Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Here in London, I seem to have been back to church quite a lot lately. Especially this Easter weekend.

On Maunday Thursday I attended a small communion service, where my mum was reading. Remembering Cession in NZ, I took the bread and dunked it in the wine.

On Good Friday I slunk-in to the afternoon service, about 40 minutes late as usual. (best way to avoid the worship) Everyone was just standing-up and beginning to mill-around. Oh dear. Short service?

When I found my mum, it turned-out that this was the beginning of a break in the middle of the service for hot cross buns. Everyone was supposed to talk to other people and discuss what we thought Jesus' disciples would have been thinking of him as he hung on the cross.

There was no spare seat next to my mum, so she suggested moving to the front, but I hate sitting at the front, so I found a lone seat at the back and slouched low there. It wasn't in a back-corner, as is my preference, in fact being on the aisle it was quite central, but it would have to do. Fortunately no-one approached to talk to me.

The second half began, and we were invited to hold hands for something or other. I was glad to have found a seat alone, and even more glad that no-one made their way over to try to involve me.

This was a family service, which meant that from my perspective I felt as though I was sitting at the back of a classroom. There were children seated on the floor at the front, as a cheery man told them about penal substitutionary atonement (he used different words) and indicated a piece of paper with the sins of the world on it, stuck to a giant 6-foot cross. He then symbolically set fire to the paper. I still think it's about our current rebellions, not past ones.

By now the cheery man was talking about the cross, likening it to the cross we draw at the end of a letter to symbolise a kiss, and suggesting that the cross of Jesus' crucifixion was an enormous kiss from God. We were invited to pray and kiss the backs of our (own) hands between each line. This is the sort of reason why I sit at the back.

When they all got singing again at the end, I went to the toilet.

Afterwards, I helped clear some of the chairs away in preparation for the evening multimedia meditation service.

When I later returned for it, this turned-out to be one of those unled walkabout-the-church-in-your-own-time evenings.

I spent the first hour watching a mute video-projection of the BBC drama series The Passion from last year. It had been cut-down to just cover the period from the last supper up until his body's sealing in the tomb, before looping. From the main church to my left, I could hear a CD of ethereal monk-like chanting echoing around.

Once I'd got over the projector's showing it in the wrong aspect-ratio, I was able to sit-back and reflect a bit on what all these thin bleached-out people were doing. I found that the removal of the dialogue was a very good way of prompting my own words to run through my brain on a particular subject.

My mind went back to my opinion of Mel Gibson's more famous The Passion Of The Christ, and how disappointed I had been by the lack of realism conferred by so much arty cinematography. For years I've wanted to try reediting that film into chronological order, with no subtitles, mute, in black-and-white (to remove all the colourful lense-work) and with all the slow-motion sequences restored to their correct speed. I want it to feel like actual footage of real events. I guess I'd have to cut-out Satan, the CGI, and other horror-movieish elements. Maybe that's crossing the line?

Inside the main church there were many other displays set-up, including a bleach-tablet on which you could write a sin and watch it dissolve in water, and another opportunity to dip a piece of bread in wine.

My Bible-reading for today was the last four chapters of Deuteronomy in the God's Word translation, so I'd come prepared with a print-out. I lay-down on my back on the stage, watched an animated video-loop for a bit, and then got-out my print-outs and read them.

On the way-out, I saw Perry, and we walked home, talking about, among other things, the website

On Easter Saturday evening I walked across town to Herschel's new apartment where we played The Italian Job and SSX Tricky on his PS2 until the early hours.

Easter Sunday evening found me back in church, again about 40 minutes late to avoid the worship. There were no back-seats available on either side of the church, so I sat in the room behind the glass at the back.

It was a bit of an invitation service, so the guy at the front (a different one) was quite funny, and keen to talk about the improbability of Jesus' matching the prophesies about him in the Old Testament. He told of a mathematician who'd calculated that the chances of 8 OT prophesies being fulfilled by Jesus were 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000, but he never even told us which 8 prophesies he was talking about, or how they had been interpreted to reach such a figure.

He also said that the whole of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus. That's cool, as is my disagreement with that.

There was more singing, and an opportunity to approach the big cross at the front and put a flower on it. That didn't sit well with me, but I wanted to take part, so up I went, not really even knowing why.

At the front, I remembered that I had a Cadbury's Crème Egg with me. Instead, I skipped the flower, and gently placed that at the foot of the enormous cross instead. I didn't know why I was doing that either, but it felt right.

At the end of the service, lots of celebratory singing and dancing began, so I went to the toilet again.

Afterwards I found a seat at the side, towards the back, where I sat, on my own.

As I walked home, I didn't feel a particularly happy Easter bunny.

Sometimes, church just has that effect on me.


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