Cyn­thia Mat­lock re­turns to the church of her child­hood.

The church of my child­hood wel­comed me with peace and fel­low­ship.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY CYN­THIA MAT­LOCK Troup, Texas

You might hear a cow moo­ing be­tween the amens at Brisby Chapel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church. To reach the chapel, which is sur­rounded by farm­land near Jack­sonville in east­ern Texas, you have to turn onto a dirt road that ends in a cow pas­ture. A dust cloud will fol­low your car to a hur­ri­cane fence that en­closes the park­ing lot. Corbin Brisby, a for­mer slave, bought 160 acres of land in the area in 1874 and deeded an acre to the church, which was founded of­fi­cially on Dec. 6, 1881. In the be­gin­ning, the con­gre­ga­tion met be­neath a brush ar­bor. Over the years, a build­ing was con­structed and rooms were added. Brisby Chapel is the church of my 1960s child­hood. At first, I was a bit em­bar­rassed to in­vite city friends from Jack­sonville to our church. The build­ing didn’t have elec­tric­ity (it was too ex­pen­sive to run power lines to the build­ing) or in­door plumb­ing (we had a men’s out­house on the left and a women’s out­house on the right). In the sum­mer, parish­ioners kept cool with hand-held pa­per fans. But then—same as now—once in­side the church with friends and fam­ily, a per­son could find some­thing tran­quil about wor­ship­ping among the mighty oak trees that sur­round the chapel. For a few hours on Sun­day, there was no city noise and no busy con­cerns. So, last year, as an adult with my own fam­ily, I proudly in­vited my loved ones to our church’s an­nual home­com­ing day in Au­gust. The church now has ameni­ties such as in­door plumb­ing, air con­di­tion­ers and a full mod­ern kitchen with a fel­low­ship hall. We en­joyed slow­cooked bar­be­cue, home­made but­ter pound cakes and other home-cooked spe­cial­ties, along with hugs and laugh­ter. It was the same sanc­tu­ary that I re­mem­bered from my child­hood. Fi­nally, I un­der­stood it was not the build­ing that was im­por­tant, but the peace­ful set­ting, thank­ful­ness to God, and fel­low­ship. As we drove away, the car tires crunched over the white gravel. I glanced back at the graz­ing cows sur­round­ing this coun­try church and smiled.

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