The play addresses themes of the role of a church in an African-American family and the effect of a poverty born of racial prejudice on an African-American community.
The Amen Corner takes place in two settings: a‘‘corner’’ church in Harlem and the apartment dwelling of Margaret Alexander, the church pastor, and of her son, David, and sister Odessa. After giving a fiery Sunday morning sermon, Margaret is confronted by the unexpected arrival of her long estranged husband, Luke, who collapses from illness shortly thereafter. Their son, David, along with several elders of the congregation, learn from Luke that, while Margaret had led everyone to believe that he had abandoned her with their son years ago, it was in fact Margaret who had left a dysfunctional Luke and pursued a religious life. This information precipitates confrontations between Margaret and her son, her congregation, and her estranged husband, regarding what they perceive as the hypocritical nature of her religious convictions, and the breakup of her family.
After an important conversation with his dying father, David informs Margaret that he is leaving home to pursue his calling as a jazz musician. On his deathbed, Luke declares to Margaret that he has always loved her, and that she should not have left him. Finally, Margaret’s congregation decides to oust her, based on their perception that she unjustly ruined her own family in the name of religion. Only after losing her son, her husband, and her congregation, does Margaret finally realize that she should not have used religion as an excuse to escape the struggles oflife and love, but that ‘‘To love the Lord is to love all His children—all of them, everyone!—and suffer with them and rejoice with them and never count the cost!’’