Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vespers worship, strange but intriguing

With fear and trepidation I entered the church building in Brixton, on Saturday night. Brixton is infamous for the 'Brixton se Moord en Roof' (murder and robbery squad). This would however be my first visit to the St Nicholas congregation for 'Vespers'. Vespers, for a Reformed Coloured, sounded like a kind of scooter, so, I simply did not know what to expect from this cross between an Orthodox church and a scooter.

Once inside, I recognised one or two friends and familiar faces, which looked like 'friendly strangers', as well. In church, it helps if others are also uncomfortable, and not sure what's going to happen next. It doesn't if you are at a place where everyone seems to be so in control and too ready to save you. Here, I can expose my uncertainty; I can also walk around, and marvel at the art (icons), the smell and the aura of the worship space. It touches my senses and at some point I may simply sit down and look around, smell and listen. I see some young black faces, (possibly the children of the 'pastor'?), mostly older people and 'pastors' with robes and beards. I am intrigued. Then the drama begins with interesting chanting, the choir singing, and movement through the doors, speaking from this side and answering from 'the other side'. All this, whilst we are standing (and sitting at some points). It's weird, but fascinating, indeed intriguing.

Now, let me come clean: I have participated in mass worship led by some from the Russian Orthodox Tradition, a bit from a distance; the group was bigger and I was way at the back. This time it was a closer group, so I felt I wanted to participate, but the closest I came was to sing a bit, tried the movement of the right hand doing the 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' and smelled the burning stuff with the sound of the choir and the prayers. I hoped though, for a sermon of sorts or a song to well-known hymn to sing, but I suppose its all in the atmosphere, in the mystery.

The refreshments, conversations and building friendships afterwards were closer to home. Here we can talk and reflect and its stimulating, I'm not yet, sure what to make of it, but then, the experience and the mystery still linger, it still haunts me…the fear which becomes awe, there has to be more…

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