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Between Sundays

Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 275
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  • Book Info
    Between Sundays
    Book Description:

    To be a black woman of faith in the American South is to understand and experience spirituality in a particular way. How this understanding expresses itself in everyday practices of faith is the subject ofBetween Sundays,an innovative work that takes readers beyond common misconceptions and narrow assumptions about black religion and into the actual complexities of African American women's spiritual lives. Gracefully combining narrative, interviews, and analysis, this book explores the personal, political, and spiritual commitments of a group of Baptist women whose experiences have been informed by the realities of life in a rural, southern community. In these lives, "spirituality" emerges as a space for creative agency, of vital importance to the ways in which these women interpret, inform, and reshape their social conditions--conditions often characterized by limited access to job opportunities, health care, and equitable schooling. In the words of these women, and in Marla F. Frederick's deft analysis, we see how spirituality-expressed as gratitude, empathy, or righteous discontent-operates as a transformative power in women's interactions with others, and in their own more intimate renegotiations of self.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93645-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-29)

    Lynne was disgusted just thinking about her daughter dating a preacher.¹ “The idea that she could even consider it makes me sick! After all that I’ve told her and all that she’s been exposed to.” Lynne’s frustration was evident in the tone of her voice and the contortions of her face. Nearly the first half of our interview seemed to center on her disapproval of her daughter’s romantic choice. For Lynne, preachers and their theologies are the main problem with black communities in Halifax County, and by extension the majority of other black communities. While her daughter, a distinguished judge...

    (pp. 30-36)

    With her Bible left open to her scripture of meditation for the morning, Ms. Cleveland hurried out the door to begin her twenty-five-minute commute to work. She works in a county adjacent to Halifax as a clerical assistant in one of the county offices. She has been commuting from her modest three-bedroom home in Weldon every day for about ten years, ever since her husband passed.

    It had been about seven months since I completed the final stages of my research, and upon my departing Ms. Cleveland told me that I was welcome to stay with her any time I...


    • MONDAY “OF THE MEANING OF PROGRESS” Understanding the Social, Political, and Economic History of Halifax County
      (pp. 39-62)

      In his seminal anthropological tale of “dreams deferred” in the hills of Tennessee, Du Bois summons a call for meaning. What is progress? At the turn of the century he was engaged in educating former slaves who longed for knowledge and a better life. They came to his one-room schoolhouse en masse because it was the only school open to blacks in their rural region. When his time there expired, he moved on. Upon visiting ten years later, he found that little had changed. The people were still overworked, underpaid, their hopes discouraged by the passage of time. Finding the...

      (pp. 63-81)

      Living in one of the poorest counties in the state, the women I interviewed are surrounded by poverty, poor schooling, and abandoned elderly people. “Progress” for them and their communities is often an ideal in the making. How women respond to these conditions is informed both by their material conditions and by their faith experiences.

      While legislative changes have been made to ensure equitable schooling for all students in the county, schools remain largely segregated with variably distributed resources. Likewise, although particular areas of Halifax County have benefited from the movement of industry into their communities, other areas have had...

      (pp. 82-91)

      “You could hear a pin drop,” Beverly recalled. Throughout the church there was silence. Although moments before, the crowd had erupted into loud applause in affirmation of the speakers’ messages, the tone of the rally was now somber. The euphoria heard earlier was the sound of resolve among blacks in Halifax County, determined that they would no longer allow white dominance to penetrate the fabric of their social, economic, and political life. Change was long overdue. The silence testified to the ensuing fear. “You could see the fear in the church. And the reluctance to go up,” recalled Beverly. This...

      (pp. 92-121)

      While I was growing up my parents always warned me about small towns, speed limits, and being black. “You shouldn’t speed in small towns . . . The policewillstop you.” It is not as though other people do not get stopped in small towns, but certain people are more likely than others to be stopped. My parents wanted me to know that I fall into the “more likely” category.

      It seems that Halifax County, like areas of the country my parents have experienced, has the same problem with small towns, speed limits, and black people. One of the...

      (pp. 122-128)

      When I arrived at the Seniors’ meeting everyone was already in line for lunch. Ms. Sylvia and other members of the kitchen staff prepared chicken, beans, potatoes, and fried bread to celebrate this month’s birthdays. Mr. Green, the most cantankerous of the group, is 80 years old this month! He gives commentary on everything from how to raise children to how not to trust white folks. Whenever we would talk about my education and finishing the degree, he would warn me with great fatherly passion, “A wise man once said, [meaning him] ‘keep your mind open and your legs closed!’”...


      (pp. 131-159)

      “All you do is sit here and watch those ministers!” “I do not,” Gloria retorted, partially reclined on her Lazy Boy with the lower half of her body snuggled comfortably under her throw. I was growing a bit uncomfortable with the couple’s debate, but it seemed like one in which they engaged at least once a week. Their lines and rebuttals seemed rote. He knew she would insist that she does not compulsively watch televangelists, and he would insist that she does. “Ever since you’ve been ill, you come in here and watch those folks and you believe every word...

      (pp. 160-165)

      Out of the sea of worshippers, I never expected to see anyone that I knew. According to the news, there were over 50,000 women present. Although mostly African American, the women attending the conference represented various ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. I came at the invitation of a friend. My research was in a lull, since I had just finished the first eleven months of fieldwork, and I decided to spend a few weeks away from Halifax County in order to regroup and prepare for the final interviews. The 1998 “Woman Thou Art Loosed Conference” fell in that time.


      (pp. 166-185)

      The afternoon homecoming program at Diane’s church seemed to go off without a hitch. Diane had worked so hard in helping to organize it, making sure that everyone knew the time and place and what their responsibilities included. I attended in response to the invitation she extended nearly a month before the event. Once the mistress of ceremonies announced that it was offering time, she directed the ushers to begin from the back and march everyone toward the front to lay their offerings on the offering table. People began to file from the back pew first, then the next, then...

      (pp. 186-209)

      Significant to the experience of spirituality is the expression of sexuality. According to most mainline churches, maintaining standards of fidelity within marriage, chastity outside of marriage, and respectability in the process is required for the profession of a truly spiritual life. Because sex is seen as both a physical and a spiritual act, “proper sex” influences one’s access to God and one’s intimacy with God. Women’s experiences of sexuality, thus, have been key to their expression of spirituality. Therefore, not only do women make faith decisions that direct the management of their finances, but they also make faith decisions that...

      (pp. 210-220)

      On Sundays we, as Christian believers, go to church, and we find grace that heals the broken places, hope to enter the coming week, and strength to meet its challenges. Sunday is where we make sense of it all. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all come together on Sunday. Renita Weems describes how Sunday was the apogee of the week for her family. “Our working-class hearts,” she writes, “ultimately fixed on one thing alone.”

      Sunday held out to us the promise that we might enter our tiny roughhewn sanctuary and find sanctity and blessing from a week of...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 221-242)
    (pp. 243-254)
  10. Index
    (pp. 255-263)