Living, albeit temporarily, in the bible-belt of America, it would be a rather improper gesture of ignorance to avoid going to church. There are, however, so many Churches from which to choose. I would actually submit to seeing more churches than McDonalds. Which, I also submit, to being a good thing. The idea of feasting on a healthy, calorie-free, sermon has far more appeal than sinking ones teeth into a juicy quarter pounder with cheese and fries, plus the compulsory banana shake. Doesn’t it? Well I was about to find out.
We, me, Hayley, Aaron and Jake, made the right turn at the light. I saw a glimpse of flashing blue lights as the car joined the line of traffic. An accident, I thought. The traffic was bad and right opposite the huge shopping mall. The parking lot was packed with Sunday morning shoppers. Wrong! The line of traffic was church-goers. The cars in the car park belonged to church-goers. The blue flashing lights belonged to the local sheriff who was directing the church-goers cars. The shopping mall, was in fact the church. This sight filled me with trepidation. This was a congregation, the like of which I have never seen before. Nor have McDonalds! This was a mass of people. Is that where term “mass” comes from, in religious circles? This was a gathering that any theatre in the West End would be proud.
The trepidation came from the vastness of this event. My church going, in recent years, has seen the choir bigger than the congregation, so you will understand my stage-fright. Nevertheless, I entered the space. With no real concept of what to expect, even my last 25 years involved with theatre, one way or another, did not prepare me for this auditorium.
The theatre opened up before me, the countless semi-circular rows of seats, high overhead, multi-various lighting bars in grid form, the raised stage with a six-piece band in place, a 12 person choir raised higher on another platform, large twin screens either side for projections, which displayed I AM, the current theme of churches teachings. I was about to experience something entirely new. I like new experiences. And this was no exception. The band struck up the first of four religious beats to whet our appetites, standing throughout to enable us to move, sway and clap along. This was the warm-up for the main act, the Lead Pastor of 3Circle. We were ready. Our feet tapping. Our hearts warmed by the lyrics and fully oxygenated blood – we finally sat and he made his entrance. He made us laugh, at death curiously. He made us listen. He made us think. He made us question. And whilst I could not concur with everything he expressed, most importantly, he engaged me in the bible’s teachings. He made some things clearer and understandable, in a way none of my catholic teachers had been able to do in the past. (Sorry Mum and Dad) This, ordinary looking man, had stage presence and a charisma that reached the back row and beyond. Well-rehearsed and obviously knowledgable, he was passionate and committed to his role.
This was Sunday morning theatre and if you accept the idea that “theatre” has a responsibility to entertain and enlighten, then 3Circle Church does just that. And with a total of five performances that day, to similar huge crowds, this show is destined for a long run.
I now understand the concept of bible-belt. That is exactly how they tell it.