By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
The floors creaked in harmonious chorus, the sun filtered through stained glass, creating rainbows against the shellacked pews as the scent of vanilla and baby powder precluded each warm hug by women who had seen it all.
We were never forced to attend, never as punishment, only the assurance of good music, pocket peppermint and every casserole imaginable during dinner on the grounds.
The hymn “Consider the Lillies” was a customary opening, and to this day I remember every single word.
There is only one thing that Mississippi has more of than freckled faces: churches. Big churches, small churches, country churches, open field churches and churches in the middle of a living room floor if necessary. There is no denying it is a part of who I am, the good, the bad and the vocal.
Occasionally the preacher would get a little gloomy for my taste, but in such instances I occupied my time spotting the open-eyed nappers, shoe tappers and the mommas wielding concrete stares at spirited youth.
Religion is something that both fascinated and terrified my young mind. Several concepts simply twisted my logical bone into a pretzel while the genuine care so freely given compared only to the warmth of my grandmother’s lap.
I believed there was a God from the start, there was simply no other explanation for velvety feeling rye grass or my grandmother’s grits.
Church was community, family, social center and as familiar as my own home.
Regardless of the chaos of the economy or the atmosphere of a world sick with hate, church was predictable as summer heat.
Not once can I recall exclusion of any kind other than Mrs. Foster’s pew. We all knew better than to sit in her well-worn location. Church was for all and all was church. It seemed quite simple.
I have no memory of being discouraged from love but being told consistently to love thy neighbor. Of course living in rural Mississippi, that was fairly easy as your neighbor was either your grandmother or a dairy cow.
Church was as much what you did as who you were. For me, it was comforting. The soothing hymns, the sweet wrinkled hands handing me candy and belief that praying would help seemed to ease my often anxious little mind and calm my often restless little body.
Religion is personal. It was personal then and it is personal now.
I carry that little church with me everywhere I go. It was the most kind, most accepting and most joyful place I can remember.
The world is a much more confusing place now as I am often confused by the rules of engagement.
Thankfully that little white church, with the shiny pews and creaking floors, gave me a foundation of which to build my own beliefs, my own thoughts and my ability to decipher casseroles with ease.
Although I don’t recall every sermon or fully agree with every sentiment, I do consider the lilies and I do love thy neighbor.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, real estate broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane, lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.