Featuring Max, Stan, Erik, Noah, and the Rose of Beulah Baptist Church Choir
“Is most kind for inviting us to see Ben sing,” the big Russian said, yet again, as we sat down on the second pew on the left. “It has been many bad years since coming to church.”
I gave Ben’s aunts a smile. They both held out their hands for Noah, who was passed along to be fussed over by several of the senior members of the church.
“I’m glad you wanted to come. Ben’s a nervous wreck. He’s never led the choir before.”
“Yes, we come most happy.” Stan glanced around the church, his eyes roaming over the simple yet homey interior, finally settling on the big cross behind the pulpit. “Back home when child, I find much succor in my church. Then, as I grow and discover that I like men, my church and I…we make ugly divorce.”
I nodded in understanding. Religion had never been a “thing” for me or my family, but Ben was a deeply religious man and so, out of my love and respect for him, I attended every Sunday. Also, Aunt Glenna and Carol would kick my ass if I skipped a service. One did not mess with the aunts.
“He’s been desperately seeking a new place of worship,” Erik said, leaning up to speak around his massive boyfriend.
“Is looking for good house of God. Our boy is not baptized yet. This makes Mama and I worry big much for his soul.” Stan glanced at the lad who was now covered in lipstick from all the kisses he’d gotten.
“Well, you’ll know in about an hour if you’re comfortable here. I think you might be,” I whispered as the choir, led by my man, walked out and stood behind the pulpit. Aunt Glenna held onto Noah. Pastor Bert, clad in long black robes, Bible in hand, joined the thirty or so choir members in pale blue choir robes.
For the next thirty minutes or so, we sat and listened to the sermon, which was about acceptance and love, a common theme here at the Rose of Beulah Baptist Church. After the rousing sermon, Pastor Bert introduced the choir and then took a seat at the side of the stage. My man took center stage, smiling and bowing, our eyes touching briefly, before he turned to face the choir. He was so excited and so damn beautiful…
“Is making music now?” Stan asked, his gray eyes wide with anticipation. I nodded. “Ah! Is good! I know many Orthodox hymns. I sing in Russian!”
I was about to try to explain that the hymns from his Russian Orthodox church and the hymns sang here might be a little different, but I didn’t have time. One of the choir members, Jane, who was a regularly featured soloist, stepped up to stand beside Ben. Instead of watching the choir director as I should, my gaze was riveted to the towering man at my left as the choir broke into “Jesus Can Work it Out” as their opening number. Stan’s mouth fell open a bit, his eyes flared even wider, and then he was on his feet, clapping loudly, the spirit evidently lighting him up inside. I’d never seen such an overwhelming reaction to gospel music in my life.
The man never returned to his seat. He danced and clapped to every song sung that morning and he wasn’t the only one in the congregation who was up and moving. Pastor Bert had trouble staying seated as well. Noah was delighted and shouted and clapped on Aunt Glenna’s lap.
By the time the service was over, Stan was hoarse from singing along in a language that didn’t match the one the songs had been sung in. The Russian was sweaty, grinning, and aglow. We met up with Ben, who was nearly as bouncy as Stan, and then filed out of the now overly-warm church. Pastor Bert stood at the door, shaking hands, and passing out thanks. Stan walked up to the older man and placed his son into Pastor Bert’s arms.
“My love, my son and me are big happy with church,” Stan announced, his voice rolling over us like a clap of thunder. “If you will have us, I will ask you make baptize of Noah. This church is where a loving God lives. I wish for this to be how Noah learns of God love now. Will you do this for us? May we join?”
Erik nodded when the gray-haired man of God looked his way. Pastor Bert juggled Noah on his hip, a smile of joy illuminating his face.
“We would love to have you and your family as members, Stan,” Pastor Bert said.
“Even though we are men who love each other?” Stan asked, some of the joy leeching out of him as fear crept in.
“My church and my God welcome all,” Pastor Bert replied.
Stan’s smile lit up the vestibule. He hugged Erik to his side. “Then we have new home here with Ben and Max in the church of the kissing aunts!”
The Church of the Kissing Aunts. That does have a nice ring to it.
For those who might not be familiar with the song mentioned above, here’s a link to the rousing and uplifting gospel song that so moved Stan—