And it’s only been half a day…..

March 11, 2007 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Day 5: Sunday, 11 March 2007, Laura | Leave a comment

This morning was by far my favorite experience. The conference, don’t get me wrong, has been amazing and helping me to grow on my spiritual path. But today was once again the word becoming flesh. A few days ago we all signed up for a parish to visit on Sunday for church. We weren’t really told anything about the church’s other then if they were English or non- English speaking. I signed up for some church and wrote it down on the back of my name tag. However, when I got up this morning I saw Father Michael get on a different bus and after a very quick conversation with God decided to skip out on where I was supposed to be and instead go with him. I like to think of a phrase a good friend and fellow business owners says. “Pray like it’s all up to God, Work like it’s all up to me.” I was not disappointed. As we neared the area where we would be worshiping we started to smell the township. It was not pleasant. Then as we continued to drive we saw why. There were big big piles of garbage on the street corners and some piles were burning to lessen the amount of actual stuff, I assume. The houses we drove past looked like the houses you see on the commercials with  the children living in poverty stricken communities. And unlike the last time we went out into a community there was no warm welcome for us . . . outside that is.

When we got into the church we were greeted with incense, loud singing, clapping, and dancing as if to beat the devil right out of you. It was amazing. They lead us up the isle as the procession and sat us all in the front two pews. (It’s a small church so the pews weren’t long. There were fewer than 15 of us there.) I sat with a friend from the USA, and a priest and bishop from Brazil. (Lucas, that’s your dad, the Primate!) In front of us were two women from the choir and then the rest of our crew. The singing and dancing didn’t stop. The priest of the parish, a large black man who fits every wonderful stereotype of an African-American preacher, greeted us each individually with hugs and kisses. After the songs were done he had each of us announce our names and where we were from. The parish children behind me went crazy when Brazil announced themselves. (Apparently the soccer coach here is Brazilian.) Then the preacher actually asked Father Michael to come up and preach. (Read about Father Michael in my entry from Day 4). They started with a song again and the deacons came down to get him and give incense all over his pathway again. They put up a podium and bible and started cheering. When they got quiet he started. I cannot summarize everything he said, but it was in the top five of my favorite sermons ever. He preached for over an hour and you never would’ve thought it. After he sat down they went right into another song and brought up the bread and wine. The most amazing thing happened then. The priest called up all ordained people from our group (about 10 of us) and then they all laid hands on all the people who were carrying the bread and wine. It was heart breaking and beautiful, I’ll post pictures later. After that was done more singing from these amazing voices who obviously have never had any formal training but were better than American Idol any day of the week. During this song everyone made their way up to the front by rows dancing and putting money in the offering plate. I really must add in here that I cannot describe the atmosphere nearly as touching and lively as it was. So just keep in mind that all the acolytes (all children and young adults girls on the right, boys on the left) and people who could be considered ushers (they brought us drinks in the middle of the service like waiters!) were dancing, laughing, and having the time of their lives. I took many pictures of this as well as the children under 10 sitting behind and at one point with me.

We all took communion while dancing and singing for what could’ve been another half an hour. And much like the sermon words cannot explain what it was like but it was in my top three communion experiences ever. After communion all the children who had eventually made their way outside to play came in droves to the rail. There were no fewer than 30 kids and babes in arms. All the congregation held up our hands and blessed the children, it was the face of God right in front of me, and of course it brought down the house.

The rest of the service continued in what may have been no particular order to wrap up. More dancing, a big circle of women playing hand made instruments, and the men behind them clapping and singing. It seemed even though it certainly was not “orderly,” to flow exactly as everyone there knows it does. We filed out of the church and the kids who were sitting beside me played with me in the dirt for a bit. My favorite little boy no older then 6 was Timba, and he made me want to stay there for a very long time. However, we had to get back on the bus. Now up until this point I had forgotten about wanting to talk with Father Michael. But after we left the township and started to make our way back home I walked up to his seat and tapped him on the shoulder. He invited me to sit next to him and I proceeded to tell him the whole story I posted earlier about thinking he didn’t belong on “our” bus. The emotions he had stirred up in me and questioning how I could call myself a Christian with those thoughts in my head. I told him all about Charlie who he reminds me of back home. And then I just cried in my hands. Have you ever started telling someone something that’s really hard to say, and once you start talking the words won’t stop. It’s almost like an avalanche of language. Well that’s exactly what happened to me. As if it were in a movie when my emotions started running out of my mouth the bus stopped and it was very quite. It was just Father Michael sitting with me, myself crying and telling him how I first saw him, and the entire bus of 15 fellow Anglicans hearing my confession. I knew they were listening, they couldn’t not listen it was so quite except for me. I couldn’t stop talking, believe me a tried. So instead I got it all of my chest made my face a mess with tears and then walked back to the back of the short bus we were on and sat down, looked out the window and cried most of the way home. And that’s it. Anti-climactic at the least. I was even thinking while in the moment, someone else say something . . . Comment on the words I spoke, tell Father Michael how you too felt the same. But nobody did, and that was just fine. I see now why some Catholics enjoy confession. I feel lighter and less guilty overall. But I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of myself trying to decide which way am I falling. That may not sound like a good thing to some, but I assure you it is. Because either way I chose to fall, I’m walking on God’s path.


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