“I never knew what it was like to lose someone you see every day until my brother died,” Paige said. “Gospel music helps you to get closer to your loved ones.”
Some black women, including Tricia Elam, a 58-year-old Buddhist, have found peace in non-Christian faiths.
Elam grew up attending a Protestant church and was drawn to Buddhism in her adult years. She has been practicing the faith for 25 years, starting when she was an administrative law judge and was envious of a co-worker’s resolute calm. When she asked him his secret and he revealed that he was a practicing Buddhist, Elam went to check out a Buddhist center.
She was captivated by the sound of the repetitive, songlike chant, performed collectively by members in a group. At the time, her newfound faith was the main thing that helped her survive an acrimonious divorce, she said. “It just seemed to be something I was hungry for.”
Beyond church walls
Regardless of their brand of faith, many black women are taking their religion out of the institutional halls of worship and into living rooms and basements, where they gather to socialize, pray and share their issues with like-minded sisters. They are also using technology to host weekly prayer conference calls, in which they discuss their problems concerning money, relationships and family.
Kametra Matthews, 33, of Largo hosts a weekly 6 a.m. prayer call — billed as “Divine Divas” — with about 40 women from across the Washington region and beyond.
On Monday nights, she works to prepare the lesson, or devotion, for that week’s call, and by Tuesday afternoon she sends an e-mail that includes the Scripture passages. Matthews leads the call, which features discussion on the Biblical selection. Group members also share praise reports — everyday moments in their lives that they believe are God-inspired — and offer prayer requests, such as healing for the sick or relief from financial difficulties. And they pray together.
“I can cast all my cares on Him,” Matthews said. “Having that personal relationship with Him allows me to do what He created me to do and fulfill His purpose for my life.”
Dawn Carter, 33, of Southeast Washington also said her faith is about having an intimate relationship with God. “It’s not about getting up and going to church or a house of worship once a week,” she said. “It’s about a personal devotion and making those beliefs and practices that the Scriptures teach us a part of your everyday life.”
Carter, a third-year seminary student who also works full time in the admissions office at Coppin State University in Baltimore, said she often prays in private over the problems students confide to her. When she hears back from them that the issue has been resolved, she is not surprised. “I’ll just smile,” she said.
She is sure of the source.
Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.