05 January 2015

Sankofa: Light Body Without Stiffness

My White Church Handkerchiefs
I expect that church girls in the South in the 60s kept fabric starch manufacturers in business.  I know the women in my family did their part.

Sunday mornings, first Sunday mornings in particular, were synonymous with starched white linens.  Communion shrouds. Altar cloths. Usher shirts and blouses. Nurse uniforms and hats. The preacher's hanky.  And starch-stiffed squares of white in Big Mama's hand to wave an amen, in Mama's purse to catch a runny nose or weeping eye, or on my head-- a symbol of youthful purity and public profession of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who saved my soul at seven years old while listening to radio evangelists late at night on my very own transistor radio.

Heavily starched squares of cotton entered Sunday morning at attention, saluting the holiness of the day's tasks before them.  Solemnity and beauty. Practical and pretty. The dichotomy of the Christian faith:  life through death, wholeness through brokenness, and torture to triumph.

Transformed from starch-stiff pillars of faith at 9a Sunday School to crumpled, sweat limped, lipstick soiled, snot crusty, repast fried chicken greasy wads of laundry as we piled in hoopty's and pickups six hours later, these white cotton squares held the history of a people of faith and fortitude. A history of living hard weeks for the reward of a Sunday morning reprieve.  A history of maintaining church clothes sanctified from play clothes and school clothes-- looking our best for God was our reasonable service.

"Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenki,"
which translates, "It is not wrong to go
back for that which you have forgotten."
Today, as I used sizing instead of heavy starch to iron my collection of fresh washed white handkerchiefs, I remembered why I still carry them in my purse and nestled in my bible. Cotton is best still to absorb sweat and mascara when I am preaching, capture a sneeze teased out from strong perfume when passing the peace, and tend my predilection for cloth instead of paper goods at repast.

Although I find that sizing-- light body without stiffness-- better suits my needs and theology of grace, it is still white cotton starched squares which signify all things holy, healed, and possible in God!

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