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—­ t hree rows high. The not-­quite-­white col-
umns sat atop the cinder-­ b lock 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 Found­er’s Day Cele­bration. Each year, mostly se­nior 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 organ­ization.
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 ­ li ttle 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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