“All the Bishop’s Children” — Episode 7
Rosalind received a phone call from her mother three weeks later. “I’ll be riding down with Elijah next time he’s going down that way. The family in Alabama says the house is almost ready.”
“That’s… good news,” Rosalind said. Elijah was Dwight’s brother who came to visit twice each year.
“I’ll be closer to you real soon,” Rosalind’s mother continued. “Then I’ll get to visit my grand-babies more often. Rosa, I’m so glad. You all still want me to come over?”
“We’ll be looking forward to seeing you, Mother,” Rosalind said a little despondently. I forgot she could come and visit any moment. I hope this does not hinder us from what we are doing at our new church. Rosalind said a hasty goodbye to her mother and resumed looking over her Bible lesson. Maybe it won’t be that bad. She could help with forming a choir and even teach one or two of the Bible lessons while she is here. It could work out to my advantage after all.
Rosalind’s mother settled down in Augusta, Georgia, with her daughter and son-in-law two Saturdays after her phone call to Rosalind. She planned on spending at least two weeks with them before moving on to Fairhope, Alabama, where she planned on spending the remainder of her years. She was in church with her daughter her first Sunday there.
Although the women of Church of the Living God Pillar of Truth continued coming to the Tuesday evening meetings, it seemed that too many of the regulars were absent for Sunday services. It did not take Apostle Dunbar long to figure out what Rosalind and her friends were up to. “Has she said anything else to you?” he asked his wife.
“No. Nothing more. But, I didn’t feel the same energy in our last two meetings. I don’t know what they’re up to,” Ketura said.
“I’ve noticed a coolness among the women, in general,” Apostle Dunbar said. “Something is brewing.”
Apostle Dunbar and his wife stopped by Rosalind’s house one Sunday after services. She was not home.
“I was under the impression she was worshipping at your church today as at other times,” Dwight said to Apostle Dunbar and his wife. “Mama Tess, did she say anything to you about going somewhere else?”
“No, she didn’t,” Mama Tess called from the living room.
“She hasn’t been in the services for the past month. We thought maybe she was sick or something,” Apostle Dunbar said. “I did hear that she may have started her own church. Do you know anything about that?”
“That’s news to me,” Dwight said. “But like I said, I thought she was worshipping with you all. Her mother even went to church with her today; she’s visiting with us for a while.”
“Let her know we stopped by,” Apostle Dunbar said as he and Ketura said goodbye.
“Now, what was that all about?” Dwight said to his mother. “Where could that woman be going for a whole month without letting us know what she’s doing? And how in the world could she start a church? Where would she get a building? She had better have a good explanation for her absence.”
“You know Rosalind has always been restless,” Mama Tess said.
“And she’s been taking the children with her. What if something were to happen to them? And she took her mother with her this morning. I wonder if Mother is in on whatever she’s doing?” Dwight said.
“We’ll be finding out soon,” Mama Tess said as the noise of a car pulling into the driveway reached their ears. Mama Tess adjusted the pillow behind her back and tucked her afghan around her legs. She interlocked her fingers and rested her hands on her lap.
“Hello! Hello!” Rosalind said as she walked into the room. “Let me get the children something to eat before I put them down to sleep. It’s been a long day, but a great one.”
“You do that because it’s going to be an even longer night,” Dwight said. “Have a seat, Mother.”
“Dwight, Mama Tess, you both should have been out to worship with us this morning. Rosalind has something going on,” Mother said.
“What are you referring to, Mother?” Dwight asked.
“We worshiped at Tammi’s house. Tammi delivered a fiery message. Rosalind preached up a storm herself,” Mother said. “I sure hate that you missed it. You would — ”
“You all did not go to Pillar of Truth today?” Dwight asked.
“No. We went to Tammi’s house. They started a new church. I thought you knew about it,” Mother said wide-eyed.
“You said Rosalind preached up a storm? What is going on? I don’t know anything about that,” Dwight said. “Rosalind, get in here!”
“She was telling me how they started about a month ago,” Mother said. “They started with a few women, but I saw a couple of men there today. She said they are the daughter church of Pillar of Truth. I tell you, that’s a good thing they have going on.” Mother sat down on the couch beside Mama Tess. “Now, I’m wondering why a pastor would not want to give the women some say on Sunday mornings. Back at St. Paul’s, as you well know, Pastor Relick let the women speak for as long as they were led to. It’s a blessing to hear from someone who is going through the same thing that you are going through.”
“Rosalind, get in here now!” Dwight said.
“Quiet down, Dwight. The children are taking a nap,” Rosalind said as she hurried into the living room. “What’s so urgent, you had to holler like that?”
“What’s this about you going to this church at Tammi’s house and you preaching?” Dwight said. “Mother said you just left Pillar of Truth and started your own thing behind Apostle Dunbar’s back.”
Rosalind started to protest.
“Are you going crazy? And when did you plan on telling me?” Dwight said.
“Soon enough,” Rosalind said.
Mother looked shocked. “You mean to tell me Dwight knew nothing about this?”
“You’re darn right I didn’t know anything about it,” Dwight said. “This explains why you suddenly had to take care of something last Sunday when I went with you to Pillar of Truth, and why you rushed off saying you had to stop by Tammi’s house the previous Sunday. Now that I think about it, it did take you a long time getting back from her house.”
Mama Tess and Mother looked at each other.
“Rosalind, I told you to leave things as they are at that church,” Dwight said. “Everyone is happy with the way Apostle Dunbar is running things. I specifically told you not to go stirring anything up. What kind of treacherous woman are you?”
“There is nothing treacherous about what I’ve done,” Rosalind said. “I had a vision, and I could not fulfill that vision at that church, so, I left that church and I am starting my own.”
“Well, apparently, you are causing some problems because Apostle Dunbar and his wife stopped by earlier inquiring about you and wanting to find out why you hadn’t been attending services,” Dwight said. “How many people were at this church you say you’ve started?”
“You don’t need to concern yourself about that,” Rosalind said. “Jesus said where two or three are gathered in His name He is in the midst, and He did not specify male or female.”
“There were about fifteen people there,” Mother said. “And a couple of the women said they enjoyed being there better than at Pillar of Truth.”
“What? You stole some of the women from Apostle Dunbar’s church to join your little rebellion?” Dwight said. “I can’t believe this.”
“Rebellion?” Rosalind said incredulously. “Those women have a mind of their own. They can make their own decisions. They chose to leave Pillar of Truth. You’re just trying to put me on a guilt trip because I’m moving forward in serving God without your help.”
Everyone fell silent.
After a few seconds, Mama Tess cleared her throat. “Do you remember when Miriam, Moses’ sister, questioned how Moses was leading the Israelites? She was bold enough to get Aaron to join her in speaking against how Moses, under God’s direction, was running things. God did not take too kindly to what Miriam did. He immediately struck her with leprosy.”
“Mama Tess, I’m not staying there and causing a problem,” Rosalind said. “I quietly left so as not to cause a problem.”
“But you took some of Dunbar’s people with you — members who were not even thinking of leaving the church before you got there. God’s not pleased with that and He’s not going to bless you for that,” Mama Tess said. “In fact, He’s not going to bless your church because of the way you went about putting it together.”
Rosalind remained silent.
“You should shut down the whole thing and go apologize to Apostle Dunbar,” Mama Tess continued. “God does not have a problem with you starting an all-women’s church if you want to call it a church. But if I understand my Bible, He wants each church under the authority of a man, and He wants women to be silent. That is not to say women can’t help. You’re going to have nothing but cacophony in your church because you’re not silent.”
“That means silent in spirit,” Rosalind said.
“Well, if you’re silent in spirit, then you’ll be silent in your words and actions,” Mama Tess said. “And you shouldn’t call whatever you have started a church either.”
“You don’t have to worry about her apologizing,” Dwight said “I’ll make sure she apologizes to Apostle Dunbar and his wife.”
Looking to her mother, Rosalind said, “Mother, you were all excited about it when you saw what was going on. Tell them there’s nothing wrong with us forming an all-women church starting out. Children are going to come; you saw some there. Eventually, the husbands are going to start attending with their wives. After a few months, we’ll begin looking like a real church.”
“I can’t believe you just said that. After all Mama Tess just said, you are still talking stupid,” Dwight said.
“I was excited, Rosa, until I found out how you went about forming this church,” Mother said. “You didn’t tell me everything. I have to agree with Mama Tess. It’s not the actual formation of the church, it’s how you went about doing it. God’s not going to bless that. I’ve told you many times that God does not play. But I do know that He’s a merciful God, and He’ll extend His mercy for a long time if you cry out for it. Yes, ma’am, my God is a merciful God, and His mercy extends for a long time. He’s — ”
Rosalind rolled her eyes and sighed. By her mother’s tone she knew she was getting ready to start preaching a little herself.
“You’re right, Mother,” Dwight said. “God is a merciful God. I’m sure Rosalind fears God enough to fix this mess she’s caused before God starts whipping her behind. Now, won’t you?”
Rosalind’s only answer was to march into the kitchen. “I think the roast is ready,” she said. “I can handle the rest of the dinner by myself.”
Dwight, Mama Tess, and Mother exchanged glances. They heard pots and pans banging in the kitchen.
“Keep it quiet in there!” Dwight said.
“I’ll keep it quiet,” Mother said, starting to get up.
“No, leave her be,” Mama Tess said. “It’s best she shoves the pots around than shove us around. She’s not stupid. I think she’ll come around to do what’s right.”
Dwight thought the tension in the air at dinner was as thick as the roast he was trying to slice.
Mama Tess and Mother spoke mostly to their grandchildren as they ate. Dwight’s attempts at conversation were met with smirks and eye rolls by Rosalind.
When dinner was done, each retired to their room except for Dwight, who watched television until it was late. When he finally climbed into bed, his wife said, “You need to be a bit more quiet; people are trying to get some sleep.”
“My watching TV late at night has never disturbed your sleep before,” Dwight said, “unless your conscience is bothering you and keeping you awake. Or maybe you want it quiet so you can lie awake, scheming and plotting without being disturbed. No wonder you wake up so irritable.”
“Just go to sleep,” Rosalind said.
“I expect you to make things right with Apostle Dunbar by disbanding that church immediately and apologizing to him tomorrow for trying to destroy his church,” Dwight said. He nudged his wife after receiving no answer. “Did you hear me?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Are you going to do it?”
“Look, Dwight. I’ll do what I feel led to do. Okay? Now, go to sleep. I’m sure you plan on going in tomorrow because I don’t think we’ll want to be around each other all day.”
The following day during his lunch break, Dwight stopped off at the Pillar of Truth Church.
“I’m glad I caught you,” he said as Apostle Dunbar invited him into his office. “I won’t keep you long.”
“How can I help you?” Apostle Dunbar asked.
“What you heard is correct. My wife got the stupid notion to start a church headed by women just for women. It took her mother to tell me what was going on. She went to this church, which they are holding at someone named Tammi’s house, yesterday.”
“I see,” Apostle Dunbar said. “God told me something was going on.”
“And, I hate to tell you this,” Dwight continued. “But most of the women worshipping with her are from Pillar of Truth.”
“I thought that much,” Apostle Dunbar said.
“I apologize for all the trouble she’s causing,” Dwight said. “She can be stubborn at times, but I just didn’t know she would take it this far. I thought she at least had that much respect for the church of God, and — ”
“Brother,” Apostle Dunbar said, “you don’t need to apologize for your wife’s behavior. She can take care of her own apology if she is sincere and wants to repent. Now, I respect you as a man and as her husband — and please don’t take this the wrong way — but you need to get control of what goes on inside your house. I heard your wife was dissatisfied with how things were going at Mt. Providence and that’s why she started coming over here.”
Dwight nodded. “I told her she needs to disband that church,” he said. “I’ve been praying all morning for her not to give in to her flesh and the devil,” Dwight said.
“That’s right. Brother Dwight, you do what you need to do with her as your wife. I’m going to do what I have to do with her as a pastor protecting his flock,” Apostle Dunbar said. “She is banned from entering this church at any time, no matter the occasion, until I receive a sincere verbal apology from her to me, to my wife, and possibly to the church family. I also do not want her to have any contact with my wife or any of the other ladies in the church until she apologizes.”
“I’m with you on that. But why does she have to apologize to the church?”
“She has caused disruption among some of the families. A few husbands and wives are already at odds with each other because of this, and as you know, if there is unrest in the families that make up the church, there’s going to be unrest in the church body.”
“You’re right,” Dwight said, standing up and extending his hand. “As you can imagine, there’s much unrest in our house right now. Please be praying for us as I talk with her again.”
“I sure will,” Apostle Dunbar said, giving Dwight’s hand a firm shake. “God bless. By the way, you are welcome to visit us here anytime. We still want you to minister to us. Don’t let your wife’s behavior dampen your spirit and hinder the calling God has on your life.”
Later that evening, Dwight reiterated to his wife Apostle Dunbar’s conditions for things to be made right. “You would not listen to me and now look at the shame you brought upon yourself and on this family,” he said.
Rosalind rolled her eyes.
“And don’t you go behind our backs to try to talk with his wife to get her to smooth things out for you. They have a great relationship and I don’t want you messing it up as you’ve already done for some of the families at Pillar of Truth,” Dwight warned his wife.
Rosalind looked at her husband. “Just because you went sticking your head in matters that do not concern you, I am not going to apologize. But knowing you, I’m sure you’ve apologized for me already.”
“It’s not the same and you know it. You’ll be the talk of this town and I don’t mean in a positive light either. If I were you, I would not show my face at any church around here until you make things right.”
“You’re not me,” Rosalind said. “Stay out of my business. Maybe if you had just gone ahead and started our church we would not have to deal with this.”
“What do you mean by ‘we’ and ‘our’?” Dwight asked.
“Yes. We. Our. We’re husband and wife, aren’t we?” Rosalind snapped.
“Oh, so now you want to talk like that? Well, since we’re supposed to be one, we ought to be in agreement with each other, so you should have no problem apologizing. Is that not right?” Dwight said.
“Huh!” Rosalind said.
“Until you make this situation right,” Dwight continued, “you and I will never have a great relationship. Things just won’t be the same and things have to change.”