26 November 2012

Sunday morning at the Society of Biblical Literature Confference

I've arrived back in Amsterdam and am starting to re-adjust to normal life, which hopefully means catching up not only posting on my dissertation but also blogging some of the events of the last few weeks.. 

The SBL conference was held from Saturday to Tuesday with sessions occurring all day on Sunday. Sunday morning church is a non-negotiable for me, so I had to figure out ahead of time what I'd be doing. The conference's church service at 7.30 a.m. was too early for me to make it, and so I googled and found an Episcopalian/Anglican church closeby, which seemed like the church where I'd feel most comfortable and able to meet God (I've become a bit too liturgical to fully appreciate Baptist or Pentecostal churches). I found the times of the services and got the exact address.

I'm not all that familiar with big cities in the United States, but apparently the conference centre (McCormick Place) is in a bit of a black ghetto. I asked the woman behind the information desk which exit I should use to get to 125 26th Street, and the first thing she asked me was why I wanted to go there!

I was early and bumped into a number of other visitors when I walked in (they were all black, which made me a bit nervous). We were directed to the church hall for the service, and we sat down together and I soon started to feel at home. Turned out that instead of the liturgical service I had expected, the liturgy was a sermon on Thanksgiving and our shared meal (communion) was Thanksgiving dinner. Slightly disappointing, but as the reason I go to church on Sunday morning is to be more able to meet God, I was hoping that I'd still bump into him in this strange setting.

And I did! I found myself in the midst of people striving to do church: to love one's neighbours and do justice. About a quarter of the attendees looked like they didn't have a regular home - they reminded me of the guys who come in to drink coffee at the community. And sitting at my table was someone named DJ - who'd been helped by the church when he was (unfairly) imprisoned (he was re-charged after the charges had been dropped!) for participating in the Nato-5 demonstrations. You can read more of his story online, including how the church reached out to help him: Nato protestor from LA charged and ordered to house arrest.

In the midst of a conference that seemed to focus a lot on my head, it was delightful to spend some time being reminded that my serving God faithfully has also a lot to do with my heart. My time living in the community in Amsterdam has only reaffirmed my desire to not allow my faith to be centered only in my head.

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