1921 - 2004
We would begin early in the week preparing for Sunday church service; making sure our clothes and shoes were clean. Mama would start Sunday's dinner Saturday night, completing it early Sunday morning. Church included Sunday school and a long Pentecostal church service of praying, singing, hand clapping, shouting, testifying and preaching.
My Uncle Mike Durr, Jr., made me an accomplice preparing him for Sunday School. Uncle Junior never learned to read. He had a great memory for dates and family history. He could add, subtract, divide, and multiply in his head but he just couldn't get that reading thing together even with extra help from dedicated teachers. He didn't hide his illiteracy but used it as a crutch. According to his wisdom, he never married because he could not read.
I lived in the same house with Uncle Junior as a young child and he recognized my love for reading, so, he decided I would "teach" him to read his Sunday School lessons. Before the third grade, I was his teacher and would continue to work with him until I was in high school. Those Hittites, Mobites, Zacchaeus, Zephaniah, etc., would tie a knot in a young reader's tongue. I would read the lesson with my mother before I "taught" Uncle Junior.
He wanted to participate in his Sunday School Class by reading one of the verses from the lesson. We would go through the lesson and he would decide which verse he would read in class. We worked on that verse at least once during the week and again on Saturday night.
On Sunday mornings with bibles and Sunday School books in hand, off to church we went. It was a small church where all classes were in one room. Occasionally, I could hear Uncle Junior telling the teacher which verse he wanted to read and hear him when he read his verse. He would stumble at the same words he stumble with at home, forget the words I thought he knew. His teachers ignored his stumbles and would continue to call on him to read Sunday after Sunday. On many Sundays my student was a star, he would recite his verse near perfect.
The memories of my uncle's struggles and triumphs with his Sunday School lessons will stay with me forever.
This blog post was re-posted from September 12, 2010 for Carnival of African American 5th Edition ~ REBIRTH: It's Time For Revival! Blog about a special memory or Ancestor story related to a spiritual experience of rebirth, reawakening and/or celebration! Hosted by Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots.
When I was a child, my family attended Forest Hill Church of God in Christ in Jackson, Mississippi.