More often than not, especially when talking to millennials, the phrase I hear after a church's dirty laundry has been aired is, "... see, that's why I don't go to church." This statement and others akin to it, break my heart. I believe people forget, churches and "the church" are made up of hurt people, flawed people, and people who have made mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect church and if it were one, it becomes imperfect the moment you and I walk in. Preach, Shelle.
The Black church is usually the butt of sitcom jokes and/or lust suppressing melodramas with choir members longing to be mega superstars, church mothers wearing big hats, ushers with the welcoming aura of nightclub bouncers, aloof deacons, overbearing first ladies and pastors struggling to manage it all. What is also overlooked when criticizing the church is the fact that the Black church has been the epicenter of the civil rights we enjoy today; many HBCU's were founded in churches; the Black church has also acted and continues to act as human service agencies to local communities. The list of civic contributions are endless but more attention is given to the worst of the church and not the work of the Kingdom.
So here we go- AGAIN. Someone else has something to say about "the church". I'm usually side-eyeing Christian fiction books. As a Christian, I am protective of the representation and reflection of the body of believers known as "the church". For those who are not Christian and/or not familiar with Black church culture, there aren't enough TV shows, books, or institutions of higher learning that can fully detail the Black church experience.
However, Teresa B. Howell, author of That Church Life was able to embody the church experience - it has the intrigue of OWN Network's hit show Greenleaf, the humor of Amen by way of Deacon Earnest Frye played by Sherman Helmsley, with a friendship a the core that reminds you of Freddie, Kim, and Whitley from A Different World.
From beginning to end, That Church Life has you on the edge of your pew. What made this book a page turner: Three ladies on different spiritual paths that come to a head at the beginning of a major tragedy. The book unfolds as Missy, the preachers kid and heir to the megachurch throne is broken, bloody and on the run in these Durham, North Carolina streets!
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First Come, First Serve.
After a traumatic experience that lead to shots fired at her thought-to-be true love, Tommy, during a heated argument in her father's study, Missy winds up barefoot and disheveled on the door step of her best friend, Michelle. Michelle is the voice of reason and prayer warrior of this church group trio. Eventually, we are introduced to the bitter, jet-setting Natalia who has experienced enough church hurt to never darken another doorway or vestibule, but is ride or die, true to her friends Missy and Michelle.
In 80's soap opera fashion, you have a "Who Shot JR?" moment wondering whose blood is ruining Missy's Ann Taylor suit. Meanwhile, members of the church of Mt. Zion Holiness Church are expecting Missy to pick up where her father is leaving off - as the next leader. Missy can sang, preach, pray, and quote scripture with the patience ministry and leadership demands. But there is something her father is not telling her and she can't seem to untie the soul-tie she has with Tommy. The pressure is creating a distance between Missy and her father that wasn't there before and a consuming void Missy begins to the fill with the wrong things. Intertwined in the story line is a message of healing if you just hold on. There are moments were Missy starts to see a shift take place and your hope is restored.
That Church Life takes the reader on a journey that is familiar to those who attend church regularly bust also serves notice to church outsiders that you have to be a lil 'bout, 'bout it in this church life and knuckle up when you are being tried. That Church Life has enough surprise plot twists, you'll find yourself saying, "Jesus, take the wheel, take the handle bars, take the reins... this is too much!"
With Jesus at the center and with the help of her friends, can Missy answer the call God has placed on her life while in a whirlwind of physical abuse, addiction, and a major long-kept family secret? The ending will shock you!
About the author: Teresa was born and raised in the church. She witnessed the good and the not so good while not only attending, but also serving in various capacities in different church organizations. Teresa decided in July 2015 to put her experiences and observations on paper, and her first novel That Church Life was born. You can learn more about Teresa B. Howell and her independent publishing company, Walking in Victory International, LLC by clicking the book 📖 and be sure to follow her on social media.
Is your church drama a story worth telling? Tell me all about!! I wanna hear from you below.