You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone – A Story Of Two Cultures

This past weekend I attended two very different theatrical events.

The first event was the Matthew West concert at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

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If you get a chance to see his concert entourage, spend the money and have a great time. 3+ hours of worship and fellowship. Gifted performers, a nice way to spend a Saturday evening. The crowd at Grace was about as Scandinavian as you could get. More blond heads than you’d find in a church in Oslo. Given the population of Minnesota it was about what you’d expect. The crowd was leavened with a few people of other ethnic groups, but in large part it was as white as Lefsa.

Sunday was another story altogether. I attended a production of You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins. The play is a production of 2nd Chance Productions. The show features Kimberly Brown (warning, autoloading sound file!) a noted Gospel singer and, in full disclosure, a friend of mine who has included me in previous productions.

You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone

You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

Written by, produced by, directed by, and featuring William Pierce, it is the story of a clan matriarch Minnie Pearl (Kimberly Brown) trying to enlighten her granddaughter Lakeisha (Cearah Hamilton) in the ways of life, including raising her child without a father in the mix. Ultimately Lakeisha comes to understand that she will miss her grandmother when she’s gone and she’s got to change her life before that happens.

Stage Right.

Stage Right.

The story, actors, audience, and world are the polar opposite of the Matthew West production. If Matthew West were a church in Oslo, this was a church in Harlem.

And that’s where the tragedy lies: both were excellent. Both had Christian values. Both featured great musical performances. Both had talented musicians and performers. Yet the audiences for one would likely not go to see the other.

The real shame is that we are all one family. The production Sunday night featured the folks from the local church’s band. Really great musicians. Fun to listen to in any venue. And the production on Saturday featured folks from the local church’s band that had made it big. What was the difference? Musical styles, worship styles, and skin color.

Underneath both sets of outerwear (skin) were good followers of Jesus. I’m blessed in drifting between the two worlds. I get to enjoy both kinds of worship and music. I don’t feel outcast with either set of friends – KTIS or COGIC. But we exist in isolated worlds. I think God must weep when he sees his people keeping themselves apart. We could all benefit from crossing that line and being with the other group of Christians. 1375106_3523037929988_1476214854_n

Back to the play for a moment. The performances were stellar. I was dazzled by the range of the actors, from the young lead (Cearah Hamilton) to the matriarch of the production (Kimberly Brown.) Comedic timing is something that you are born with, and there were evidently wards of children that had this gift who all worked their way to the stage. I was in stitches repeatedly. Some of the humor is pretty specific to “Black” churches. The foibles and tendencies of the preachers and congregants alike are not usually witnessed in your local Catholic church. Cultural issues are definitely in play here, and my suspicion is that some people not familiar with the worship style at one of these churches wouldn’t get some of the humor. The best solution to that is to attend one of these churches a few times to prepare for the play. Yes, it’s good enough to warrant extra trips to church! (If my pastor is reading this, he’s probably laughing right now. I hope.)

The musical performances were moving both aurally and spiritually. Gifted artists with great voices raised in worship of The Lord. I didn’t know if I was “churching” or watching a play. Really great stuff when they can make you leave the audience and join the cast on stage.

The production is not a “regularly scheduled” event. My hope is that it will be back soon, so that I can take 20 or so of my friends to experience the wonder. And, the message. Because ultimately the message is that we, the adults, need to stand up to the children in our lives and take back the reigns of leadership. We need to help guide them into the proper path for life, both on earth and eternally.

Mr. Pierce and the cast have done a fantastic job with this gem. It’s a joy to watch and a sadness that more didn’t attend. Make sure you keep an eye peeled for it to return. I know I will.

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