“GETTIN’ THE WORD & GETTIN’ THE GHOST”
AT MOTHER EMANUEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
It was here in one of the United States’ oldest black churches, long been a site for community organization around civil rights, that white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans including the pastor, in a shooting massacre in 2015.
Andrew and I were not disappointed with the two hours that we sat and stood and sang along with the mixed congregation including many white folk like us. The black women, so many in their Sunday best white suits and hats, were devoutly involved. I recall my dear friend Clara in New York days telling me that here Sunday mornings at church were the best times of the week for her. Clara, I now understand!
Our plans for going on to the Catholic Cathedral for the Sung Mass afterwards were askew as we got more and more involved with what was unfolding at this lively service. It wasn’t just the singing, the organ music, trumpet, drums; it was the people, whipped-up to fever pitch by the pastor. All were elevated by the Word, joining in the singing, swaying, waving arms in the air, and punctuating what the pastor was saying with frequent loud praises, ‘Jesus!’ or ‘Amen!’
It was only Eric, our horse and carriage driver later in the afternoon who shone a light on the rather concerning event during the service when one poor black woman came forward for the pastor’s blessing crying inconsolably, before throwing herself on her back and screaming words to God. “The Holy Ghost was in her” says Eric. Here we calls it “Gettin’ the Ghost”.
Eric also turned out to be very knowledgeable on the history of the area since the days of the British colonial times through the Wars of Independence and the Civil War. We clopped over the cobblestones of the historic quarter on a horse-drawn tour, travelling back in time to the colonial beginnings of Charleston. passed by the old churches, antebellum mansions and lush gardens of Charleston.