Basically, I was dragged into it by a Spiritually Seeking Friend (TM). She says she’s using her “emotions” to “guide” her to the right denomination, which is completely foreign to me, but OK to each their own.
The first thing that struck me when walking into the little one-room church was the utter solemnity. Like, I didn’t even want to rustle (hello Reform temple). I tried to decide whether that was just because it was my first time, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, and let me tell you why.
Everyone was standing, ladies on the left and men on the right, all the ladies had their hair covered and were wearing long skirts and bad shoes. There aren’t any “pews” in Eastern Orthodox, I learned. Every once in a while they would start singing “Lord have mercy” etc. and I must admit they had a nicer communal singing voice than I ever heard in shul or anything. It was like they were the freakin hired choir or something. Sometimes people would come in (slowly and tentatively, of course), and take candles out of this “candle bin” attached to the wall, and cross themselves like a hundred times and one lady kissed three icons (on the feet, naturally). I couldn’t really see the men, but the women were standing with their hands politely folded in front or behind them, and obviously I was standing there in the very back with my friend with my arms folded looking like a nervous wreck in that place but whatever.
The priest looked like he motorcycled in his spare time, and I think one of his assistants (beacon? deacon? wtf) went to my high school. Notwithstanding that, they read a lot of stuff. And when they did it was in this annoying churchy monotone. It only ceased when the priest gave his sermon, which was totally weird and seemed out of place given the supposed ethereal ideal that place was supposed to have (there was incense).
There were icons literally covering all the walls…and of course I was standing right in front of the scariest Jesus in the whole church…freakin no-chin Jesus staring me down with his beady eyes in that scary picture.
So yeah, we’re standing in the foyer/hallway facing the main room, and I look up and suddenly see this looking back at me:
I’m not sleeping tonight.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is this: I don’t get this about Christianity, culturally speaking. The whole “be serious in church,” “church is somber” thing. My friend said she liked it (it gave her a “good feeling”), but I thought it didn’t make any sense because it seems like that just serves to keep religion contained inside the church. Like, I get trying to make it like the altar or whatever with the incense and stuff, but once you get outside, what do you do? Go to Country Cookin’?
I mean, I know for Eastern Orthodox those ladies were wearing their long skirts and stuff, and I guess that stays with them, and I’m guessing they, like, say their Christian version of daily tehillim or whatever, but still. It’s kind of like saying “God is mostly in here, and in everyday life just minimally.”
I like that in Judaism for better or worse, it’s not like it’s “everyday life” outside and then “SUPER SERIOUS GOD TIME” inside. Like, I hated it at the time that no one was paying attention, but when I was at that shul in Flatbush ladies would be setting up tables like right next to me and people would be in and out and kids would be walking around and you stand when you want and you sit when you want and so on and so forth. And it doesn’t end as soon as you walk outside, indeed it improves when you leave because you get to go to someone’s house and eat free cholent, which if you don’t know already is basically the food of the heavens as far as I’m concerned. And, here’s my favorite part, that’s just as important as shul.