warm, friendly, lively and joyful in worship. Of course, with my trophy, corsage, and bag of goodies, this church PASSED the WELCOME TEST.