Confession time: I said I was going to look for a church to attend back in June and I haven’t actually done that yet. At first, I had things going on Sunday mornings, and then I got into the habit of doing my laundry on Sunday mornings. Plus, the prospect of searching for a church (I’ve yet to stumble upon the familiar flame and cross) seems very daunting.
To be honest, it hasn’t felt that strange not to go to church. A strange comment coming from the girl who made it a point to regularly attend church every year that she was at Oberlin.
It would be easy to make a statement here about how the approaches to religion in Indonesia versus Oberlin are fundamentally different. I could make the argument that while being religious in an Oberlin context is often regarded as fundamentally strange, here it’s normal. Thus, while in Oberlin I felt the need to actively express my religion, but here I don’t feel that need because my religion is already assumed.
A tempting argument, but one that makes too many abstractions. I think what’s closer to the truth is the simple fact that my life here is so different from my life in the United States that I haven’t even considered how church would fit into it.
For Christmas, though, I knew I absolutely had to go to church.
I received a very complicated run-down of various times and locations for different Christmas services from one of the people I work with. To keep things simple, I picked the one that would definitely be in English whose location I knew I could get to without getting lost in the process.
The service was held in a hotel, and if I had to classify it, it would fall toward the contemporary end of the church service spectrum. All the hymns and readings came from a Power Point; there was a guitar. That said, for the most part the hymns were your standard Christmas fare (though we only sang the first two verses of any given hymn which, in my opinion, is just enough to get you interested).
I enjoyed the service but I didn’t feel any great sense of homecoming, which I think just means it wasn’t exactly what I’m used to. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed going out to dinner with some Americans afterwards.
On the whole though, I’ll say that Christmas here didn’t feel like Christmas. I knew it was the twenty-fifth of December, but that meant none of the things that it did when I was in the United States. There, I’d probably be playing “Silent Night” in front of a darkened church on Christmas Eve and piling as many blankets on my bed as possible. Here, I went to dance class on Christmas Eve and lit an advent candle on Christmas Day.
And that was Christmas. Not sadder in any way, just very, very different.
I will say, though, that I may have been inspired to go church hunting for real. I really miss hymns, and playing them alone on my violin just isn’t the same.