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In 2004 we moved to La Plata, Maryland. I did the usual. Find a church, a gym, a doctor, a dentist, a drug store and a grocery store. And more or less in that order.
9.00 am services Sunday mornings at Sacred Heart suited me perfectly but one morning I ran late and went to the 11.30 service.
A Gospel Choir was singing and I sat enchanted, feet tapping and clapping along when they did.
It was too much for flesh and blood. I had to have me a piece of this so I showed up at the next rehearsal and asked if I could join.
The reaction? Surprise – yes. Hesitation –no. And so started a wonderful period in my life. Rehearsals were a hoot. I read music so you can imagine me following the note line and some of them singing something else. The wonderful music director (another story) explained that this was the way they sang from memory so what the heck, out the door with the script.
The cantor lady took a special liking to me and as a soprano, I sat next to her, front row.
I got to know them so well. The cantor who took her gospel bit so seriously that she forced and cracked her voice at times but always determined to do her best for her Lord and her husband, a mellow tenor who doubled as Father Christmas at the Mall. The altos who right behind me really worked at this singing thing and the stunning woman who was taking care of her disabled granddaughter.
And my other soprano friends, cashiers at Walmart who would treat me to huge hugs and smiles when I shopped there and confess how their feet hurt after a long shift. And how embarrassed one was when she didn’t recognize me (we white people all look the same) and asked to check my purchase at the door. Yes, I do shop at Walmart.
Oh yes, very early on in our acquaintance I made it quite clear that I was the only real African there having been borne in Africa. They, one and all, were Americans, having been borne in America. Which by definition meant that I was the only one that could claim the status of African American.
We shared stories of joy and stories of heartbreak. We boasted about our grandchildren and brought out the inevitable photos. I laughed with them, I cried with them, I sang and clapped and swayed with them. And at the end of each rehearsal we would stand in a circle and hold hands and we would take turns to say a prayer.
I believe I was quite noticeable, especially when we came down the aisle for a special service, clad in our blue robes and singing, dark faces, dark hair and me, white face and silver (NOT grey) hair. But we were one choir.
One Bread, One Body.

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