Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dinner at the Pastor's House

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wasn't nervous either. The pastor, K, seemed like such a warm, genuine person. His smile alone had put me at ease when we met. He's a wiry, fit man who must be in his late 50's, according to his life story, but who looks ten years younger. He has great posture and preaches with passionate energy.

Ken and I arrived at his little bungalow at the appointed time of 7 o'clock. We were welcomed in by K's wife, L. We passed them our host/hostess gifts. They offered us a seat and a glass of guava nectar.

We learned that K was born on the tiny island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Madagascar, which is off the east coast of Africa, south of the equator. His mother was French and a non-practicing Jew; his father was a non-practicing Muslim. Initially K's dream was to become a fine artist. He stopped and gestured around the living room - all the oil paintings on the walls were his creations. Beautiful! The man has skill! He moved to France to go to art school, and was introduced to Jesus there.

Considering my own newbie status to the Christian faith, I always feel more comfortable in the presence of converts. Technically (according to Jewish law), K was also born a Jew. It's like, we're practically related! OK, well, maybe not. But it does make a big difference to me that he's coming from that perspective. I know that he can speak to my experience as a kindred spirit.

L was very much a traditional hostess, although neither of them were at all stuffy or formal. We were offered starter snacks on a table with a white doily on it, and after some introductory conversation we were asked to be seated at the dining room table. L served us Mauritian chicken curry stew from a tajine.

(This isn't my photo - I swiped it to illustrate what a tajine is.)

I had been a little worried about the curry, as K had been building it up quite a bit since he invited us for dinner, but it wasn't insanely spicy. Just hot enough to be delicious.

The conversation turned to matters of faith. K inquired after my own story, and then Ken's. He and L asked us quite a lot of clarifying questions to figure out where we were coming from. At one point L got up from the table and returned with a bible, to look up a quote that K had referenced. At that point I had one of those weird splits where the critical part of my brain backed right off from the rest of me.

"Woah!" it said. She just brought a bible to the dinner table!"

"Yep," I said to it. "We're at the pastor's house, remember? This type of thing is to be expected."

"But... it's so WEIRD!" said my critical brain. "I was willing to play along for the sake of good curry and pleasant conversation, but do you really expect me to take this seriously? Isn't it a little much?"

"Get used to it," I said. "You and I both know that I need this faith to get me through the rest of my life without falling back into depression. We've tried everything else. Unless you want to start taking medications, this is it. Take it seriously."

"grumph" said my critical brain, and shut up.

(I maintained enough self-control not to use my out loud voice for this exchange.)

I left with a stack of books on loan from K, some old questions answered, and some new ones already forming.

This past Sunday, the other pastor, B, was back from holiday. His wife, M, made some comments to the effect that she would like to get to know us better, so there may be another pastor's house dinner in our future. I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Mmm... Sounds tasty!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Sounds like a nice visit. If you're going to be a member of this church it sounds like a good way to get to know them, which of course is the same they are doing to you ;)

Although your description of things it sounds like it would have made me nervous, just a bit to formal. I prefer a much more laid back atmosphere for everything.

jameil1922 said...

wow! cool! i like being along on your journey! and i'm glad your brethren can share your perspective! that's great!

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is Canada not producing men of the cloth? Every service I've been to has had an imported priest. Or is there some sort of holy man exchange program taking place? Canadian born priests go to Hungary. Hungarian born priests go to the Jamaica and Jamaican born priests come here.

I'm not just trying to make light of the situation, I'm also trying to raise a point. Do we, as a society, not take faith seriously enough and therefore, have to import people just to work in our churches and temples?

Sparkling Red said...

Unsigned: It was. :-)

Ron: It was a weird mix of formal and informal. Doilies on the table, but the hostess was wearing a plain T-shirt, shorts, and bare feet.

Jameil: Thanks! There are more converts in the church than I had anticipated. It's very welcoming.

Whatigotsofar: You have a point there. People who have lived in Canada for many generations tend to move away from the faith and traditions of their ancestors and join the mainstream secular culture. That being said, the other pastor is Canadian born and bred. I think it's good that we have a mix of older and newer Canadians. Keeps us all on our toes with regard to the brotherhood of mankind and all that. (or the siblinghood of humankind or whatever).

nicole said...

Big hug to you to make your critical brain shut up!
And that stuff looks yummie and the people seemed nice!

Nilsa S. said...

Sounds like a gratifying supper. Maybe someday you'll be able to invite one or both pastor's to your house for a meal?!

Tink said...

Your brain and my brain must be on the same wave length. ;)

I like this hands-on, intimate approach to religion. I always found churches or youth groups too stuffy. I mean, they're good in their own way, but nothing like a sit-down dinner with discussions!

Claire said...

Sounds like a fun visit!


Jenski said...

Good job keeping the critical brain under wraps. The K and B sound like they are really open to not only getting to know you, but also helping you explore Christianity and give you resources too. Nevermind the yummy dinners?!

Aurora said...

I want to sing 'there's a bible on the table hi ho hi ho' to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain," but I don't know how that would help. Sorry. Anyway, it actually sounds to me like culture shock more than 'being critical.' Passover dinner might be a useful comparison in that religious books are at the table in that context...?

Sparkling Red said...

Nicole: Thank you! A hug is the perfect way to make my critical brain settle down. Issues of the heart need to be settled with the heart. Thinking too much about heart questions only leads one in circles.

Nilsa: Indeed, I hope one day to be able to return their hospitality. I don't have doilies, but we can get by without them. ;-)

Tink: Yes! I like my faith experience to be participatory, not passive. One-on-one or small group honest conversations are hugely valuable.

Claire: It was fun. :-) They also had a very cute, fuzzy, black cat. It was nice to meet her and rub her belly.

Jenski: The pastors and their families are genuinely open and generous. I really appreciate that. I haven't gotten any hints of snottiness or judgemental feelings from any of them.

Aurora: I guess that's it - culture shock. I'm used to sit-down dinners being family affairs, and if anyone brought a Bible containing the New Testament to the dinner table at any of my family dinners... Well, they may as well start throwing their food at the walls. That's how unacceptable it would be.

Dianne said...

your two sides of the brain conversation is one I can truly relate to.

I don't always control it as well as you did and I know that gets in the way.

I continue to admire how open you are and how willing you are to take in all the newness.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Your brain and my brain must've been separated at birth. ;-) I have those like-it's-two-different-people conversations going on in my head all the time.

What questions did you get answered? What new questions did you get? I just visited Europe's northernmost cathedral (there will eventually be a blog post) and attended vesper and felt both inspired and conflicted during and after. It did give me more "clues" as to where the conflict comes from, though. (Nudder blog post, that.)

San said...

Spark, I enjoyed your brain dialog. You captured that two-sided sense perfectly.

Sounds like a nice evening. Good food and discussion of spirituality--a delectable menu in my book.

Sparkling Red said...

Dianne: Thanks! Sometimes I feel like Alice, fallen down the rabbit hole into a strange, new world that I don't recognize. I expect to run into a mad hatter at some point, and a mock turtle.

Keera: I asked the pastor to explain how he can believe that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus as their saviour will not be going to heaven. The part of his answer that stuck with me was "a Stop sign is intolerant, but it has a purpose. Not all intolerance is bad." I'm not sold on that particular doctrine yet, but it was enlightening to hear his point of view.

San: Thank you. :-) I guess pastors need to offer good food to make their less appealing teachings more palatable.