One of the first dates Ted and I had was at the Sunday morning service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, across the street from Graceland, led by the Reverend Al Green. No kidding. This church service was one of the best experience of my life. We arrived right on time, walking past the white Roles Royce parked outside to take our seats right in the center of the sanctuary. People meandered in and out, and about 30 minutes later, nothing had gotten started. We asked someone if we were early and he replied that we were on time but that it just takes them a little while to get going.
After another 15 minutes, the full congregation of around 50 people were settled in and the band started to play. The small choir began to sing. Then the Reverend Al appeared. His sermon looked exactly like this (and if any of you missed church this morning, no worries--just hop aboard the Soul Train and you'll be there):
He sang-preached for a blissful hour, pointing here and there at people in the congregation, including me at one point. He pointed my way with a big smile on his face and said something about how I had a look on my face like I thought he was crazy. Note to self: when Al Green tells me that I look stiff, get busy with some loosening up.
The drummer and bass player never stopped going the entire time. Reverend Al would slow down and build back up along with the drums (who was following who, I'm not sure), breaking out into full song and the choir would join in and the congregation would follow and I tried real hard to show how much I was feeling the Spirit...cause I mean, Al Green told me to.
Eventually, he invited the willing up to take communion and be blessed. So we went. They had a tray of grape juice and a tray of red wine. Reverend Al was serving and about half the time would comment on who took the juice and who took the "real stuff." He made sure we knew we were free, free, free to take whatever we felt led to take. Let me be a witness: if Al Green is serving you communion, take the real stuff.
Fast forward almost five years (!) and I'm sitting at the breakfast table trying to get my teething son to eat. He's not having it. He's cranky and glaring at me with his deadpan face between outbursts of screeching when he sees me coming near him with a spoon of cereal.
The laptop was beside my coffeemug on the table, and I took a break from the task of feeding this fussy boy to check something. I remembered that last night I'd been listening to some of the new Al Green album. I did a quick search and found this clip. I clicked on play and Abe got quiet. He really started to listen. Then he started to clap. He let me feed him. With a mouth full of food, he'd clap and squeal happily, just the way Reverend Al does. Every single time Al would let out that wonderful high-pitched wail of his, Abe would do the same. And then we had church at home, singing:
Loving you whether, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad...