A few weeks ago I participated in a program that outfits unemployed Canadians with new or gently-used clothing. For a nominal fee, about a dozen of us were allowed to "shop" for a week's worth of formal and casual business outfits. Volunteers assisted us as we hunted for clothing that suited each of us the most. The charity that organizes this program is secular, but the program itself operates out of the basement of a local Baptist church.
I arrived at the side entrance of the church a few minutes early that day. By the time the doors opened 20 minutes later, nearly a dozen women would be waiting patiently. We were Black, White, Asian, and Latina. We were teens who wore flip flops and halter tops despite the slightly chilly weather, recent immigrants who spoke English as a second language and struggled to understand and to be understood, and middle-aged moms who rushed in at the last second with two kids in tow.
A woman in a business suit walked up to the church with me. Neither one of us had realized until we arrived that this program was located in a church. And then it happened: music. Christian music. Gospel music blaring, squawking from a speaker I hadn't noticed was attached to the side door of the church. I wasn't familiar with the song, but I do remember that it said something about the importance of perseverance through all of life's struggles. The woman who stood beside me sighed, said "I can't believe this" and began to walk down the street. She stopped at the very edge of the church's property and placed her cellphone to her ear.
While their choice of music did surprise me, I wasn't offended by it, but it did seem a little out of place for the situation.
The doors opened and we walked in. Later, when I was in one of the change rooms, I heard the woman talk to one of the volunteers about the music. She didn't believe in "that stuff." While she didn't have a problem with what other people believed, she really wasn't interested in being forced to absorb those messages in this type of situation. (Or something to that effect.)
I don't know what is the moral of this story. There probably isn't one, but the things that woman said have been echoing in my mind. I wish I could have picked up more pieces of the plot (who played the music? did they do it intentionally or do the speakers operate on some sort of timer? has anyone ever complained before? was the woman in the suit simply having a bad day?) before the day ended. But I didn't.Upcoming posts in this series will discuss topics like the role of women in various Canadian churches, GLBT faith experiences, evangelism, as well as other examples of the challenges (and advantages!) of living in a religiously diverse society.
Labels: Church, Culture, International Experiences