Music: B+ overall pretty lackluster choir but they had pretty okay robes. Also the organ was pretty awesome, the organist was kinda wild, I felt like he would sometimes play a flurry of off-key notes when he was jazzing it up. I couldn’t tell tho if this was just my wishful hearing, or the way the tones of an organ play off eachother in confusing ways, it was cool. There was also a solo song of organ and voice, and that dude totally killed it with some pretty operatic styles on such a cookie-cutter hymn. At the end there was a “amen” song with just the choir clapping (and singing) and a djembe or something, which, given the demographic of the church, was more facepalm-wolseley-drumcircle-cultural-appropriation-tokenistic-vibes-man than legit new face of the church shit. Important note: hipsters in the choir – not cool.
people who will die in the next 20 years: 70% keep in mind it was thanksgiving so it’s probably even more dire usually.
pastor charisma: A- are you surprised? I was. These guys seemed honest in a way that none of those bastards have been so far. Maybe i’m getting soft. Obvz i’m getting soft.
décor iconography: This is one hell of a monster. It’s a huge stone church, probably over a hundred years old or something. Giant stained-glass windows. Carved fuckin wood, blablabla forever. It’s pretty though. We didn’t go around looking at all the shit, but you can see from anywhere that this is one of “those” churches. Not too much to talk about, it’s of another era and I dont have the reference points to discuss it. I did spend a good while looking at the organ pipes.
food/drink: we blitzed out of there and when I turned around to unlock my bike someone was burying a donut into their donut-hole. There’s probably coffee too, judging by that?
scare quotient: fuckin zero
number of people: 100ish.
THE REAL STORY
Saturday night was the last night of Send + Receive, the sound art festival here, and I went with some friends to a organ concert at Knox United Church. B-May was there too, good thing, cuz I was so wiped from a couple days of flu that getting people together was gonna be too much work. After being there we decided we’d hit a united church if I wasn’t feeling up to a long bike ride to a north end church. We settled on Westminster United Church, at the corner of Maryland and Westminster. When scott and adam lived next door, the simulacrum of bells (speakers in the bell tower) from this place would ruin many a sunday morning for me as I slept on their couch. That’s the back story.
We got there and they were already singing. It was thanksgiving sunday. There were squashes on the stage. The first pastor, beardo-man, invited us to fill out the visitor cards. He made some points that clued me in as to the social justice bend of this place. One cool thing was he was asking us to be thankful for “the strange things” and his example was the air bubbles in cranberries. I can think of stranger things but whatevs. I did like that he wasn’t like “thank you for fertile wolseley families and low property values in the rapidly changing and conveniently nearby west-broadway neighborhood”. No I mean, this guy seemed to be like, “you should be thankful for things you don’t even know about, and maybe don’t even have an immediate positive impact in your life cuz that’s not the point of the entire fuckin universe”.
Then there was just the cutest old man, all hunchbacked, and he read a part of the bible, a jesus story, about some lepers in samaria.
Then the other priest, this older guy, came on to sermonize. At first I didn’t like him very much cuz he was kinda dramatic, told a boring story at first, and was following a script a little too closely. But he grew on me. Not the least because he said thanksgiving was less about giving lots of thanks than about the identity of the person giving thanks. Which does seem a little cryptic maybe, but he wanted to talk about the bible story specifically. It’s about this samaritan leper who turns out to be more thankful than the jewish lepers that jesus fixes. He talked about racial strife in this historical context and about how samaria is the northern part of where “occupied palestinian territories” are now. Which obvz made me like him more, again.
Anyway, he talked about the “mixed race” samaritans as being looked down on by orthodox jews of the time, you know, the usual racial-religious-geo-political mistrusts and animosities. He talked about the psychological, social, and spiritual pain of being outside of society and how the ‘looking-down on people’ based on social distinctions was fucked up. So he talked about the importance of who is doing an act, and how it’s not just the act itself to think about.
From here he took it another direction, going from the concept of insider/outsider. He wanted to talk about how those on the ‘inside’ (“priests” he said as an example) think they know what’s up within their own circular logic – “we have the answers/we deliver the answers”. He ascribed this type of thinking to a lack of humility on behalf of the church. What he wants is “Real Respectful Engagement”.
To finish off he quoted the other priest’s doctoral thesis, where he refers to himself as a “postmodern pilgrim” (lol) but where the idea is pretty good (ALSO MIND BOGGLINGLY BASIC) that in order to do this ‘good news’ shit properly they’re gonna have to learn as much from the receivers of their gospel of whatever, as they can expect to teach – aka the relation has to be reciprocal. It’s sad that the church has been so pompous and bloated and dumb that it took them so long to notice that killing people into religion is of limited effectiveness. Or is it sad? It’s a complicated question. It’s not that I wish they were more successful, but I do wish they had been more respectful. UNDERSTATEMENT.
I think he ended by comparing wolseley to samaria. Lol.
This person came up after to talk about the tithing this week. I guess 10% of it goes to a fund and she talked about how one organization funded by it is a hospitality house where prisoners’ families can stay for cheap when they have to travel for visits. This place is in nova-scotia. She mentioned that there used to be many but the harper government cut all the funding for them and so very few have survived. Sad. Fucked.
Then there was this thing which is called “The Peace” in the program, which happens in quite a few denominations I think, at least the catholics did it where I grew up. Basically you go around a shake peoples’ hands and say “peace be with you”. This place just lost it when this started. It was kinda cool to see – everywhere else i’ve seen it it’s pretty subdued, but everyone here was MAD into it.
During the tithing I gave a visitor card that I had filled out with this blog’s address. Hopefully they’re “into it” ha. Follows the sick opera solo thing. Follows an encouragement to protect the meek. Follows the wolseley hippie amen song. Then we gtfo’d. The priest was at the door shaking the hands of the gtfo’ers. He goes “thank you for coming” I go “cheers buddy”. Me and B-May didn’t really discuss much cuz we split pretty much right there.
I don’t know what to compare it to in terms that “the unchuched” (as these people referred to us) can understand, but what is the fuckin deal with social justice churches? A big part of me thinks they read the letters to the editor and get offended, vote for the NDP or the greens or something, go to a united church, part themselves on the back, shit like that. But anyway, I did relate a fuck of a lot more to this service than any of the others so far. Hm. WHAT DOES IT MEAN. You connect the dots, you cynical fuck.