I grew up in the church. So I thought I knew the formula – I thought I knew what to expect. But I was in for a huge surprise.
Studying abroad for a month sounded like a fabulous way to earn 6 credit hours the summer before my senior year of college. So, leaving Steve, my then-boyfriend, family, and friends behind, I went to London to study English literature. Steve was so sweet and helpful and wanted to be sure that I had a chance to attend church while I was away, so he did some searching and found a little church in Soho he suggested I visit.
I managed to convince two other students to join me for their Sunday evening service and, boy was I glad I didn’t go alone!
We walked through a low doorway, and into a basement-style room…no windows, just the entry door. The craziness of that evening, in all its fullness, still eludes me, but I do remember lots of interesting Jesus-flavor happening: a poem spoken in Korean (may I remind you we were in…London!), lots of drumming, various bizarre testimonies, and – the best part – finishing off the night with a church-wide conga line!
Coming from a traditional Southern Baptist background, my jaw dropped a bit. Granted, at the time, I was attending a mega-church back home that had a rock concert-like feel every weekend, so my tastes had expanded greatly, but this was a bit more than I’d bargained for. It was eye-opening to see the colors everywhere, on the walls and especially represented in the sixty or so people present…all kinds of beautiful colors and cultures! Once the shock abated, I just laughed.
The next day offered me the chance to laugh some more, because on Monday morning, our small class went for a tour of Westminster Abbey. The very height of the arched ceilings seemed to testify to God’s immenseness. After marveling at the exquisite architecture, and the literary heroes buried there, we sat in on a Gregorian-style service. And my musical heart pitter-pattered away listening to those harmonies.
But my mind laughed hysterically at the crazy dichotomy of Sunday evening in Soho versus Monday morning in the Abbey. How amazing God is! How creative and colorful! How expressive and worthy!
I felt His Presence in the warmth and fun and friendship in the basement church in Soho. I experienced His grandeur in the lifted praises echoing against cathedral ceilings in the Abbey. And in each place, He touched my soul so deeply, so profoundly that now, more than ten years later, I remember these moments and I smile. I smile because God is so beyond what my mind can conjure. He is both personal and enormous. He is both present and eternal. And He is most certainly hilarious!