Essence Magazine: Aretha Franklin’s Epic 9-Hour Funeral Reminded Me of Why I Love the Black Church


by Britni Danielle

I skipped church on Sunday. But as a friend told me when I mentioned feeling slightly guilty about it, we’d already spent hours in the house of the Lord.

Much has been written about Aretha Franklin’s epic funeral — the performances, the speeches, the controversy, the marathon length. While many complained (or watched in awe), those of us who grew up in the Black church weren’t surprised it took hours (and hours) to send the Queen of Soul up yonder.

Back in the day, church was a day-long affair. You went from Sunday School to a three-hour service to a fellowship dinner with the congregation, then right back to church again. And if anyone “got happy,” as the old folks called it, and started dancing in the aisles, there was no telling how long you’d have to wait for the preacher to open up the doors and invite new (or backsliding) members into the fold. The church of my childhood was always a marathon, full of prayer and praise and sermons that seemed to stretch on forever. It was nothing to hit the door at 8 a.m. and return home long after the sun had clocked out.

It’s why Aretha’s homegoing felt so familiar, and, in many ways, comforting to me. It reminded me of watching my grandfather in the pulpit, singing and sweating, and slaying souls for God. It reminded me of my mother’s piano playing, and the women in the church humming and hyping the preacher up so he would finally find his way to Calvary. It reminded me of sitting through sweltering summertime services at churches where the air conditioning was bad, but the choirs were so good you couldn’t help but stand to your feet.

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