Church, by definition, is a building used for public Christian worship. But if you ask me what church is, I’d refer you to Matthew 18: 20 which says “Where two or three gather in My name, there also will I be.” Simply put: The people gathering with God in their hearts, is the church.
I remember my first time going to Tuesday Verses. I found myself fresh out of highschool with no mentor, no artistic outlet, no spot to foster my struggling art or my need for creative existence. I later discovered that it, the carved out square on second street- invisible to the naked eye, was a place the universe had beckoned I go to.
Weeks earlier, I encountered co- host Dyore at another event and knew he had what I wanted and whatever he had, over-flooded him with joy. So I put on something nice, I did my hair, I grabbed my book of poetry, and off I went. By the time I found a parking spot, the event was already in full motion. Walking up to the front door, the music could be heard from the streets, a full band and a room full of laughter, and the energy of the people hovered in the air. It was the strange feeling of having found your way to something you didn’t even know was yours. Like Home. Like Family. Like Church.
Walking into Tuesday Verses that first night, I saw Dyore. I knew he wouldn’t recognize me but seeing him gave me comfort. Seeing him always gave me comfort almost like the deacon or usher you know will greet you with a tight hug, remind you that you’re welcome here, and let’s you sit wherever you want.
I took a sit near the back and watched as the mic went back and forth between Dyore and a woman I had never seen before. She radiated differently. She didn’t look like she was from here. She had a swagger to her that intimidated me. While I was seeking comfort in and from this space, she was the force that birthed the comfort. The room and all its working pieces seemed to flow in tune to her. Even when the drums weren’t playing, this melanin rich queen with the bright printed pants and the New York edge, was the very heartbeat of this collective. She was its pastor.
From that moment, Lorna Pinckney became a key element if my life. Every week, I would come to Tuesday Verses @ Tropical Soul cafe, order a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad with no onions, blue cheese dressing, and embrace Lorna. That embrace solidified my belonging, week after week. My poems were wack and my confidence was eerily uncomfortable but she had a way of making me feel like I mattered. At 18 years old, I decided that these were my people and this was my church and Lorna would be my pastor.
Some people won’t go to church because they want the wisdom but not the conviction. Some people won’t talk to friends because they want the answers but not the judgement. Some people won’t seek help because they want healing but not the high cost. Tuesday Verses and Lorna Pinckney offered all those things but it came with none of the sides. Just the meat, just an abundance of love. Lorna created a space where people were free to heal, grow, seek, love and encounter God. If that space is not church then I don’t know what is.
I remember one Tuesday night, coming home from the hospital and unable to walk strongly, I asked my guy what day it was. Casually, he responded “Tuesday,” and I retorted “Okay, I’ll just wear this so we don’t be late.” “The doctor said you need to rest” was his reply, to which I responded “Take me to church please.” He drove the car towards Tuesday Verses. Arriving, looking completely disheveled, I’m not sure if people didn’t notice or already understand why I was there but I sat in the back of the room, in pain and let Lorna’s voice rock me to peace.
She would say that the room worked by exchange. Don’t just come in the room and take, you have to give. “Puff puff pass.” So I made that montra a moral building block. Always be willing to share energy. Even the days you have nothing to give, you can draw from a well your previously filled. “It’ll feel like everybody smoked weed and ain’t no body spent no money.”
By that time, Verses had moved to Addis Ethiopian Restaurant on 17th. The spirit of our space shifted but it moved with us. So I started telling testimonies. Each week that I felt strong enough to perform, I’d get on the mic, introduced by Lorna, and thank God for the space and tell the people whatever God had done for me. Lorna would say “She’s a Verses staple and staff member, she always starts off us with a testimony.” Sometimes she would say “I love hearing her testimony,” and I felt most special when she’d request a poem. So I’d tell the crowd that I got a new job or surgery went well or that I loved my son. Do my poem and Lorna hugged me. We sang, we testified, and people preached. That’s church y’all!
But more than that, she made us get up and love on one another. Hug strangers and friends. Sometimes (more than I’d like to admit) Lorna and Verses made us forgive each other too. I cried it out, sweated it out, talked it out, screamed it out, and hugged it out with people I now have a covenant bond with. People I consider family. Life ain’t right without Nickey, Jamilia, Roscoe, Dee, Samia, The 2 Up 2 Down Band, etc.
I’m going to miss Lorna. Not her heart though cause it’s evident in the abundance of friendships I’ve formed since 2006. And not her spirit cause I got that myself. And not her love because she deposited a bit of that in each person she met. But I’m just gonna plain ol’ miss my sister friend. I have my regrets but I don’t think scare to hear them so I won’t say them. I’ll just say I love me some Lorna and there will never be another. For which, I’m grateful to have been apart of the church she built.
Miss you too sis!
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