Sunday, August 3, 2008

Undercroft Church

Putative worshippers are directed to the understory, me among them. I descend with the crowd. How second or third century, I’m thinking. How London Blitz. How reminiscent of fallout shelters, circa the late 1950s. How Fuehrer bunker.

The people are friendly. The people are always friendly. Everyone very politely introduces himself. Herself.

We sit around tables, looking at one another. Round tables. There’s a stage at one end of the room. Drum kit et cetera to the right. Projector attached the ceiling playing announcement slides on the screen beside the drum kit et cetera.

The junior pastor works the crowd. The assembling crowd. A man. More a business man by the way he’s dressed—dark suit, white shirt, dark diminutively patterned tie. A large man. A man who likes his food, there’s no denying. A man who likes to wear his sin on him like a suit. Like a very fat suit.

But he seems. How to say this. He seems prosperous. He seems well paid. He seems quite happy to be himself. He seems to suggest that this particular sin of his is okay. It’s really rather respectable, even if it is a little uncomfortable.

The way he carries himself…. I’m a man of some importance, see? He seems to say.

The songs happen. And the songs—this is a contemporary service, not the main service—are the namby pamby Christian songs that have been playing on Christian radio now for about 30 or 40 years. Maybe longer. Songs that are superficial in word and music. And are played and sung by this particular keyboardist and guitarist and vocalist to be quickly over. Unimportant in our lives, really. An entertainment. A quick dose of music and then we’re out of here kind of lilt to it.

I’m thinking they ought to be playing this in double knit suits.

Communion is an assembly line affair. First pick up the bread. Then pick up the little cup of grape juice. Then down the whole business as you’re walking. Then drop the cup in the trash before returning to one’s seat. A lovely bit of efficiency.

The homily is called the message here. The message. Might as well call it the sound byte. In it, the junior pastor likens Jesus to a modern business executive. Confident, competent, calm, companionable. He actually uses these four words. He asks us to be like him, Like Jesus, I mean.

One man at my table. An older man. A man who plans to go to Dubai, of all places. Vacation in Dubai. Says he really likes this pastor because you can understand every word, he says. Every single word.

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