The only times I have visited church was for family and friends’ weddings (three weddings of which have now ended in divorce), and sadly for one funeral. I always find when I enter a church I hold my body and use my voice in the same way as I do in a library – everything is done very softly and quietly and with a constant fight against the urge to loudly shout out something childish like ‘BOOBIES’.
I’ve never been into a church on my own and chatted to a vicar, and being an atheist I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to go into a church and chat to a vicar. I had no idea if there would be anyone in a church during the day as I figured there’s not much to steal and perhaps they just leave the doors unlocked. I already knew I wanted to converse with some Christians during my exploration of religion as part of my year of doing new things, and on day twenty-five I stumbled upon the perfect place.
In Canary Wharf, London’s bizarre Financial Disneyland, amongst the high-rise headquarters of multinational money-makers, on the surrounding docks is a floating church. St Peter’s Barge is London’s, and I believe Britain’s, only floating place of worship. I had to give it a visit.
The sign on the Quayside said all are welcome, but after walking down the gangway I opened the barge door nervously as I wasn’t convinced I was allowed in. I entered softly and quietly. On the inside the barge didn’t look much like a church, in fact more like a business conference room and I guess in keeping with its modern corporate neighbours. There were three people sat around a table having a meeting. I apologised for interrupting and explained I just wanted to have a look.
All three, one woman and two men, were Christians who worked on the barge. They were very welcoming and instantly offered me a hot drink and their last piece of ginger cake – I wasn’t expecting this kind of hospitality but I guess coffee and cake is a church standard. I actually enjoyed their company as I sat explaining some of the adventures I’d had in the last twenty-four days, and things were going well until ten minutes in one of them suddenly said:
“So what’s your views on Christianity?”
For some reason I wasn’t expecting them to talk about Jesus, which is bit stupid really considering I’d entered a church. The man and the woman left the room, and the man who’d asked me the question put a bible on the table and began his ‘sales pitch’.
I had to remind myself I’m approaching all these new things with an open mind. I tried my best to listen, avoid forming an immediate opinion and above all not shout out “BOOBIES”. However it was easy to listen to the pleasant man as he wasn’t preachy, and in fact probably explained Christianity the clearest it’s every been described to me.
He drew on a piece of paper two large boxes with a gap between them. On top of one box he drew a little stickman and wrote inside of the box the word ‘Us’. Inside the other box he wrote ‘God’. And in the gap between the boxes he wrote the word ‘Sin’. To bridge the gap between ‘Us’ and ‘God’ he said all I had to do was accept in Jesus Christ.
The concept of just accepting in Jesus Christ was quite a lot for me to take on-board and I had severally questions I still wanted to ask such as “What about the Dinosaurs?” and “Will I get coffee and cake every time I visit?”, despite all these questions in my head I felt comfortable sitting with the holy man, until unexpectedly he said he was going to have to kick me because they needed to continue their meeting.
I was given me some bits to read from the bible, which normally I wouldn’t bother to do but this time I will and I’ll continue my investigation of religion, and also I’ve decided I WILL return the Scientology questionnaire that’s still sitting at home.
In conclusion: sometimes it’s hard to keep an open mind, but there’s no harm in listening to other people’s ideas.