I just could not bring myself to write about yet another mass-shooting or the sheer, bat-shit lunacy of the Republican candidates. The first is far too depressing and although it is being talked about by better writers than myself, I find it too difficult to hope that anything will change. The second I got totally wrong. I thought a Trump candidacy would be hilarious; how wrong can one be? How much more toxic can this campaign get?
Screeching segue… I went to church today.
Honestly, I cannot remember the last time that I was inside a church – much less intentionally listened to a sermon. The last two times I watched a minister acting in an official capacity were weddings. Both being held outdoors.
For the past few years when I was visiting Hamilton, I noticed that a Pride flag was hung outside Centenary United Church (sorry for such a poor photo, maybe you can see the flag above the pickup truck). Curious, but not entirely out-of-line with the United Church Of Canada.
Now that I am living downtown, the church is just two blocks away from my condo. There are two churches that are even closer to me (an Anglican and a Presbyterian) but these seem to maintain a more – uhm…traditional – set of appearances.
It turns out that Centenary church merged with St. Giles to form New Vision United.
Although there is clearly a large sanctuary in this building, the congregation meets in the basement. I use the word loosely because entering from Main Street puts the meeting room directly in front you. The (former?) sanctuary requires climbing staircases. My guess is that they meet here to make it easier for elderly and infirm members. Cool. I picked up a bulletin and sat in the back.
Members were friendly and welcoming. Since there is only about 40 of them, a new face is pretty easy to spot. Several people greeted me.
I’m not familiar with the church rituals. Things differed substantially from the church my family attended when I was a kid. There was a Lighting Of Our Candles ceremony. The white candle symbolizing Christ’s light in the world. Sure, whatever. Then there was the rainbow-striped Pride colours candle to symbolize the congregation and all their diversity. Alright, nice touch there.
The opening hymn was Like A River Of Tears. No, not the Eric Clapton song. I tried to find the lyrics to this hymn online, but could only find Clapton’s work. You have to see these lyrics to believe it. What a jumble of mixed metaphors and awkward rhymes! Just terrible stuff.
Reverend Ian’s sermon riffed off of Malachi 3:1-4.
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
I am sorry to say this Reverend, but the sermon was every bit a word salad that Like A River Of Tears was. I really want to say more on this, but the above quote came from Bible Gateway (using New Revised Standard Version) and it is not matching well with what was printed in the church NRSV. The key parts of the pastor’s sermon are missing in the above quote.
This reminds of the half-serious, half-joke question, “Why do you need so many versions of the truth?” But I digress.
He opened discussing the first person grammar of the first verse and the third person grammar of the rest. I found that bit interesting – that is the bible study that fascinates me and why I read Robert Price and Bart Ehrman. Sadly, the rest of the sermon went downhill from there, dropping into repeated but still incoherent thoughts about the meaning of the verses. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this recent Friendly Atheist post.
There was a communion. More differences from my childhood experiences. I didn’t partake since it is a silly notion to me and I did not want to – profane, I guess – a ritual that is clearly important to these people.
Reverend Ian greeted me afterward and welcomed me to the church. He wasn’t the least bit put-off when I said I was an atheist. In fact, he agreed that living in Texas would do more to turn people into atheists! Bravo sir! He explained that the church is affirming. I have to admit that I like that word to describe inclusiveness.
Since I mentioned that the Pride flag is what brought me into the church, he introduced me to a lesbian member. She was from Indiana but her partner is Canadian. Like myself, she had to leave the USA due to work visa issues. So the two of them settled in Hamilton after finding New Vision United through online searches.
I was also introduced to a bisexual, polyamourous woman who is married to an atheist (former Catholic). In an odd coincidence, this young woman works in 3D animation! Her husband worked on the short-lived Ugly Americans series. Neat!
Will I return? Well, I didn’t get an answer to how this church squares the circle with the LGBTQ community and the vile hatred poured out by the “holy” texts. Shouldn’t they be killing these people as directed in Leviticus? At least 3 Republican candidates appear to think so…
Stay tuned I suppose!