By: Kevin Bowden
Raised in a typical working-class Southern Baptist Church in North Carolina, I have faint memories as a child of helping set up folding metal chairs before and after the services. My parents were the founding members of Freedom Baptist Church. It was at Freedom that I learned of God’s word. When the pastor changed, we looked for God’s word elsewhere, at tent revivals and big churches—eventually we became members of a new Baptist church. God’s word seemed to change. Every week there was a new hellfire and brimstone message from a different preacher. Very rarely were words such as mercy or love used in services, or even in our conversations. Even the tone of the ride home from church became different.
Now I find myself in Atlanta, attending a new church, though I hesitate to call it a church, because it doesn’t feel like church as I’ve known it. It is more like a community.
Here we use words like mercy, grace, love, and faith. I find my walk “home” to the Old Fourth Ward (MLK birth neighborhood) a lot more fulfilling and enjoyable than the car rides from church back in North Carolina.
During communion one Sunday, in describing Christ’s body, Chad said, “Like the bread which must be broken in order to be shared…” I felt as if God were speaking to me, saying, “It’s okay that you’ve been broken—and you are not alone—go out and share your testimony, music, and art with the world.”
I have found God, love, grace, and home here at Mercy Community Church. Words can’t describe my gratitude to God and Mercy for providing me with these gifts. I think a lot about a church that doesn’t pass collection plates but instead plates of food; where teachings focus on how to love others, God, and yourself; that reminds you not to fear. I do not feel home-less but home-more. When I set up chairs before our service, it reminds me of when I was young at Freedom Baptist, and I reflect on the good times at church and with my family—the things that can’t be bought anywhere.