Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Going back to church

Ok, ok don't get so alarmed. This is not a sudden reconversion. Today I went with a group on a tour of some buildings which had incorporated energy efficient aspects in their design. It just happened that one of the buildings we visited was a church.

Although the purpose of the trip was purely technical it was still interesting to walk into a church for the first time in almost a year. Right off the bat, there was one curious characteristic. We walked into a church divided, literally. On the left hand side was a door saying Lutheran and the other door on the right was labeled Catholic. Never saw anything like this in all my life, apparently the two denominations had come together to build the church, but worshipping in the same space was just a step too far. This was something which many just could not understand. For one thing, having one worship space instead of two would have been far more energy efficient. This morning's first lesson; when it comes to saving, it's souls before energy.

But that was not the only notable aspect of this morning's visit. What followed related more to what didn't happen than to what did. There was nothing in the body language or behaviour of anybody there that would have given away that we had entered into a holy place. In the Caribbean I could never think of this happening regardless of the reason for the visit or the denomination of the church. Even in the middle of a work day I am sure I would have seen a few solemnly bowed heads, a quick genuflect or sign of the cross and even talking in hushed tones as a further sign of respect

Today, none of the above. Everybody entered the church without missing a beat and concentrated on discussions of insulation, solar collectors and heat storage. It was amusing to hear someone struggle to understand the whole church thing. " Is this where the priest stores the ornaments that he uses during mass?" Ornaments? Was he really equating the communion cup, wafers and chasuble to stuff you would put on a Christmas tree? No one eve flinched at this comment that I am sure would have been considered sacrilegious in Barbados.

Later we went to an area where there was a large basin of water, which had another steady flow of water pouring into it. A lady reached into her purse and glibly tossed a coin into it. After a few steps someone tugged her by the hand and whispered that she was pretty sure that that was the basin where they baptise people. As she walked back things became more clear. The penny lay shining as the solitary object in what now seemed to almost certainly be holy water. Yes, indeed the object in question was a font not a fountain. Too late, there was no way that coin could be fished out now, the basin was far too deep for that. Well, of course we didn't inform anyone of this minor gaffe. Not to worry, I am sure that penny will one day take its place as a "miracle coin" probably assumed to have been sent down by Jesus himself.

The most memorable moment of our brief visit came as we prepared to leave. Someone in assessing the overall design was impressed by how solar energy was being used to provide energy for the offices, day care centre and gymnasium all within the church building. He confessed however that he was unsure why the parishioners had insisted on a state of the art heating system for the place where they have mass. "That is the least important room in this building." he remarked. "After all, they only use it once a week."

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