It's Sunday, and it's been awhile, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to visit a church. There are no Christian Quaker churches in New Mexico, so I looked for the next best thing, another peace church, the Mennonites of Belen.
I've been to a Mennonite Church before, when I visited my friends Paul & Lydia up in BC, who've been part of the Mennonites for many years. This was different. The first clue might have been after I used Google Maps to find the church, and Google sent me eight miles down the road to the middle of nowhere, before a friendly pickup driver told me the Mennonite Church was eight miles behind me. That wasn't the clue though. It was when I mentioned this directional error to one of the church members, and he told me, "Google Maps? That's something on the Internet, isn't it?"
Yes, this was Conservative Mennonite. An unusual experience, to be sure. The men, all in white shirts and black slacks. (Well, except for me.) The women all in white bonnets and traditional dresses, like what I grew up with. Women on the left, men on the right. And a conversation before service when the church member derided those "liberal Mennonites" for being only fair-weather pacifists. (I didn't even really realize that the Mennonites had these distinctions.)
The singing was hard to adjust to. They have learned to sing very well, because they use no instruments; only a harmonizer before the hymn. I tried to hit the notes, but it's difficult when one has grown up all their life singing to instruments, and when you have a very cute two-year-old next to you really trying to hit the notes too but not even knowing that there are words.
Their services are long. They have cars, but are generally anti-technology. So there is of course no website, no answering machine, and no one even answers the phone. I had to guess on the time of service, and arrived 20 minutes early. Sunday School is first, but it is melded in with the rest of service, such that there is singing before hand, the kids leave during adult Sunday School, and then there is no chance to leave before the sermon begins. Which was unfortunate. To be fair, I think the main pastor wasn't present, but the guy speaking for fifty minutes seemed to be under the impression that a sermon was a string of Biblical cites with reading of verses under various points, all without explanation. Worse yet, the sermon was on how the Bible was the Word of God, to be taken as literally true, and the sole illumination for life, supported with out-of-context eisigesis like every reference to "the Word" assumed to be referring to the Bible, or "scripture" assumed to be referring to the New Testament whenever a New Testament author used the word. With a very wakeful dog the night before, I found it quite difficult to stay awake.
Thankfully, the interactive Sunday School in the hour before was much more illuminating, encouraging, and instructive. It was on the tongue and it's dangers, from James. I reflected on how when this passage was written, most were illiterate and even more never wrote. James here speaks of how we communicate, and how dangerous an idle word can be. How much then does this passage also apply to not only our spoken word, but the written and typed word as well? Many men shared some insightful thoughts on this, but sadly, not the women. They were present, listening, and silent the entire time, no doubt from a literal interpretation of Paul's passage that women should not speak. Thus we men were greatly disenfranchised, from lacking the opportunity to hear the insights of our sisters across the aisle.