Today I attempted to go to the Sunday service of the Pentecostal Church in Archway. I have been to very few church services in my life but one that stands out in my mind is when I went to a gospel church in the mission district of San Francisco in the 90’s. The spirit and sense of hope that one hour gave me still comes back to me 25 years on. Watching a big black preacher singing and swaying to ‘we shall overcome’ whilst the whole mixed race congregation held hands and sang along was a beautiful thing. Whilst there is little in common between the ultra conservative Pentecostal church goers in Archway and the hippies and liberals that attended the gospel church in San Francisco, the soulful singing that comes from the church in Archway, fills me with the same joy and ease. I had been wanting to check it out for a while and today felt like a good moment so I went in. Samuel from Ghana stopped me as I walked up the stairs. “Can I help you?” he asked. “I was hoping to come to the service and maybe join in with some singing,” I said. He smiled: “Please do. We would love to have you but the singing comes in a few hours time. Now we are doing bible study. Come and talk god with us”. “In a few hours time? Is the service that long?” I asked. He smiled again. “Do you think that is too much time to dedicate to god? I personally think it is not enough. We are happy to spend hours in the pub but only give an hour or so to god. Is that enough?” I wasn’t really focusing on his words but just enjoying looking into his open face. I loved his vibe. I didn’t care that he probably believes that a woman’s place is in the home and that Jesus is the only one that can save us. He had true faith in god and a certainty about the way things should be and there was a joy that flowed from that. I wished in that moment for true faith and then recalled a comment made by Isabel Allende when asked if she believed in god. She said “ faith is not a choice…you either have the gift or you don’t”.
Feeling a little spiritually weak, I decided to come back another day and left!