Theo Hobson

Praying with the Pentecostalists

A visit to my local church

  • From Spectator Life
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I go to my local church. But not my very local church. There’s a Pentecostal church, a plain building used mostly by worshipers from the Caribbean, on my very road. Happy music sometimes spills out and I have often seen smartly dressed worshippers outside.

When I told my wife that I planned to go to a service, and maybe write about it, she advised against. It would be intrusive, she said. It’s not your culture. If you wrote about it, you’d sound partronising, sneery. But I’m a religion writer, I replied, and it would be remiss of me to overlook a church in my actual street. And I’m a Christian, and so are they, so surely nervousness about cultural difference should not put me off. And I sound sneery about everything, so that’s irrelevant.

Now I’m rather glad that it’s there, that the only non-residential building in my street, apart from the corner-shop, is devoted to the praise of God

The notice board said that Sunday worship was from 11 to 1.15. A misprint surely – or maybe the timing included an hour for coffee. I wouldn’t let this put me off. I arrived on the dot and the service already seemed to be underway – in fact Sunday School was ending. I sat down (plush red velvety chairs – not very Anglican), and was met by a couple of bemused but friendly-enough nods. An old guy – surprisingly in a dog-collar – was talking about Moses being found in the water as a baby. He was sort of acting it out, playing it for laughs, like a stand-up. There were just a few kids, and about ten adults – another ten or 15 turned up gradually.

An old man sitting near me said hello. I said where I normally went to church and he said he’d recently met my vicar at a funeral.

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