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Second Sunday

Second Sunday

4.1 27
by Michele Andrea Bowen

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This story is set in St. Louis in the 1970s. The 100th year anniversary celebration of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church is approaching and the pastor has died. How will the church pull itself back together and find a new pastor in time to prepare for the church centennial, let alone survive one more day? It seems as though everyone in the church has an idea about


This story is set in St. Louis in the 1970s. The 100th year anniversary celebration of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church is approaching and the pastor has died. How will the church pull itself back together and find a new pastor in time to prepare for the church centennial, let alone survive one more day? It seems as though everyone in the church has an idea about who the new pastor needs to be and what direction he should be going. In the tradition of Gloria Naylor's Women of Brewster Place, Bowen weaves the hilarious stories of several church members as they plan, plot, and connive to have their choice installed as the next pastor before the anniversary celebration. Second Sunday refers to one of the main worship Sundays in small traditional Baptist churches. In the book, it is the day of the scheduled centennial celebration.

Editorial Reviews

Black Issues Book Review
"Bowen's writing humorously explores familiar terrain for anyone who has witnessed church politics."
Dallas Morning News
"Fresh, passionate and laugh-out-loud funny."
Romantic Times
"Get ready for some Godly grit and gumption, served up hot and tasty."
Greater Diversity News
"A funny, honest drama...Bowen deftly balances romance, church politics, and spirituality."
Midwest Book Review
"Done with wit and intelligence. The cast is a delight."
From the Publisher
"Bowen's writing humorously explores familiar terrain for anyone who has witnessed church politics."—Black Issues Book Review

"Fresh, passionate and laugh-out-loud funny."—Dallas Morning News

"Get ready for some Godly grit and gumption, served up hot and tasty."—Romantic Times

"A funny, honest drama...Bowen deftly balances romance, church politics, and spirituality."—Greater Diversity News

"Done with wit and intelligence. The cast is a delight."—Midwest Book Review

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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423 KB

Read an Excerpt

Second Sunday

By Michele Andrea Bowen

Warner Books

Copyright © 2003 Michele Andrea Bowen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-69445-2

Chapter One

In September 1975, just nine months before Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church was to celebrate its hundredth anniversary, its pastor, Pastor Clydell Forbes, Sr., died. Some church members cried, others immediately started cooking food for the First Lady and her three boys, and Mr. Louis Loomis, one of the senior deacons in the congregation, said out loud what others were secretly thinking: "Why couldn't that cross-eyed, carrying-on stallion of a preacher hang on till the church was a hundred and one? If the boy had to up and die, at the very least he could have had the common decency to get us through the church's hundredth year."

Pastor Forbes was only in his fifties and hadn't occupied Gethsemane's pulpit all that long; just six years to be exact. No one expected that they'd lose him so soon, and at the worst possible time. A church anniversary without a pastor was like a Sunday worship service with no Hammond organ-the pastor was that central-and the centennial was the most momentous occasion in Gethsemane's history. The 3 pastor was the one who would appoint and supervise the centennial committees, oversee fund-raising, and, most important of all, determine the celebration's theme, developing the sermons to herald and commemorate that special day which, for Gethsemane, was the Second Sunday in June. Now all the planning was brought to a screeching halt until the Forbes family and the church family got through the man's funeral. And it was an ordeal-a long tear-jerking service that became a spectacle when three of his "special-interest" women fell out, crying and screaming with grief, and had to be removed by the ushers. Then the congregation pitched in to help his widow pack up the parsonage and get resettled with her children in a new home. So it was some time before Bert Green, the head of the Deacon Board, thought it appropriate to resume business and called a meeting of the church officers to discuss hiring a new pastor.

As they chewed over the list of potential preachers to interview, Bert's wife, Nettie, walked into the room, carrying a tray loaded down with sandwiches, potato salad, pickles and olives, caramel and pineapple coconut cakes and sweet potato pies cooked by one of the church's five missionary societies. Bert grabbed himself a thick, juicy, home-cooked ham sandwich as his fellow Deacon and Finance Board members heaped their plates high with food. Nettie had gotten an earful of their conversation on her way up from the kitchen, and it hadn't escaped her that the men had quit talking the moment they saw her struggling with that tray in the doorway. Now they all sat there so self-satisfied, with that we-is-in-the- Upper Room look on their faces-the same men whose political head-butting had led to the appointment of Clydell Forbes, as spineless and weak a pastor as the church had ever seen. Helping them to their choice of iced tea or fresh coffee, Nettie pressed her lips together, mad enough to want to shake up these smug, never-did-know-how-to-pick-a-good- preacher men.

So she ignored Bert's signals that they were impatient for her to leave. Avoiding his eyes, she asked, as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, "So, who's on this list y'all talking about?"

No one seemed to hear her but Mr. Louis Loomis, the oldest member of both boards, who was chewing on the fat from his ham sandwich. He slipped his reading glasses down to the tip of his nose and resumed where he'd left off. "Like I said, some of these here preachers out of our price range." Bert looked at the paper without acknowledging Nettie, picked up his pen, and asked, "Which ones?" "Rev. Macy Jones, Rev. David O. Clemson, III, Rev. Joe Joseph, Jr...."

Bert started drawing lines through those names until Cleavon Johnson, the head of the Finance Board, stopped him. "Keep Rev. Clemson on the list," he said. "Why?" Mr. Louis Loomis shot back. He and Cleavon Johnson mixed like oil and water. Cleavon might be a business leader who had grabbed hold of the church's purse strings, but to Mr. Louis Loomis he was still the arrogant punk he used to belt-whip. "Because-," Cleavon started to say, then slammed his mouth shut, staring pointedly at Nettie.

Pretending not to notice, Nettie grabbed one of the chairs lined up against the wall, pulled it up to the conference table, and sat down like she belonged there. Then she looked straight at Cleavon and asked, still sounding innocent, "Just what is it that we're looking for in our new pastor?" Cleavon Johnson glared at her, as if to say, "Woman, you way out of line." His "boys" on the Finance Board coughed and cleared their throats, Bert's cue to get his woman straightened out. But Bert locked eyes with Wendell Cates, who was married to Nettie's sister, Viola, and caught his smirking wink.

Wendell's expression told Bert, "Your girl on a roll. Let it be." Bert gave Wendell a sly smile that implied, "I hear you," and sat back to watch his wife give Cleavon a good dose of her down-home medicine.

When it became clear that Bert was not going to chastise his woman, Cleavon decided that he had to intervene. Puffing himself up to his full dignity as head of the Finance Board, he began authoritatively, "Sister Nettie, the senior men of this church, including your husband, have carefully formulated this list based on reliable recommendations ..." Nettie stole a glance at Mr. Louis Loomis, but all he did was adjust his glasses and crumple his napkin, as if to say, "My name is Bennett and I ain't in it."

Taking that as approval, she interrupted, "What I'm asking is, who-"

Cleavon tried to cut her off. "You'll meet our choices along with the rest of the congregation-" "Or rather, what kind of men are being 'formulated' and 'recommended' to be our new pastor?" she continued, as if he were not talking.

"Sister Nettie," Cleavon scolded, "it's time for you to run along, like a good girl. You have your own proper duties as one of the church's handmaidens. We have ours, and you are stopping us from carrying them out." His voice grew stern. "You are not a duly appointed officer of this church, and until you are I think it would be wise on your part to let the heads of this godly house run this house."

Nettie pushed her chair away from the table, rose, and wiped her hands on her apron. Cleavon thought it was a gesture of defeat, that she was accepting his rebuke. But Nettie wasn't conceding defeat or retreating. She was retrenching as she stacked the dirty dishes and mustered up her sweetest, most chastised-woman-sounding voice to say, "Brother Cleavon, only the Lord knows what moves you. Only the Lord knows what makes you so forceful in what you do and say. But I am thankful that you express yourself so openly. Pray my strength."

As Nettie left, Cleavon nodded self-importantly to the group, not realizing she had just told him that he was in a class by himself and too dumb to try to keep it to himself. Bert and Wendell stifled chuckles, but felt unsettled by Nettie's exit. She had to be up to something more than needling Cleavon Johnson. The encounter felt ominous, leaving them both with the impression that Nettie was throwing down a gauntlet, as a declaration of war. When Nettie got back to the kitchen, she slammed her tray down on the counter so hard that she almost broke some of the heavy, mint green glass cups, plates, and saucers that were always in plentiful supply at church.

Her sister Viola jumped up, startled, and Nettie cussed, "I be doggoned and banned from heaven!" "What's all this banging and ugly talking?" Sylvia Vicks demanded. "Nettie Green, you ain't out in them streets. You up in church. And you just best start remembering that." "Sylvia, pray my strength, 'cause I am so mad at our men up in that room." Nettie pointed toward the ceiling, shaking her head in disgust. "I mean, they should have learned something worthwhile about hiring a preacher after Rev. Forbes. But they not even talking about character and morals-" She stopped herself-"Forgive me, Jesus, for speaking ill of the dead"-then continued, "Lord only knows how much money they wasted bailing Clydell Forbes out of his women troubles-"

"What 'women troubles,' Nettie Green?" asked Cleavon's wife, Katie Mae Johnson. "I never heard about the church spending money like that. With Cleavon on the Deacon Board and being head of the Finance Board, I think I would have heard if he was making payoffs to errant women." "Humph," Sylvia interjected. "Don't know how you missed all that, with the way Pastor Forbes had such a weakness for loose-tail women in booty-clutching dresses-bigger and fatter the booty, the better, I hear. And sad thing, Sister Forbes had a big fat rumpa-seat hangin' off the back of her. Don't know why he wanted all those other women, seeing what he had laying up next to him in his own house." "Y'all, we should not be up in this church, talking all in Sister Forbes's business and up under her clothes like that. It ain't right, and it sho' ain't Christian." Viola sighed out loud and raised her hands high in exasperation. "Katie Mae, it's Christian charity to tell the truth about the truth."

"And you should have known something, Katie Mae," Sylvia added. "We all keep telling you that Cleavon keep too much from you. He your husband, and all he ever tell you is that you think too much and read too much and always working your self up over some nonsense. Then he go out in the streets, and when he come home, be acting like he just got through passing out the two fish and five loaves of bread to the multitudes."

Katie Mae sneaked and wiped her eyes with the edge of her apron. Sometimes even your best friends didn't truly understand the magnitude of your pain. She sniffed once and put on a brave face before saying, "Aww, Sylvia, you can't judge my Cleavon by your Melvin. Melvin Sr. tells you pretty much everything and lets you run your house. But in Cleavon's home, the woman is beneath the man. He believe in the strict Bible ways."

Sylvia had to stop herself from quoting one of Mr. Louis Loomis's observations about Cleavon's "strict Bible ways" mess. "That boy always pontificating about a woman being beneath a man 'cause his tail always so intent on being on top of one."

"Well, it don't matter what Cleavon believe," Nettie said. "The fact is, he used church money to get the Reverend out of trouble. But it ain't just the money that makes me so mad-it's our men using they man pride and they man rules to pick our preachers, acting like I committed a sin just by asking them a question. Look at us down here in this hot kitchen, fixing food and washing dishes, while they upstairs eating, talking, laughing, and acting like they the Apostles. This is our church too. It just ain't right. And I ain't gone stand for it no more."

"But what you propose to do?" Viola asked. "We not on any of those boards. So I don't see how we gone select a preacher."

"That's right," Katie Mae said. "You doing all this big bad talk and you don't even know how to go from A to B." Nettie took off her apron and closed her eyes, praying for direction. When the inspiration came, she snapped her fingers. "Viola, Sylvia, Katie Mae-here's what we'll do. Our mens thought they could put me in my place. So what we gone use is our women's place to make them do right. We're gone get us a woman's secret weapon."

"And what in the world would that be?" Sylvia asked. "Who is more like it," Nettie stated. "We need someone who's an expert when it comes to sniffing out a man. Someone who can tell us which one of those preachers on they list is decent. And I know just the secret-weapon girl who can help us. My neighbor, Sheba Cochran."

"Sheba Cochran?" Katie Mae snapped, incensed that Nettie would even form her mouth to utter Sheba's name in her presence. "The heifer with all them baby daddies? Why that party-hearty club girl used to be one of Cleavon's women!" For a moment, none of them breathed. Ever since high school, Cleavon had believed he was "fine as wine and every woman's kind,"and even though he was staring forty in the behind, he was still running around and chasing tail like his life depended on it. And no matter what Cleavon did, Katie Mae defended him. It infuriated her friends, but if Katie Mae pretended he acted right, they felt obliged to hold their peace. Now the truth was out.

"I didn't mean to hurt you," Nettie said softly. "And you have a right to be angry." "Why would you or any other married woman even want to cut your eyes at that thang?" "Katie Mae, there's something you should know. Cleavon lied to Sheba." Katie Mae opened her mouth, but Nettie went on before she could speak. "Cleavon met Sheba over in East St. Louis at the Mothership Club. He claimed to be legally separated from you, and she honestly believed his marriage was over. So did I, until I learned he was still spending some nights with you. When I told Sheba, she broke it off. Remember Cleavon's black eye?" Katie Mae nodded.

"Sheba did that, while she was cussing him out. I've known Sheba since we were kids, Katie Mae. She's never purposefully gone with a married man." Tears streamed down Katie Mae's face. She was hurt, angry, and convicted in her heart all at the same time. She knew how Cleavon operated. And her grandmother constantly told her: "Baby, just a 'cause you let Cleavon run you, don't mean nobody else will. You better understand that there more folks than not who want to set his tail straight." Sylvia handed Katie Mae a paper napkin and then gave Nettie the eye, hoping she could think of something to soften the blow she had just delivered. Nettie got the message and went to Katie Mae, taking both of her hands in her own. "I'm so sorry," she said.

When Katie Mae regained her composure, Nettie added, "Please trust me about Sheba. Cleavon picked Clydell Forbes, and he ain't picking our new pastor. But the fact is, none of these men-including Bert, Wendell, and Melvin Sr.-have the sense to find a man who can lead the church, bring us together for the anniversary, and do right by the women. It's got to be up to us."

Katie Mae sighed heavily. Nettie was right. "And for that we need Sheba," Sylvia said. "Yes," Viola chimed in. "That Sheba knows men like I know my name. If one of these preachers on they list is bad, she'll find him out." "And if one is a good man?" Katie Mae asked. "Then she'll know that, too," Nettie answered. "She the one always told me to quit worrying about Bert. Said, with a good man, if you take care of him right, he ain't going nowhere. But with a bad man, ain't nothing you can do. Whatever he looking to find out in the street ain't about you. It's just some of his own mess that he ain't ready to deal with." Katie Mae sighed again, as if taking Nettie's words to heart.

"So, are we agreed?" Viola asked. They all clasped hands to seal the bargain. "Now how do we plan to get Sheba next to these preachers?" Sylvia said. "Some of them slick as slick oil and liable to slip from a tight spot. And what if our men catch her East St.


Excerpted from Second Sunday by Michele Andrea Bowen Copyright © 2003 by Michele Andrea Bowen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Michele Andrea Bowen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an M.A. in History and a M.P.H. in Public Health. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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Second Sunday 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Dimples80 More than 1 year ago
This was a book club selection. The characters were well-developed and quite believable. This was an entertaining story line; kept my interest; makes a bold statement about the faith of church people and their belief in the power of prayer. When I began reading, I read it straight through to the end; couldn't put it down. The reader's study guide at the end is helpful.
seashel4us More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and it was so great I could not put it down, it reminded me so much of so many churches, drama, drama and more drama.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michele Bowen is a refreshingly new voice in African American literature. She continues what she began in 'Church Folks' with her humorous accounts of what goes on in our Black churches with some of the most wonderfully colorful characters since Langston Hughes' Jesse B. Semple. Your book, 'Second Sunday', set in the 70s and focusing on the women of the church more so than the pastor and the deacons of the church, is entertaining, without being x-rated and makes a great gift for grown folks and teens. Michelle, put your work on audiobooks--we love to hear you tell your stories for you do it like no one else can. Angela of Imani Literary Group--Atlanta
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bowen couldn't have been more on the money. Second Sunday is a book than many African-American churches can relate to. It also gives a message that we should strengthen our ties within our churches and within our families. This is a book that I do not mind reading over and over again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so funny! It tells a beautiful story of family, love, forgiveness, and acceptance! With some down home black folk church and drama thrown in! Read you will not be disappointed, you won't be able to put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Evette Patterson More than 1 year ago
Great book. I could not put the book down. I could relate to some of the characters because they were so simular to some of my church folks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book for my niece. She loves to read, enjoyed it very much felt that it was heart warming and interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This books kept you laughing! For those who are church members you immediately identify with the characters. For those who do not attend church, you're still drawn into this book and can relate to the characters. I couldn't stop laughing. My only complaint is the novel tend to amble on needlessly in some parts, where a sentence or two was sufficient. The writer sometimes became too wordy and over descriptive. I found it to be quickly wrapped up without an explanation. Overrall, it was a good and entertaining read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a nice story, many parts of the book were very entertaining. The story was pretty real, it showed some of the drama that some black churches really have dealt with (very believeable story line). The characters were pretty amazing both new and former characters (from church folk) we all could relate to many if not all. I was really into this book, but was pretty disappointed as it began to climax. The ending just seemed too rushed where the writter was trying to do too many things in the last few pages. There were times were she was very descriptive about things that just didn't seem to be very necessary. My over all feel for the book was good, but I was let down some after having read church folks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story was so humorous. I loved the way it was written, and the way the characters were developed. It was a nice touch to add a few characters from Church Folk. The author did a nice job of incorporating them without it being overkill. I look forward to this author writing another book. I'm ready to laugh again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed the book and could not wait till the end, This is how folk act in the church when they think they own it. Those folk who operate in the box will see themselves in this book, I was amazed at the interim pastor relationship with the young lady in the book, his handling of his relationship with Sheba was worldly, I was disappointed by his actions. However, I loved the strength most of the woman had in this book. I would recommend it, to christians and non christians,
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with Second Sunday. The overall plot and content wasn't as good as 'Church Folk'. The story had some VERY comical moments but this book just didn't have the quality her first book had. I had to go back to figure out who was who and the general theme wasn't as hard hitting and different than her first book. It was a cute creative move to tie in some of the characters from 'Church Folk' into Second Sunday but that still didn't give the book the boost that it desperately needed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought Second Sunday was an excellent book. The characters were very real and the storyline was interesting. The book integerated characters from the author first book 'Church Folk' which I thought was a neat twist. Second Sunday kept may attention through every page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was looking for a little more when I thought about happenings in OUR church. But what I was looking for just wasnt there. There was drama, but at the same time, it just wasnt enough. All of the different characters with different names were throwing me off. I had to keep looking back to see just who was who and related to whom .
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its been a long time since I read a book in two days, but it was so easy to do with Bowen's work. I laughed, I cried and shouted Amen a couple of times. I am glad that someone can write material that is entertaining and real!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a novel you will hate to put down, once you began to read it. It's a book you will take with you everywhere, thinking you may be able to snatch a minute to read. I loved it and loved sharing it. I have advised a number of my friends to purchase it.It is truly entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an exceptional read. The book is basically about the trials and tribulations that go on in the African American churches today, along with a lot of humor as well. I enjoyed this novel as much as I enjoyed her first novel Church Folk. So if you enjoyed her first novel then you should try this one as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michelle Bowen has another best seller - Second Sunday was to entertaining, I laughed, I cried, I even testified. THis is an excellent book - I eagerly await her next novel.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1975 St. Louis, in nine months a special SECOND SUNDAY will mark the centennial birthday of the founding of the Gethesemane Missionary Baptist Church. However, tragedy strikes when Pastor Forbes suddenly dies. Though the fifty something Pastor occupied the pulpit for six years, the congregation is in a tizzy over selecting someone new in time to lead the gala.

Wealthy Deacon Johnson parades a series of candidates that only seems to divide his church peers. The women, tired of male foolishness, turn to estranged member single mother Sheba Cochran to insure that the individual who heads the church has solid morals and beliefs. Anyone else could cause the death of the church. Exposing these losers of Johnson proves easy until she meets George Wilson. He not only believes in God, he believes in love, especially with Sheba. Now he needs to persuade her regardless of who becomes pastor they belong together in the eyes of God.

Though the selection process is the running link throughout the tale, SECOND SUNDAY is a series of short stories focusing on congregation members as they struggle in life and worry that the place they turn to for solace will soon be gone. As she did with CHURCH FOLK, Michele Andrea Bowen provides a deep look at an urban African-American church that is done with wit and intelligence so that the reader obtains an insightful tale. The cast is a delight as Ms. Bowen avoids easy stereotyping and instead uses vignettes so the characters seem genuine. Though the action is limited, fans will appreciate this astute 1970s based drama.

Harriet Klausner