Review of Irette Y. Patterson, “Early Morning Service”, Strange Horizons 19 Feb. 2018: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.
This story struck me as a bittersweet reflection on the nature of present-day Christianity. Our protagonist is the stereotypical “old church lady” at an African American church in Georgia, though she’s anything but ordinary. She has some kind of power, fueled by faith and worship. But the church she patronizes is slowly dying, and so, therefore, is she. When the story opens, she can’t even conjure candy anymore.
She has a rival, of sorts. Someone who “feeds” off the stadium-seated megachurches. He is still powerful, still able to use the abilities that Miss Geneva, our main character, has lost in her quieter, more personal world. The story isn’t 100% clear on who he is, but it’s implied that he’s some form of Jesus, though not the humble, kind Jesus Christianity teaches. This one is associated with coldness, and “ebbing power” attracts him.
But there’s still hope here, a reprieve in the kindness of a child. Miss Geneva has a strong will to persevere, and the end rests on her determination: not today. She will not give up today. “Early Morning Service” is a quiet, yet powerful tale.