I went to a Mormon church service on Sunday
Back to church after 20 odd years.
Because I was born with the attention span of a jellybean, I have little to show for my elementary-school religious education. I have no idea what was going on in my little strawberry-blonde head, but I literally can not recall a single thing I paid attention to in church.
As a result I’ve been totally ignorant to the concept of religion for my entire adult life. But the weird part is, I’m now finding myself totally fascinated with it; how is it that some people devote their life to believing in, and worshipping, something that other people put on par with believing in Santa Claus?
When I decided to go to a church service the other weekend (despite what you may think because I’m always trying to get you guys ROFL-ing) it was not in jest. I visited in an attempt to develop a bit more of a grown-up understanding of a subject I would normally arrogantly dismiss because I’m a bitch.
I’ve broken this story into two parts:
Below, is a recap of my awkward experience visiting a house of God for my first time in sixteen or so years.
To come, will be my opinion on how and why people feel God’s presence.
Part the first:
Just as expected, visiting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a sufficiently awkward experience for me. Interesting, sure. But fair-dinkum awkward.
Usually at 1pm on a Sunday I’m rolling around in my underwear telling whoever is in my bed not to be scared; because despite what my eyes suggest, I’m not a real panda. So I really felt quite posh to be wearing a dress, stockings and a chastity belt on this particular Sunday.
(I was told that I could wear whatever I wanted but luckily didn’t miss the hint that I would stand out if I wasn’t wearing a dress or skirt.)
I arrived 25 minutes before the service started, so that was an additional 25 minutes of awkward. I sat on a bench across the street for a while, wearing a large pair of sunglasses and glimpsing over my imaginary newspaper like a really posh spy.
When I eventually found the guts to step inside the building I tried to make it look like I knew exactly where I was and what I was doing but I was just a bit busy talking on the phone to do it just yet. When a couple of girls who looked like my peers arrived I kind of shadowed them into the service room like they were my church mates. Once in the all clear I abandoned them and slipped into a seat at the back and started browsing the hymn book as to not stand out.
‘Are you a visitor?’
(How can she tell?) ‘Yeah, just having a little visit.’
‘Oh great. I’m Meg. Are you here for the week then?’
‘Oh no, just the day.’ (Hour.) ‘Just here for a little day visit.’ (Hour visit.)
‘Oh great! Well it’s SO nice to have you here. Enjoy the service.’
(Thanks! You delightful son of a gun.)
It was only the Sunday before around the same time that I was surrounded by a bunch of strangers as happy to see me as Meg was. But I was at a dance festival and they were all high on ecstasy.
The service was located at The Hyde Park Chapel, constructed in 1961 and to be quite frank, it was a pretty ugly building – inside and out. This holy domicile had nothing on the old classic Catholic church I frequented with my Catholic elementary school. St Mary’s Catholic Church in Mudgee was constructed in the 1800s – in the same century that Joseph Smith, questionably, spoke to God and received the message to start the Mormon church….because the other churches weren’t quite doing it right.
Hyde Park Chapel, London, you is ugly – 0
St Mary’s Church, Mudgee, you is charming – 1
But despite its fugly construction and decor, The Hyde Park Chapel has cushioned seats – which I would have given my left nut for (can you believe people actually say that without thinking its weird and inappropriate?) when attending church as a kid.
Hyde Park Chapel – 1
St Mary’s Church – 1
It’s a tie!
The service started off with a hymn. Standard.
A little bit of housekeeping from the bishop. Standard.
And then they brought up…let’s say ‘Albert’, a freshly baptised Mormon, and they had a little prayer party on his head. Probably standard.
Albert instantly became my favourite Mormon when I saw him swagger up the aisle in his Adidas trackies matched with a bright green ‘JUST DO IT’ tee. He sat happily facing the audience in a chair while a few guys surrounded him, piling their hands on his head like they were getting pepped up to play a hockey game.
Quack! Quack! Quack! They started chanting.
Just kidding. They just said some more prayers and then sent him back to his seat to make rap music.
Then it was time to take the sacrament. (For you know-nothings, this is where they bless the bread and water and feed everyone.) This is the part where I got quite frazzled.
You see, after being baptised as a Catholic at the bizarre age of SEVEN-YEARS-OLD, I passed through some of the other motions to become a good Catholic girl (until high school when I traded it in for cask wine and masturbation). I did my Reconciliation in Year 2, Communion in Year 3 and Confirmation in Year 6. It was in Year 3, when I took my first Communion, that I was FINALLY allowed to eat the blessed bread everyone else was chewing on during service.
So when the plate of ripped up Vogel’s crept towards me in the Mormon’s service, I was wriggling in my seat because I didn’t want be disrespectful by eating the body of Christ when I hadn’t done my Communion with this church. Heck, I didn’t even know if the same rules applied here. But how could I say no? My cover might be blown.
(I’m just going to say I’m gluten free.Yeah, that’s what I will do.)
But it all happened so fast and next thing I know I’m gobbling on fresh wholemeal bread like a naughty kid who snuck one of mother’s freshly baked cookies.
THEN, the exact same thing happened straight afterwards when they served me the blood of Christ in a plastic shot glass. More wriggling, more guilt trips, more watching everyone else to make sure I did it exactly the same as them.
(I wonder if they have sparkling.)
After that there were plenty more hymns and a couple of young people got up and did some talks about their religion. And this time, I totally listened.
I feel like the things they were saying had a single primary message to take out:
To be THE BEST person of faith that you possibly can be, you must PRACTICE…uh religiously.
I can see that’s where I fell short at school. While my classmates were out at church with their families on Sundays believing in God, I was busy at home believing in Fairy Winkles.