Thursday, May 18, 2006

One Experience of Church

The song writer and singer Larry Norman often used to share at his concerts this poem, written after his first time (and last time?) in church:

The first time that I went to church was on a Sunday morning
And from what I had heard I figured I would spend my whole time yawning.
At 18 years of age or so I thought I knew it all.
My hair was long, my jeans were tight,
I loved a knife or buckle fight,
Providing mates stood left and right,
And those we fought were small.

But my mates and me we’d never been so off to church we filed
We marched inside about three abreast, straight down the middle aisle.
Some of us were smoking cigs,
Ron was sucking candies,
We sat in what they called a pew,
Then looked around to see just who would come inside.
Let me tell you, everyone dressed like dandies.

And the row behind us was full of dames, you should have seen their looks
And one old dear she gave me a smile and offered me some books
Ta, we opened them, passed them round
You should have seen the words
All set out like poetry is and the words put us in a tizz
And Fred said, through his lemon fizz,
“These books is for the birds.”

“Ssshhhh, tut, tut, tut”, one old lady says, and the whole place buzzed.
And someone says, “Oh do hush up, you make more noise than us.”
So we looked around the building then,
It really was revealing.
Sam says, “Hey mate, get the score,
There ain’t no carpet on the floor.
See the rafters, they are so poor,
They can’t afford a ceiling.

Can’t afford electric either,
Using candles everywhere.
Hey, there’s coloured windows like my Grannies
At the bottom of the stairs.
“Shut your face,” I said to Sammy,
“I’m a listening, so is Ron.”
And from the left, without a noise,
Came a line of little boys,
And Sam says, in a puzzled voice,
“Cor! They’ve all got nighties on!”

Then came men in robes and banners.
“Look at that one, must be queer,
Do they dare condemn us
For the way we choose our gear?”
And then there is the minister,
Whose job it is to preach.
The minister, what’s his name,
Those real long prayers and what he preaches
Sounds just about the same.

I came to church to listen close,
I can’t dig the chap,
It’s like Fur-rr-ooh, furr-oo-oa
Shifting, sinking sands
And words like judgment or reprimand.
Well, me and my mates don’t quite understand
A language like that.

I am used to talking with my mates in words that have a meaning.
But that there church was just about the weirdest place I have been in.
If people like that kind of stuff
Well, let them, that’s okay
But let me tell you what I feel.
I feel we need someone who will deal
In words and thoughts and things that’s real.
I would listen to what he’d say.

My Mum once said, “Son, Jesus came to save young men like you.”
“But Jesus came so long ago, Mum, I don’t think it’s true.
But is there someone here who can explain to me, right now,
Is Christ a myth, a madman’s whim?
Well some say that Christ can cure our sin.
Is there a way to contact him or will I die not knowing how?

Listen, I only came to church to see if they could offer hope
But everything that happened there was way outside my scope
You know like afterwards, outside was a beggar on the grass.
He held his hand out to the people, they’d smile, then they’d pass.
I’m sure he reached for something real, something more than cash.
He begged them for a little cheer and they all pretended not to hear.
I get the message loud and clear.
Church is middle class.

Image: Inside one church building.