Every saint got a past; every sinner got a future. ~ J.Cole Te’nae I’d been church hopping for the past month, only attending church to hear the choir sing. I finally found a church that could keep my attention because of their glorious singing, and that church was HSCMBC (Hebrewism-Servants of Christ Missionary Baptist Church). The vocal ranges of sopranos to bass kept me coming back to listen for more. I came from a musical background but couldn’t sing a lick, so hearing other people minister through singing brought comfort hearing the word of God. I knew one day I would join the church if the choir kept singing like the angels in heaven. Plus, this church offered many classes for its members such as the usher committee, women’s and men’s ministry, healthcare ministry, and so forth. There were two pastors: one lead and the assistant. On the first and fourth Sunday, the lead pastor preached, and on the second and third, the assistant pastor preached. Since I was a young adult, I felt connected to the assistant pastor’s message better because he broke it down where the young and the old could understand, and he preached God’s word. I’d been living in sin. I needed God to redirect my life, so I could focus on what my purpose was. Today, the lead pastor preached about manifesting, and the message was okay. It didn’t connect to my soul, so my mind wandered as I scrolled through my iPhone. Every now and then, I lifted my head to say amen. After service, the lead and assistant pastor strolled down the center aisle. I noted the difference within the pastors. The lead pastor’s legs were stiff as he stalked down the aisle, face tight, and gaze shifty, while the assistant pastor’s shoulders were loose. He smiled alongside the leading pastor as they exited the church doors, thanking the attending members. As patrons passed by, the pastors shook their hands. I grabbed my two kids, one on each side. We stepped close behind others. The lead pastor was tied up, so I inched forward to the assistant, but someone other than my child pulled on my elbow. I glared at my elbow and into the lead pastor’s towering height. I let go of my child’s hand and moved her over to my right hand. Something about the lead pastor rubbed me the wrong way, but I played it off. I glanced into his deep almond complexioned square face with a gold cross wrapped around his thick neck. “It’s good to see you, Sister Te’nae.” His full lips curved sinisterly as he licked them. “You got two beautiful kids. They look just like they pretty mama.” His voice was deep. I smiled, but his hand on my elbow slid down to my wrist. His touch sent an electric current up my arm. That sensation alone made my stomach churn. His other hand traveled up my forearm like the movie Ray when Jaime Foxx felt the arm of his next mistress. I slid my arm from his grasp. In that instant, I knew he wanted to get to know me on a deeper level than a shepherd looking to guide the lost sheep. All I wanted was to find a church home, not a man. I cast my gaze downward as I gathered my two kids. As soon as I placed them in the back seat, I glanced over my shoulder and our eyes locked. He winked at me and my eyes grew wide as I scurried inside my car and drove away. *** Two Months Later “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the eulogist said as they lowered the casket. The first lady of HSCMBC fought a good fight against cancer so the Lord called her home. “It’s better to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” The first lady wasn’t in the ground a full week before the lead pastor of the church cornered me in the hallway. “How’re you doin’, Sister Te’nae?” His eyes raked over my body, head to toe, landing on my 34B cup breasts. “I’m fine, Pastor.” I glanced over my knee-length sundress. “How you been these past days?” “Uh-uh, I’m taking it one day at a time, but the Lord wants me to find another wife.” His voice sounded grimy. My eyebrows shot up. I know he ain’t talking about me. “Yes, I understand, Pastor. When the time is right, you will know.” “Yes, yes, Sister Te’nae.” I stepped around his hungry stare. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get my kids from the daycare room.” “Next Sunday, I’ll see you.” I shook my head and laughed at the leader of this church. I swore I was a magnet for older men. I mean, I didn’t mind the stares or offering to take me to lunch, but dang, this pastor was thirsty. I knew there were other single women in this church, so I didn’t understand why he was targeting me. To me, he wasn’t grieving long enough for his beloved late wife. As I gathered my kids, I exited the church and loaded them into my Corolla. I shivered when a forgotten memory crossed my mind. My heart raced, and I began sweating. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. I put my past life behind me, so, I wasn’t going back. I looked forward to bettering my children’s lives whether their daddy wanted a part of it or not. I left my toxic relationship with my baby daddy, and yes, it took me five-years to move on while enduring constant verbal and emotional abuse day in and day out. I realized our time had run its course. He wanted to play in the streets and fool around with women. I desired to further my education and focus on my kids. I skipped HSCMBC the following Sunday and sat home with my kids. Their sorry behind daddy said he was coming to get them, but he never showed up. Throughout the week, I went to school full-time to get my dental assistant degree while my kids, ages one and three, were at daycare. I rested all day Saturday and Sunday morning I dressed my kids and me alike. I donned a yellow floral dress. I clothed my daughter in the same attire, and my son wore a yellow collared shirt with black pants. After I dropped my kids off at the church daycare, I entered the sanctuary. A smile escaped my lips as I heard the assistant pastor’s soothing voice read the scripture of the hour. “Good morning, church family,” Assistant Pastor Najir said, turning his head to the left then to the right. “The question of the hour is, why do we worship?” He looked around at the congregation. “In Psalm 105:1-2 it states, ‘O give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds to the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk of ye wondrous works’.” Once the congregation said, “Amen”, the pianist dropped the beat on “His Mercy Endureth Forever” and I nearly leaped out of my seat. I threw my right hand in the air, waving it side to side as the choir began to chant harmoniously. I swayed my body side to side as I smiled at another church member sitting beside me. The choir sang another song and this time, I stood up out of my seat to “We Sing Praises”. I clapped my hands and moved my shoulders. This is why I kept coming back to HSCBMC; their variation in voices, stretching their vocal cords. After the singing stopped, the assistant pastor told us why we should praise God. In simple terms, we worshipped to draw nearer to him; to feel God’s presence in our lives. After service, I strutted to grab my kids from daycare. I was stopped in the hallway by the chief of the usher board, Sister B. I heard around the way that if you couldn’t follow her rules regarding ushering then she would gladly ask you to step down from your duties. “How’re you and the kids doin’?” she asked in a caring voice. I faced her. “We’re fine.” “That’s good to hear. We’re always looking to recruit more ushers to stand as a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” I smiled because Sister B could be so extra sometimes. I knew she was a good person at heart. I shook my head with a grin. “I’ll think about it,” I told her as I left to get my kids. When I entered the daycare room, one of the Sunday school teachers greeted me with a grin and ushered my kids to me. “Thanks again, Sister Evie,” I spoke as I grabbed my rambunctious kids. “Te’nae.” I turned around when Sister Evie called my name. “Hey, if you’re looking to do something in the church, we could always use another teacher.” My smile reached its full capacity. I did like teaching kids. “Okay, that’s cool, but I don’t want the little kids, maybe ages ten and up.” She nodded her head and told me where to sign up if I really wanted to become one. I liked Sister Evie because we were close in age, and we vibed. I led my kids down the hallway to leave as I thought about it. I was appreciative of this church because there were so many opportunities to grow spiritually as well. It was third Sunday when the women’s mass choir sang “Lord I Need You” and Pastor Najir preached on God’s perfect and permissive will in Romans 8:28. ‘And we know that all things work together for good, that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose is God perfect will.’ Pastor Najir turned his head, stuttering his words. “The…the permissive will is God’s way allowing things to happen because he has a greater purpose for your trial.” The church said, “Amen.” And I listened intently because I believed that too. It was something in the atmosphere that prompted me to jump to my feet and walk down the aisle during the altar call. There were chairs placed around the altar, and I wasn’t the only one who sat down. The church sang another song, and then Pastor Michael whispered in my ear, asking me questions. I shook my head and answered yes to all of his questions. “I’m going to ask every one of you to stand, state your name, and profess you want to become a part of this church,” Pastor Michael declared as he grabbed my hand in his and brought me to my feet. I turned to face the congregation along with ten other people. We went down the row. “I’m Te’Nae Washington, and I want to join HSCMBC because I love the Lord.” I stood until an usher came and took me back to my seat. “We as a church family will hold a celebration to welcome each one of you next Sunday. First, y’all have to do three weeks of the new membership class starting this Wednesday night. The class meets twice a week on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 7pm.” Pastor Michael prayed then returned to his seat. When I arrived at church Wednesday night, after dropping the kids in the daycare room, I wandered inside one of the many rooms where the class was conducted by Elder John. That night, I learned so much of what I wasn’t taught as a child even though I’d been going to church all my life thanks to my mama and my grandparents. I was glad the class only lasted thirty minutes. Friday evening, when I strolled inside the room, Elder John, wasn’t there. Pastor Michael was sitting at the front of the classroom with his brand-new leather bible resting on the podium. I scanned his attire. He wore casual pants and a fitted shirt. “Evening, Te’nae. I’m so glad you could make it to tonight’s class,” he stated huskily. His eyes lingered on me longer than necessary. I took a seat in the far back of the classroom. We began with a song of praise, prayer, and then the bible lesson of the night. As the pastor talked, my mind shifted away from his speech. When I looked down, I saw a text message from my best friend. I snuck my iPhone onto my lap by covering it with the bible as I texted her back. Pastor Michael’s question caught my attention when it steered from the word. “Sister Te’nae, how old are you, and where are you from?” I lifted my head and stared into his light brown eyes. “I’m thirty-three and from Sanctuary. I lived in Leviticus, Ga with my mama for the past twenty years then relocated here a year ago.” “What are some of your attributes that you can contribute to the church? Like, what’re you good at?” I questioned if Pastor Michael wanted to know for himself or for the church. “I like teaching middle-age kids, and I like to dance.” Pastor Michael’s smirk grew wide as he licked his lips. “We have adult praise dance ministry if you want to continue to dance.” I don’t know if it was me or what, but I didn’t like Pastor Michael’s tone. It wasn’t what he said but how he said it. “I’ll think about it,” I responded, hoping he would move on to another new member. “Why aren’t you committed?” I cocked my head and took a deep breathe. His question threw me for a loop. As I gazed around the room, all seven pair of eyes were on me, waiting on an answer. “Are we talking about church or my personal life?” “Whichever way you want to answer.” My mouth opened, and I kindly stated, “Because I’m waiting on a godly man.” “See, I like you, Sister Te’nae. You know what you need in your life. Someone to help guide you along with the snares in this world,” Pastor Michael voiced appreciatively, not in a ‘preacher to lost sheep’ way, but in a ‘lusting of the eyes’ way. I rolled my eyes but was glad class ended soon. I gathered my belongings before heading to get my kids from the church daycare. I stopped to pee, but when I walked out of the bathroom, Pastor Michael was leaning on the wall. “Sister Te’nae, I meant to tell you earlier that your mouth is nicely shaped.” His glare hardened as he zeroed in on my lips. My eyes widened at his statement, making it clear he shocked me. I couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. How could the lead pastor say these things to a fellow worshipper? I mean, I was no saint, but I did believe the word, and the word of God didn’t sound like this. This wasn’t the way to bring people in church but to make them run away. I hate to say, but from prejudging Pastor Michael, he was one of the false messengers preaching the word to a group of people, leading them on. I remembered going to a church where the pastor messed with one of the church members’ daughters. What a shame because he had followers who left the church when they voted him out. I liked HSCMBC and its benefits, but I could do without the lead pastor bothering me. I quickly gathered my kids, and we left. I knew next time to drop them with my grandparents or their daddy.