In the wake of the horrible shooting at the Charleston, SC, church, I reflected on a church visit in the home office of the Confederacy, South Carolina.
Several years ago my family and I vacationed with my wife’s sister and bro-in-law not too far from Hilton Head, in their home state of SC.
I remember getting up to go to an Episcopal Church one Sunday morning, alone. After a short drive, I entered a small, attractive church.
As I remember, not one member of the congregation spoke to me. Was it because I was dressed like I was on holiday? Even afterward when I greeted the vicar, I barely got a “harrumph.” It was a stifling experience. I am remembering now just how chilling that felt.
Today, halfway around the world from home, I’ve attended church services where, as the only white person in the congregation, I was moved through the packed congregation to a seat in the second row. The worship was vibrant and fun. After the Easter Sunday service I took tea with the visiting bishop.
My point to this anecdote is that in the South, the culture appears set. Outsiders or visitors, like this Californian, who try to break through into a closed-knit community, are looked at with suspicion. There was not much warmth.
I get looked at a lot when I visit an Anglican Church in Uganda. There is curiosity, but there is love and fellowship. I feel the Lord’s presence. I feel at home.