When I was younger, I looked forward to the fifth Sunday of each month. The Fifth Sunday Union was a time when a group of churches would come together to fellowship in worship and then eat dinner together after the worship service. These Fifth Sunday Fellowships would bring about mini family reunions, the making of new friends, and the renewal of old friendships.
Mom would begin cooking early Saturday morning what would be our contribution to the large feast. EVERYBODY WOULD EAT! Red rice, corn bread, collards greens, string beans, lima beans, northern beans, crowder peas, pig feet, pig tails, neckbones, turkey wings, and pounds of FRIED CHICKEN. Hungry yet? Sweet potato pie, apple pie, chocolate cake, lemon cake, and we cannot forget the sour cream pound cake with the crunchy top. All washed down with the best lemonade ever made. The smell of the food being warmed by some of the Deaconesses flowed into the sanctuary during service. Sometimes it seemed that the smell made the preacher preach just a little harder.
Some might disagree, but sometimes a little competition in the church is a good thing, especially when it comes to attendance. During Sunday school, when it was registration time, each church’s name was called out. All of the members of that particular church would march around to be counted whether you had money to put on the table or not. The old and the young were counted. The church with the greatest number present would win the right to take the Sunday School Attendance Banner back to their church. There it would hang proudly until the next Fifth Sunday Union. They would bring it with them to whichever church was hosting the Union the following month and attempt to win it back.
The choirs from all of the Union churches would combine to form a mass choir. Oh, the wonderful sounds that would ring throughout those walls “making a joyful noise unto the Lord and serving Him with gladness.” The ushers would also combine. Starched uniforms, white stocking, white gloves, and the men in their suits with matching ties and polished shoes. People took pride in coming to church. They put on their best . . . not necessarily to brag or show off but to “give of their best to the Lord.” I miss those days.
The days of the unions have long since passed but I wanted to take my son to see one of the historic churches where I ran, played, praised God, and ate. We went to Zion White Bluff Missionary Baptist Church for me to reminisce and to share with him the rich history as well as to take a few pictures. The cemetery there is filled with people who were the founding fathers and mothers of the White Bluff community in Savannah, Georgia. What I found left me heartbroken.
It seems to me that the African American footprint in White Bluff is being erased and we are providing the pencils. I do not understand how such a historical cemetery could be allowed to lay in such disrepair. Sure it appears clean from a distance, but upon closer inspection, you can see fallen grave stones, debris of fallen tree limbs, trash, vines, and over grown grass covering historic and important graves. As I walked, several questions raced through my mind. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CEMETERY? HOW COULD SUCH A HISTORIC PLACE BE IGNORED AND UNKEMPT IN THIS MANNER? WHY HASN’T A REQUEST BEEN MADE TO GET THE ENTIRE CEMETERY UNDER CONTROL? WHY DID I FIND THE HEADSTONE OF ONE OF THE ORIGINAL PASTORS OF ZION WHITE BLUFF BARELY VISIBLE UNDER A PALM TREE? THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE REMEMBERED AND TREATED WITH RESPECT!
When the 5th Sunday Unions stopped, a lot was lost. Connection to our heritage was lost. Connection to each other was lost. The wonderful times of fellowship and breaking of bread on church grounds was lost. Maintaining dignity of the appearance of our church grounds was lost. Our history was lost. TOO MUCH WAS LOST! IS IT TOO LATE TO GET BACK? I just don’t know.