IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE in my new hometown. The weather calls for snow as I search the web for Anglican churches offering Midnight Mass. I choose the city’s cathedral and make my way downtown.
The processional begins with a swirl of colour, rich in song. From my pew, I wonder: who’s who among the robes that sway to the rhythm of a Christmas hymnal? The choir is in royal blue; that’s clear. But who’s on first? One fellow with a mop of curls commands my attention. He’s wearing a flaming-red cape, studded with gemstones the size of Oreos. More discrete is a white-haired man whose short mitre matches his cream-coloured robe. I browse through the program for clues. Regional bishop, it implies.
During the homily, the very reverend of the flaming-red cape introduces his cream-robed visitor with a-Wait! What did he say?” Naahhh, it can’t be. We’re in church! I so want to confirm with my next-of-pew, but figure that would be bad form.
Minutes later, I hear it again. Do I need a hearing aid? Listening more aggressively, I finally hear “Bish.”
Yet, why am I nonplussed? Street lingo has its place. Trying to be cool can be creative. But does it really belong in the manger with Baby Jesus? After all, even the Three Wise Men were full of awe. Or did Melchior ask, upon entering the stable, “Hey Virge, how’s the Babe?”
I thought not.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I just have to get with the program.
I choose not to.
As the bells peal near the end of that snowy Christmas Eve, I think about the role of religion. Its spiritual connection and soothing balm are vital to many. Places of worship are sanctuaries of history and peace. Clergy straddle the tastes and preferences of a congregation on a two-way street called Respect. But I need a break from all the changes. I need to be a free agent-for a while. Free of ecclesiastical politics. Free to attend any service, in any place of worship. Free to consider even the woods as my church. God has no loyalty program with any one organization. I’m quite sure of it.