* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Take me down to the little white church...

by Little Big Town- I've been listening to a lot of country since our move.  I think music must be one of those things you hang on to.  Anyway...

Allen was a visiting professor once before at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology.  It was a short course and before we had children.  We lived in a dorm in Alexandria, Egypt for 6 weeks and then traveled around for another week before going home.  It was an interesting experience and we did get a strong taste of Egypt but it was certainly not as immersive an experience as this one.  We were escorted by students or faculty a fair amount of the time and got good advice the rest.  I wore long skirts and head scarves as much as possible off campus to avoid attracting too much attention but no amount of "protective coloring" was going to fool anyone for long.  Assimilation wasn't really an option.  Everything was just too radically different and we didn't have enough time.  

In Ireland, we are largely able to blend in.  Most everything is at least somewhat different to how it is in the US but it's similar enough to be a stretch rather than a cliff.  While I expected us to run into various walls, I hadn't expected the main one to be finding a church.  We really like the church we attend in the US and weren't expecting to find a perfect match here but thought we had sufficiently broad enough expectations to find one without great difficulty.  We were mostly looking for an entry into community and the additional structure going to church on Sunday brings.  I have regularly attended services in the United Methodist, LDS, Baha'i, and Lutheran faiths so it seemed like this shouldn't be all that hard.

The thing I hadn't really thought through was that we are Methodists going to a Catholic country in Europe. While Methodists are ubiquitous in the US, they are a rare breed in Ireland.  It's fairly common for various Protestant denominations to unite here.  The combination of Irish independence and a general severe downturn in church attendance making it rough going.  I've also apparently gotten rather more opinionated about some tenets of my faith since college- notably that children should be able to take communion.  The US branch of the United Methodist Church takes a love all, serve all perspective that I embrace.  You can read more here.  This is apparently at odds with a fair number of Irish Protestant churches.  While I certainly expect different rules in different denominations (i.e. I wouldn't wander into a Catholic church expecting to take the Eucharist) I assumed that Methodists and Presbyterians were pretty much the same the world over.

We finally landed at Abbey Street Methodist.  It is unlike any other church I've attended but somehow seems completely comfortable.  It's an odd mishmash of very traditional and very not.  The sanctuary has plaques memorializing Very Important members from the early 1800s, stained glass, a large cross, and a once grand building.  At a rough estimate, about 75% of the congregation is international.  The praise team features a man who is from the Indian subcontinent who plays harmonica to contemporary Christian songs (something I never thought I'd see) as well as another who plays guitar and interjects heartfelt prayers between and among the verses.  I don't think any of the praise team speaks English as their first language.  Their bravery to not only speak but sing in front of a congregation in a foreign language is impressive.  We regularly have groups from various cultures sing songs in their native language.  Songs and prayers are kept fairly simple and are projected onto a screen at the front.  It is about as far from the clean cut WASP comfort zone as you can get.  But, the battered hymnals, fading grandeur, and warm smiles speak to us and make us feel at home.

No comments:

Post a Comment