One of the most memorable experiences on this trip for me was going to the Sunday church service at Ebenezer Baptist Street Church. It meant a lot ot me both spiritually as a Christian and historically as a black women interested in African American history. It felt so welcoming walking into that church! I was greeted with smiles and “good morning’s” as soon as I walked in. It was nice because I honestly haven’t been to church on a consistent basis since I transferred to the University of Illinois. Being back in a church atmosphere in general made me feel like “ oh my god! this is what I’ve been missing every Sunday?!”. But being in that church specifically was very special. I have never been to a mega church and I am not sure if Ebenezer qualifies as one of those but if I had to describe my experience at Ebenezer the word I would use is definitely magnified The choir was amazing, the church was pack, the speaker and congregation interacting was refreshing. I loved it! There was even a point where one of the preachers started rapping! And you could tell that Ebenezer really makes an effort to cater to their youth. I think it is awesome to see that they invited the local high school choir to sing with them, had the children’s choir perform, and actually have a separate service for the children.
I also think that another part of what made that experience stick out for me is when I listened to the reaction of my peers. Being a young Christian I get a lot of flack about how Christians are judgmental and hypocritical people. And although those views are over generalized people do view us that way. So to hear almost everyone that came on this trip say that they felt at home, welcomed, comfortable, and even enjoyed the service at Ebenezer made me really happy. Because that is the type of impact that church and we as Christian people are suppose to have on those around us. And the people who said that they felt this way were not Christians or even spiritual or religious people at all, yet they all still described their experience at Ebenezer as free and uplifting.
This really help put into perspective for me why the church was so essential to the civil rights movement, and how it was critical to keeping the people going. People did not just come to church on Sunday to meet with God but they came to be uplifted, encouraged, and for the great sense on community. And when you are pushing back and fighting things like racism, segregation, and hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan you needed a power source to keep you going- I mean everything African Americans were dealing with back then it’s no wonder how some of them probably felt drained. But Church served as that power house and back bone for those people. And after my experience at Ebenezer I can understand why. Also, the one major thing I noticed when the preacher gave his sermon is that the message of that church in particular has not changed! After all these years Ebenezer is still fighting for social, and economic justice for all people. Martin Luther Kings words “ injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” are still what drives that church stand up for what is right! I think that is beyond admirable. Somehow they still find a way to tie politics and faith together to push people to take action for social change. As far as I can see times may have changed but the mission and the dynamic on Ebenezer have not. :)