Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia

By Deidre Helen Crumbley | Go to book overview

5
FAMILY

THE CHURCH IS “FAMILY.” The notion of family that undergirds this chapter draws on African American usages of the term to refer to relationships of mutual obligation, responsibility, compassion, duty, and loyalty between persons who may, or may not, be connected through conventional ties of descent and marriage. The Church is “family,” then, not only because so many of the saints are actual “blood relations” or marriage partners but also because the saints relate to each other in terms of who brought whom to “the truth.” In many African American churches, members call one another “brother” and “sister,” but in The Church, many saints are siblings. The Church also grew by saints bringing friends and neighbors into the fold. Growth has occurred through recruitment both of conventional kin who belong to extended families and of spiritual kin, who are absorbed through “spiritual adoption.” At its founding, the head of The-Church-as-family was Mother Brown, whose role combined the kin-based position of parent with divinely legitimated authority as God’s mouthpiece. The role of spiritual parent has persisted in the male and female elders, who take their stand at the head of this church family today.

This chapter focuses on emergence of the beliefs, practices, and organizational processes of The Church and on how they changed over time. It falls into three major sections. I begin with the life and vision of its pastor-founder. As the major church figures were women, this section also addresses gender as an organizing element in this emerging institution. The next section analyzes the organizing theme of family, tracing how connections based on conventional kinship and spiritual adoption inform recruitment and, in turn, are informed by boundaries between the Church and the world. The last section focuses on continuities and change in The Church after the founder’s demise in 1984 and until the present.

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Saved and Sanctified: The Rise of a Storefront Church in Great Migration Philadelphia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Call 1
  • 2 - City Tales 29
  • 3 - Saints Tales 49
  • 4 - Becoming Saints 107
  • 5 - Family 139
  • 6 - Response 165
  • Notes 175
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 201
  • The History of African American Religions 212
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