INTRODUCTION
I will show thee my faith by my works.
James 2:18
“If the women had been in charge, those columns would be clean— white-
white.” Mother Dorothy Shaw’s tone was dry, matter- of-fact.1 She rolled
her eyes, shook her head, and chuckled slightly. “The men wanted to handle
it, so they did.” We had just walked up to the newly constructed open mau-
soleum at the gravesite of Bishop Robert C. Lawson and Carrie F. Lawson,
his wife. Black smudges dotted the twelve narrow Victorian columns of the
modest structure. A cement floor, sixteen feet by twelve feet, was framed
on three sides by cinder blocks— three rows high. The not- quite-white col-
umns sat atop the cinder- block wall and rose eight feet to the trusses of an
A- frame roof. The back wall was adorned with gray granite tiles from the
floor to near the ceiling. A few feet in front of the back wall, a double-
wide tombstone marked the couple’s resting place. As they did every year,
church folks had gathered at the Hudson Valley, New York, site for the
Annual Found er’s Day Cele bration. Each year, mostly se nior members of
the Harlem- based denomination made the 1½- hour drive from the mother
church to Shrub Oak, New York, to honor Bishop Lawson, who in 1919 had
established the religious organ ization.
On its face, Mother Shaw’s comment could seem as though it was about
the surface, but she was talking about more than a sponge and a little For-
mula 409. In general, the church’s women think they work harder than most
men and are more responsive to the day-in and day- out needs of the
church. One could attribute this to sheer numbers. There are so many more
women than men in the church that the women, of course, handle the bulk
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