Last Sunday I went to church for the first time in my life, upon the invitation of a friend of mine who is a regular at this particular church. Since I've never ever done anything like going to church before, and since my impressions of the occasion are still fresh in my mind, I thought it might be a nice idea to blog about it.
I'm a 'natural atheist'. I was never indoctrinated into a religion when I was a child, so going to church was a pretty foreign experience for me. Nevertheless, I knew the church we were going to visit this Sunday was also the church of a few of my friends from college, so I knew that at the very least, I would see some familiar faces.
In fact, the first thing that struck me about going to church was the social aspect: everyone was very nice, and many people introduced themselves to me by their first name. I recognized friends of mine, as I suspected I would, as well as a few regulars from work. This part of my adventure was very nice...now I think I understand why many people who aren't that religious still bother going to church at all: the sense of community is strong, and it makes you feel very welcome and safe.
After meeting a few new people, and after being introduced to the Pastor, my friend and I grabbed a seat in the middle of the centre column of pews. Then there was a prayer, followed by a few brief announcements and the circulation of the collection plates, which was in turn followed by a special guest who was a hokey player, and who had his own traveling ministry which was quite involved with hockey camps around the world. I have to admit that I couldn't shake the feeling of frustration over the indoctrination of eight and nine year olds as the guest gave his presentation...but needless to say I bit my tongue.
After the guest finished speaking, there was music played by a small band which had drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. One of my friends from college was the guitar player. The band sang about three or four songs. They weren't quite hymns...they were more like Christian pop songs. Devotional songs is what some people call them. During the songs people stood up, and some of the members of the audience raised their hands towards the sky. I'm not a crowd person, so at this point I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I stood up with everyone, but I didn't sing. After the songs were over the sermon began.
The sermon itself was actually quite short. Much shorter than I expected a church sermon would be...maybe fifteen minutes long at the most. It was about the doctrine of adoption. Specifically, the Pastor talked about the doctrine that we are naturally out of fellowship with God and must seek him as an adoptive father through Christ, and that if we do not have God as our father, then Satan is automatically our father for some reason (this part of the sermon pissed me off, pardon my language). Needless to say I immediately started going over the massive amount of problems with this view of the world in my mind. For example, how come the Devil is automatically our father if we are not 'adopted' by God? Why do we have to make a conscious decision to accept God, but our acceptance of the devil is tacit? Shouldn't it be the other way around? And why isn't God a nice guy who just forgives and forgets the whole eating of the forbidden fruit thing anyway? Vengeful God I suppose...the guy can sure hold a grudge (even though Adam and Eve never existed...but I'm pretty sure this was a rather fundamentalist church where the age of the Earth and origins of man are concerned). It's that whole original sin thing again...God is an asshole is basically what this worldview boils down to. But I digress.
After the sermon there were more songs, followed by one last prayer, at which time we were allowed to go. Many people hung around and spoke with me a bit more after the service was done. I tried to steer clear of any theological debates, so I spent a few minutes talking music with some of the members of the church's band. After that, my friend and I departed.
As I wrote earlier, the social aspect of church was quite inviting. I can see why people enjoy going every week since it must build one heck of a sense of community in the churchgoer and his or her friends. However I don't think I'll be converting any time soon.