Tears and Laughter: Churches may get old, but the answer remains the same

It probably has already sold, but for a while there was a framed black and white photo of an old church for sale in the gallery at Black Belt Treasures.

I had noticed it a couple of times in passing. Then it kept calling to me, the way art does a person, until I stopped in front of it.

The church was old. Long had been the years since a congregation had filled the pews or holy words filled their hearts.

You could feel in the picture how once they had been there, though it was just a wooden church with a bell and a steeple. It was one of countless many country churches that had dotted the Black Belt of simpler times.

While still valued today, churches once played such important roles in communities. It was where everyone gathered to pray and to praise. It was the center of activity. It was their meeting place and safe haven.

It was where people married and where they would take their children, returning every Sunday year after year until one day a eulogy was read.

No eulogies had been read in many a Sunday in the church in the picture. No blushing bride had recently dashed down the steps amidst a shower of rice.

There had been no celebrations. No baptisms. No singings.

There had been no dinners on the ground. No gingham tablecloths spread with fried chicken or corn on the cob or potato salad. No watermelon, no pound cake.

No children had run by chasing one another or playing. The latest baby had not been passed around.

The church in the picture had buckled.

It was if the whole structure had dropped to its knees and bowed its head.

Its steeple was lower and off balance. No one could ever again safely enter.

I had commented lightly, standing before it at Black Belt Treasures, how I felt it accurately captured the condition of religion in America today.

But even in such a state of disrepair, there was something holy about the picture. It was like a hymn.

There was an energy captured…something relevant and sacred. A spirit we are still just as in touch with today that is everlasting. It is not bound to a building that is vulnerable to time and weather.

The picture, of course, was only art. It was made to make people feel. Churches don’t just go away, they rebuild. They still dot the Black Belt and everywhere beyond. Anywhere you go, you will find churches.

And for all of life’s trials and sufferings, for any testimony you care to share or confession you feel necessary to make, church is there for you.

For any soul seeking comfort, for anyone groping for answers to life’s endless problems, the answer is given every Sunday morning, any week of the year.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Al. Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.