Every Sunday until I was too cool to do so, I sat with my parents on the second row at church behind the pastor and his wife, Dr. Brown and Teresa Brown. We had the option to tuck ourselves away in the balcony, but nope, my parents chose the front. Needless to say, we were never late. I always dreaded the moment when we had to turn and greet each other because it meant I had to shake hands with the man and woman who led a congregation of thousands. It was bad enough my mother sounded like a hen painstakingly squeezing out a dozen eggs, while Mrs. Brown’s voice was like a soft, southern summer breeze. When Mrs. Brown would turn to me, her smile and gentle voice put me at ease. She was a woman who deeply loved God and the church. She empowered women, wrote books, started an outdoor theater company, and carried herself like a First Lady. How lucky was I to be pastored by a man and woman who unapologetically believed in the influence of Jesus?
I’ll never forget sitting back stage after a theater production that Mrs. Brown not only directed, but performed in, and she looking at me to say, “You are so beautiful. Look how beautiful she is. Isn’t she just so beautiful,” as sweat dropped down her face. She probably didn’t realize that I was that awkward little girl who sat behind her in church, trying to sing over my mom, but she made that teenager feel seen just like she made that little girl feel seen every Sunday — just like she made every woman she ministered to feel seen.
It’s been 12 years since I left the church and the couple who helped to build my faith’s foundation. On Sunday, my dearest and longest friend, texted me to let me know that Mrs. Brown lost her 15-year battle with cancer. I was sitting at a dinner with Church on Morgan, that has been instrumental in shaping evolving faith for 4 years, and fought hard to hold back the tears. Although my faith has greatly changed in ways that my old church wouldn’t necessarily agree with, I still hold its influence close, and Mrs. Brown’s influence so dear. When I wake up feeling the wounds from church, I will always think about Mrs. Brown and the many women of faith who have simply sought to serve and love others regardless of their journey. And I can guarantee they would all look at me and say, "It's your turn, Taylor, to be the woman who you saw in us."