Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pieces of Me -- Saints Home C.O.G.I.C.

On October 1, 2014 the church I had known as Saints Home Church Of God in Christ was demolished.  Until news reports and the preservation efforts I did not know that it was the oldest synagogue in Buffalo NY, although I knew it had been a synagogue.

"Preservationists chain themselves inside oldest synagogue to prevent demolition
from The Buffalo News (Buffalo NY), October 12, 2014, page C3

Saints Home Church of God in Christ is where I was first touched by those soulful spirituals that still comfort me today.   Some of them include:
A Little Talk With Jesus
I Shall Not Be Moved
I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray
His Eye Is On the Sparrow
Every Time I Feel the Spirit
Pass Me Not

In addition to my parents and grandparents, this is the place that shaped my moral character.  I fondly remember what I now think of as "church before church" when the Mothers and/or Deacons of the church led Testimony  --  a tradition where you would stand before the congregation and publicly thank God for his blessings.  I also fondly remember Sunday School, chicken dinners, Easter programs, Christmas programs, and the first family of the church  --  Rev. and Mrs. Carl Roberson and their children, my church friends.

My father, Willis B. Williams, panted a larger-than-life picture of Jesus and it was dedicated in a ceremony in the Spring or Summer of 1961.   I am guessing at the season because my little brother Raymond was born in November 1960 and he is the baby in my mother's arms. The painting was right behind the pulpit and commanded your attention as soon as you entered the sanctuary.  

Adults:  Willis B. Williams, Evelyn O. Williams, Lucy  Brown; Children: Raymond L Williams (Baby), Steven A, Williams, Richard L. Williams, Willis Barry Williams, Sandra A. Williams

I remember my father on the floor of the living room painting this picture over a period of time.  Daddy painted the picture to donate to Saints Home in honor of my grandmother, Mrs. Lucy Brown  and my mother because that was their home church.  It was the first time I ever saw Jesus as a man of color.

This painting by Willis B. Williams was inspired by the scripture:

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.   Revelation 3:20 King James Version 

Although I did not attend Saints Home after puberty, I still feel saddened by the demolition. A piece of my growing up past no longer physically exist  --  for decades I passed the building that once housed Saints Home C.O.G.I.C.   Sometimes I even went out of my way to see it because it spoke to me in a way  --  connected me, transported me, and grounded me. The building may be gone, but . . .

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