In the spirit of investigative journalism and channeling our inner Louis Theroux, my ghosthunting pal and I went to church last night.
Not any old church. The Life Church no less.
We wanted to see what the buzz was and whether it smacked of the old Jim Jones Peoples’ Temple.
We were welcomed into the car park of the aircraft hangar-esque building by a young lass in a Hi-Vis vest waving some kind of glow stick at us, as loud music pumped out of speakers on the building. It put me in mind of arriving at a festival at gate opening time.
We sat in the car a while trying to decide whether to use false names (Regina Falange style) or a suitable backstory if we were interrogated or had to register. My pal started spluttering with laughter before we’d even got inside and had to pretend to rearrange her car boot in order to compose herself.
We strolled straight in. Could have been anyone packing anything! Socks full of semtex ready to blow the infidels to kingdom come. Not so much as a bag check or divine pat-down.
One of us got a high five from a lanyard-wearing greeter in a baseball cap, who was merrily dancing away in the doorway. I would not have been surprised to hear a DisneyLand style, “Hi. How many in your party today Maam?”
The foyer area was like a youth club. Pool tables, people drinking coffee and greeting one another like they’d not seen each other for years. We went through into the main auditorium . There were probably about 500 seats set out in rows. Each with a prayer form, an envelope for your donation (cash, cheques, direct debit, Standing orders all welcome – you could even pay on the app you could download to your phone or text an amount of your choice!)
We took a seat somewhere in the middle. I moved the other side of my pal as I got scared at being too close to the aisle. I feared for being made to participate in some way, like at a pantomime or when the Woman in Black rustles up next to you, or at a performance of Cats when they crawl up the aisle and paw at your trouser leg. There was a huge LED screen with a countdown to when the service was to begin. The young musicians and singers took to the stage and the evening commenced, all filmed for live streaming on GodTube or whatever. Lots of singing. Quality singing to be fair and good musicians (just with ‘jeebus loves you’ lyrics).
To maintain our cover, we occasionally whooped and put our arms in the air, nodded vigorously and said things like “Awesome!” “Amen” and “That’s right!” (which was what everyone else was doing).
We got slightly alarmed when it came time for the One Minute Mingle and a giant stopwatch appeared on screen and everyone was encouraged to meet someone new. Speed dating for the Lord as it were. I panicked when approached by a lady who came down the aisle hugging people and I told her my real name instead of saying Bubbles DeVere or Marjory Daw or whatever.
FFS! I was logged into the guest WiFi too so they’ve got me for sure now by the short and curlies. Probably reading this as we speak and sending a black Sedan or a flatbed truck full of armed, dungaree-clad ‘communards’ to lurk outside my house or go through my bins for my bank statements.
We shared a furtive look when it came time for the collection. Armed with black buckets emblazoned with the word LIFE, helpers manned the aisles. I realised that the auditorium doors were now shut and guarded. The fire exit was manned and two men who hadn’t been there before had suddenly appeared, sat either side of me and my friend – the one on my side smelled funny and soon fell asleep (or did he? He may have been a stooge sent to listen in to see if our devotion was genuine).
We were penned in and I had no wallet nor any intention of donating even if I had.
Luckily my pal found 85p in her pocket so we maintained our cover a bit longer.
The pastor dude came on and did his bit. What I took from it was that if your life is shit, it’s God’s will. If your life is going well then that’s God’s will too. Whatever happens – it’s the will of the Big Man and his big plan. You shouldn’t sit with ‘mockers’ and ‘ridiculers’ and that, as we all know, the devil will make work for idle hands.
The demographic was a lot younger and more diverse than I had imagined – which goes to show (just like the song) that You Never Can Tell.
Young and old were embracing the Lord and shouting Amen and holding their arms aloft and I won’t lie, I could see the appeal… and that’s what scared me the most.
I have raked about in some dark and creepy places in my time (usually with the same mate) 😀 but last night was probably the most afraid I’ve ever been on one of our investigations.
One day you’re lost and lonely. You find a warm welcome and a new ‘family’ and before you know it you’ve handed over your passport and you’re on a one way ticket to the back of beyond with all the KoolAid you can drink.
I’m sure it’s nothing like as extreme, and everybody was very friendly and seemed really happy (that’s possibly why I didn’t trust them, me being such a maudlin auld miseryguts).
Doesn’t mean I’m going back.
So we left before we could be persuaded to partake of the free coffee for first timers, but we did have a gander in the gift shop on the way out. You heard me. A motherfucking gift shop y’all! Tee shirts, mugs, DVDs of the sermons, keyrings and a very wide selection of books – some of which I found quite alarming if I’m honest.
They didn’t sell the LIFE buckets, which was a shame. I would’ve liked one to use as a pisspot for when we go camping. It would appeal to my heretic nature. Because let’s face it, if I’m wrong and there is a heaven and hell, we all know I’m taking the down escalator!
Next stop – a local Spiritual church just to see what goes on there and then who knows? Mosque, Gurdwara, Synagogue – bring it on in the name of scientific interest – because I have a mind as idle as my hands and we all know that Satan loves a lazy ass slacker.
Ciao Ciao MoFos and remember – Be yourself!