Monday, June 08, 2009

P.S. - Little Rock

I got so wrapped up in my discussion of racial issues that I completely forgot about my extremely unusual experience last night!

Every Sunday, wherever we are, we've tried to arrange to go to a church service....a Catholic cathedral in NYC, a Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, etc. In Little Rock, we attended the Awareness Center International's evening service. Earlier in the day I was asking about their agenda: what were they trying to make everyone aware of? Someone who had researched the organization said, "I don't know, it didn't really say on their website." I thought, "Hmmm....interesting. If I was the head of an awareness organization one of my first priorities would be to communicate what I wanted people to be aware of." Dr. Spring suggested that it might be a community center where people of all faiths can come together and worship whoever/whatever they wanted alongside each other, in an effort to promote spiritual awareness in general. Definitely not my thing, but a valid idea. "Okay," I thought, "this will be interesting."

I couldn't have worded it better. Before the night was over I found myself swaying to the lively--at times ear-piercing--music, smiling uncontrollably as this soulfull group danced and clapped in worship, watching timidly as repetitive choruses transitioned into "speaking in tongues," skeptical as the higher-ups in the church came in 20 and 40 minutes into the service -- the congregation rising to their feet as the leader entered and seated himself in his throne onstage, uncomfortable as the preacher professed reincarnation, suggested that the source of our misfortunes in life are the result of our ancestor's (or our spirit's previous body) failures, sins, and misdeeds, and concluded by instructing the congregation to "give [to the church] as if they were rich." And I found myself somewhat horrified as I was picked out of the crowd (along with 4 others) to be annointed by this "apostle."

But beyond whatever qualms I might have felt about the leadership and their possible alterior motives, I was humbled by the warm, warm welcome of the congregation and their genuine hope and joy. I must have been hugged and encouraged by at least ten people I had never met before. As we waited for their service to start, I only hoped that visitors to my home church felt as welcomed and accepted as I did by these friendly church-goers. As one girl said, "It felt so good to be hugged." I have a feeling I'll never forget this experience.

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