Alexa and I have attended church almost all of our lives. Mom would take us most Sundays, once she managed to drag us out of bed and plop us in the car. At church, we would sit in the pew and not so patiently count down the minutes until we were free to go. Sitting still for an hour was not something we were used to and we were always being told to play quietly with our bag of toys. After attending church in Fila Tigre, Costa Rica this morning, I have a brand new sense of how a church service can feel.
Yes, the service lasted over three hours. Yes, Alexa and I still had trouble sitting still during the last hour, but everything else about the service was loud and full of love. Church began around 9:30AM, but people trickled in until just before 10:00AM and not a single judgmental look was passed amongst church members highlighting their tardiness. I imagine the only thought that passed through their minds was excitement that they would have another voice to add to the singing. Not that they needed it, the entire church reverberated with music. Six people played different instruments in the front, one man led thesinging, the little girls danced up and down the isles with streamers and the rest of the church swayed back and forth as they belted out the words to every song from memory. In every church service I have been to, the people with good voices sing the loudest and a singer’s volume tends to decrease at an equal rate as their skill level. Which means that I usually lip sync or whisper the words. Not so in Fila Tigre, not a single person was shy about their voice, for better or worse.
After an hour of singing and dancing, the sermon began with a prayer, a few tears and a lot of shouting. By this time, it was nearing in on the warmest part of the day and in a small church, 100 people heat up quickly. This was when a few members walked in with glasses of water for all of the old people that needed to cool off. Everything about the service revolved around it’s members. Even though the sermon went on for two hours, it went on regardless of the noise of the church members. Children would get antsy and their parents would send them across the aisle to sit with a friend. Toddlers would start screaming and would be passed around the church until they quieted down. Babies would cry until someone made them laugh or fall asleep. The noise of the children was never an annoyance to anyone, the children were never sent to a quiet room where the parent had to listen to the service over a speaker. Children were expected to be quiet, but everyone knew that they were still just children, so their tears, laughter and screams were met with hugs and kisses.
The entire church was filled with the greatest sense of community that I have ever felt firsthand. It was a powerful and comfortable feeling. One day I hope to be part of a community that radiates with such love and support.