“All the Bishop’s Children” — Episode 15
Dwight’s pastoral duties at the church began to increase as more people became members. Dwight was being called on more to speak on social issues in the community of Newhope. He, in his own way, had become a leader among the people as he gave off a spirit of genuine love and compassion for them. He would sometimes drive around town tooting his car horn at the folks, waving and shouting a greeting here and there. “That’s what it’s all about: loving all people with God’s love,” he said to his sons who he often took with him as he rode around town.
Dwight’s air time on the radio was increased to one hour each day. From out of that, he produced a Gospel album in which his mother-in-law played a vital role. He offered to clean the radio station in exchange for free air time. Sometimes DJ and his brother would accompany their father and help him as he cleaned the radio station.
“I know you boys can think of a hundred things you would rather do on a Monday night than help clean up a dirty radio station; but a big part of life is doing dirty jobs and doing things you don’t like to do as you will find out as you get older. Any way, a dirty job is not a dirty job if you do it for the glory of God,” Dwight told his sons one evening when DJ displayed a bad attitude when he was asked to empty the ash trays.
“If Dad thinks I’m going to spend my life emptying ash trays and emptying other people’s trash cans, then he’d better think again,” DJ whispered to his brother when Dwight left the room. “There are a hundred things I could be doing right now.”
“Yeah, like what?” Kennedy asked.
“Like riding my bicycle in the rain, or maybe trying to outrun the train — ”
“Or walking across the beam on the bridge like you’re some acrobat or something,” Kennedy said laughing. “You had better be glad Dad and Mom never found out.”
“Yeah, that was kind of stupid. But I had fun doing it.” DJ chuckled as he resumed picking up the trash off the floor so his father could mop.
“If I was Dad, I’d quit this job and focus on the church,” Kennedy said. “Or focus on just singing and recording. He could make a lot of money doing just that. I’d travel from place to place like the Sensational Nightingales and Diana Ross and the Supremes, and I’d charge people a bundle to listen to me.”
“Aren’t you too young to be talking about making money?” DJ said to his brother.
“Not me. I’m going to make a lot of money and buy me a big house and do whatever I want to do.”
“I hear you. Ain’t nothing wrong with making good money,” DJ said with a laugh. “Well, let’s hurry up ’cause I’m ready to go home and watch some television.”
“I’m glad to see you boys are having fun,” Dwight said walking into the room. “What’s so funny?”
DJ and Kennedy looked at each other. “Just something Kennedy said,” DJ said. “Anything else you want us to do, Dad?”
“I think that’s all,” Dwight said. “You boys can wait in the break room while I mop the floor. While we wait for the floor to dry we can pick the trash up outside, then we’ll be good to go.”
“Okay, Dad,” DJ and Kennedy said as they headed for the break room.
“Man,” DJ said. “I hope there’s nobody outside ’cause I don’t want my friends or anybody seeing me picking up trash outside of a radio station. They’ll laugh me to scorn for sure.”
“So did you boys have fun?” Dwight asked his sons on the drive home.
“I did,” Kennedy said.
“It was okay,” DJ said. “Dad, I thought now that you’re a big time pastor you didn’t have to do this kind of work anymore,” DJ said after some time had passed.
“I really don’t have to do this, son. I’m only doing it to be a help and a blessing to others and to show my appreciation for them letting me have some free radio time.”
DJ was thoughtful on the rest of the drive home.
Sunday afternoons saw the family going on one of their family outings. It was a favorite past-time of Dwight — to surprise the family by taking them on a drive somewhere especially on Sunday afternoons.
“I met this older couple a few weeks ago and I promised them I would take ya’ll to meet them,” Dwight said as he, Rosalind and the children got into his car. “Remember I told you about them.” He glanced over at Rosalind as he backed out the driveway. “They are an older Jewish couple. They used to live in New York. I’m not sure if I ever told you children this, but I used to work for a Jewish gentleman at this fur factory when your mother and I lived in New York. DJ, you were a baby then. All you other children were born in Georgia.”
Rosalind sighed. “This had better be worth my time,” she said. “We had a long day at church. Couldn’t we have just stayed home tonight? It’s going to be dark soon. Do we really have to visit them right now?”
“Once you meet them, you’ll be talking differently,” Dwight said.
“Dwight, we could have visited them on a Saturday when we have all day,” Rosalind said.
“Saturday? You work half the day at the pharmacy and the other half you spend running all across town doing only God knows what,” Dwight said.
“Taking care of household stuff and church business,” Rosalind snapped back.
DJ listened to his parents argue. Kennedy sat quietly beside his brother, remembering his brother’s words to him on one of their trips: You play too much. You must learn to listen more.
There goes Mom again, never satisfied with anything and never wanting to do anything Dad suggests unless she’s in charge of it. Why can’t she just enjoy the ride? DJ thought. When she gets ready she visits her friends and stays out as late as she wants to.
“Children, you’re going to love meeting Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein. You know the Jews have an interesting history. They are God’s chosen people and God has watched over them in a special way. Everything they put their hands on God blesses,” Dwight said. Turning to his wife he said, “We ought to take a special trip to New York and stop by the fur factory where I used to work. I wonder if Mr. Hirsch is still alive? You children would love him. What do you think about that, Rosalind?”
“That would be nice,” Rosalind said. “But I really don’t see any need for it. We would need at least two weeks to make the trip worth it. New York is not a hop, skip, and a jump away. On top of that, you’re too busy. Who would fill in for you while you’re gone?”
“You sure know how to put a damper on things,” Dwight said. “Can’t you look on the positive side of things rather than always looking at the negative side?”
“Maybe if more people looked on the negative side of things we would not be hit with so many surprises,” Rosalind said.
Dwight shook his head. “Which of you children want to visit New York with me in the summer . . . even if we have to leave your mother behind?” Dwight asked.
“I would,” DJ, Kennedy, Rachel, and Jessica all said.
“You have your family roots there,” Dwight said.
“Dwight, stop lying to the children,” Rosalind said.
Here we go again, DJ thought.
“My family came from Alabama, so half of their roots is from right here. The other half is from Georgia where your family comes from. They really have no ties to New York at all.”
“Well, one thing I know and it is this: all of our roots are in Adam and that is all that matters. Isn’t that right, children?” Dwight said with a chuckle. “On a more serious note, it would be nice to take a short trip to New York so you can meet your cousins and your uncles and aunties and visit Coney Island. That’s the first place I took your mother to when we first met. She was all smiles then.”
Dwight looked across to his wife.
Rosalind tried to hide her smile.
“Go ahead and smile. You know you enjoyed that little trip. Those were some good days,” Dwight said. “Remember, I bought you the biggest and most delicious hotdog you ever had. That’s what you told me, so you can’t deny it.”
The children giggled.
“Dad, can you tell us more about when you were living in New York and some of the other places you visited?” DJ asked.
“Yeah,” Kennedy said. “Did you ever march with Dr. King?”
For the remainder of the drive to the Goldstein’s home, Dwight shared with his children his experiences in New York, in Georgia while growing up, and playing baseball while in the Air Force.
“I think that’s what I want to play — baseball,” Kennedy said.
“Not me. I still think football is the best sport,” DJ said.
DJ sat on his bed tugging at the neck of his white shirt. Even his newly washed and pressed black pants felt foreign to him.
This is the Sunday I’ve been waiting for, he thought with a smile. Now I’ll know what it feels like to be baptized.
“Are you ready for this special day?” Dwight asked DJ after the family was seated at the breakfast table.
“Yes, sir,” DJ said with a grin. “I can’t wait to go under the water in the pool at First Baptist Church.”
“It’s more than just going under the water,” Dwight said. That water signifies the washing away of our sins. You’re going to go down a sinner but once you come up out of that water you are a new creature in Christ.”
“Amen,” Rosalind said. “That means you have to put away your childish foolishness and begin acting right.”
“Do you have any idea why we choose to baptize you at twelve years old? And all you other children will be baptized as well when you turn twelve,” Dwight said. “Jesus was twelve years old when he traveled to Jerusalem with His parents. When Mary and Joseph were on their way back home, they couldn’t find Jesus. After searching for Him they found Him in the temple teaching the grown men. Isn’t that something? It would be like you teaching me the Bible.”
“Like I’ve been telling your father, it’s time for us to have our own baptismal pool added on to the church. It makes no sense for us to keep going down to First Baptist Church,” Rosalind said. “Your grandparents used to go down to the river to get baptized. I remember those days. We could only do it during the summer time though. We used to sing, ‘Take Me to the Water to Be Baptized.’”
“Did you get baptized in the river?” Rachel asked.
“Oh, no. When I got baptized we were so-called moving up as black folks,” Rosalind said. “We had a huge, I mean, a giant-sized rectangular portable tub. You had to climb up on a few make shift stairs to get into that thing. In fact, I got baptized here at New Hope by Apostle Morton. Mother insisted that I get baptized at the church where I was christened as a baby. So we took a one week trip from New York just for that. Dimples and two other girls and myself got baptized on the same day. It was a day I’ll never forget, and DJ, don’t you forget this day either.”
The excitement at Love & Peace Apostolic Holiness Church was contagious and it fed into the baptismal services around four that afternoon. This special service opened with their traditional baptismal song:
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
Take me to the wa-a-a-a-t-e-r-r-r-r
To be baptized.
None but the righteous
None but the righteous
None but the ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ighteous
Shall be saved.
DJ listened more closely to the words of the song as he, Johnny Boy, and Marcus waited their turn on the front pew while Sarah-Lee and Mable were being baptized. Noticing Johnny Boy’s trembling hands, DJ whispered to him, “Are you scared, Johnny Boy? This is nothing to be scared of. You just close your eyes real tight, keep your mouth shut, take a deep breath, cover your nose with your hands and plunge under the water. You’ll be up outta there in seconds.”
Johnny Boy nodded his head, but fear was still in his eyes. His hands trembled more. He looked like he was going to throw up any minute. Marcus was baptized first. He had a big grin on his face after he came up out of the water. He waved to DJ and Johnny Boy.
“See there’s nothing to it,” DJ said to Johnny Boy.
He watched as Johnny Boy trudged toward the door leading to the baptismal pool. He had on a white shirt that clung to his already skinny body. And his black pants which were a size or two too big for him were held in place by a belt that almost went around his waist twice.
Oh, boy, DJ thought when Johnny Boy came up from under the water sputtering and coughing. Well, at least he did not chicken out.
DJ had a grin on his face when he came up out of the water. That night as he laid in his bed watching the little black and white television he got when Mama Tess died he thought over the events of the day and things happening in the family as it related to the church and to God.
I got baptized today, but I don’t feel any different. Am I supposed to feel different? I’ve seen grown folks in the church get baptized but I don’t see them acting any differently.
The words of the baptismal song came to him:
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
To be baptized
Do I have religion now that I’m baptized? Is being baptized the same as being saved? What does it mean to be saved? This is confusing.
DJ got out of bed and knelt on the floor, “Lord, show me the light. Please show me the light.”