Monday, April 20, 2015

The Calling Of The Church

It was during a tea break at a seminar in KK—and by the way, seminars have too many tea breaks—a little over a month ago when a friend suddenly asked me an interesting question. She goes to the same church as Mia and JJ, and she wondered why she'd never seen me in church! To be honest, it's been so long ago since the last time I set foot in any church, I can roughly guess that maybe it's been at least 20 years. 

I did, however, force myself to go to church every Sunday for a couple of months (yes, I know this is surprising to some of you), and although it was a very long time ago, I can still remember some of the peculiar things about the church. For example, I can still remember about entering a claustrophobic-tiny booth to confess to the priest of the sinful things that I've committed recently; and then instructed to go back to my seat to say 10 "Hail Mary"s to wash off my sins. As I said, that was a very long time ago, but I'm not sure if it's still done the same way today.

There are other peculiarities about the congregation. There is, I think, what's called the First Reading, and then the Second Reading (of verses from the Bible); sermons by the priest, prayers and singing by the congregation. Then there is the series of standing up and kneeling down in between all those. This is based on my experience in a Catholic church, and I don't rule out that the practice may be different in other churches.

The main reason why I went to church for a few months all those years ago was because I wanted to find out for myself if going to church could help me find God; to get to know Him better, so to speak. Well, let me just say that I failed in that particular mission. 

I did learn something interesting from the congregation though. Humans are a lot like animals in many ways, i.e. the pack instinct and sense of brotherhood. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. 

The trouble with me is that I don't easily submit to the pack instinct. We all know that tendency in most people, don't we? When in due course, somebody posts an article in facebook, saying, for example, eating chicken wings which have been injected with disease-fighting drugs can cause cancer, there is that tendency to click the "share" button without even pausing the think of the logic of that article. 

You see, I listened attentively when the priest delivered his sermon, read verses from the Bible when the priest directed me to them. But I did not sing when everybody started singing; I did not stand up and kneel down when the rest did all those things. And immediately I was rewarded with piercing stares from everybody around me. When you are in a "pack", it's almost like you are expected to conform to the norm. Failure to conform can earn you a stare that says something like: 

"Who are you, and what the hell are you doing here?"

I related my experience to a friend recently, and he came up with an interesting suggestion. He said that I should try going to a more modern church, e.g. with livelier music and songs, I'm guessing perhaps even with live bands performing on stage. I haven't tried it yet. Maybe when everybody is too busy paying attention on what's happening on stage, they won't have the time to notice this idiot minding his own business, i.e. doing nothing?

If ever I were to go to church every Sunday, I think I would be doing it because I want to do it; that I make it a personal obligation to spend that hour or so each week, not so much because of the singing, the kneeling down, or live bands on stage.

I'm sometimes amazed by my mother-in-law. No—not because she can never remember to switch off the lights and fans in the house—that deserves a separate post of its own. Rather, she tries very hard to go to church every Sunday even though she is frail of old age, and can barely walk. I'm constantly reminded that "God is everywhere", and it really makes me wonder her risking falling down and injuring herself when she can pray to God from home. It is, I think, because she wants to go to church—not because of any special person or persons in the congregation; not because of the singing; not because of live band performances; just the plain "calling of the church".

I'm afraid no such "calling" for me; not since 20 years ago, and I'm tempted to say that I'm never going to church again. But then of course I'm not forgetting what the sissy boy has to say: "Never Say Never".

No comments: