On Sunday we were invited to attend the morning service at the church of Santa Albana Stura with Fiancée and her family.
It was very crowded with people and also full of what Husband calls the smells and bells. Apart from the obvious things - like it being Roman Catholic and in Italian - the service differed from what I would recognise as an Anglican one in that there was a choir of girls and they were the only ones who sang. The songs were jolly and pretty and I'm sure I would have had to join in if I'd known them.
I grew up in an Anglican church so thought I might recognise some bits but I didn't, although I did pick up that the priest was talking about Easter and Palm Sunday. My concerns about having to wear a hat were unfounded, and in fact everyone was quite casually dressed. And all was going well until we came to the communion bit.
Now let me explain that when I've been in other RC services the priest has offered a blessing to those who can't take communion so I merrily joined the line of people going to the front. I started to get a bit worried as I drew closer as it wasn't the priest proper handing out the wafer. I should have left the queue then really ...
When my turn came the 'priest' had the wafer in his hand before I could bow my head. I shook my head instead and tried to show that I just wanted to be blessed but he continued to proffer the wafer. He had such a nice smile too I was almost tempted to take it but instead I panicked, crossed myself and rushed back to my pew.
I'm afraid the poor man was left thinking that I must be a terrible sinner who thought she could pretend to be in a state of grace but was overcome by guilt at the last moment. He's probably still praying for my tormented soul.
That aside, I enjoyed the service more than I would have expected. It is so very different from what I'm used to, so much more formal and directed, that I thought it would be hard to find God in it. But, needless to say, I was wrong. (I could write a book about all the times I get it wrong.)
When I heard the priest mention Easter I remembered that I'm leading the service in prison on Palm Sunday. I smiled to myself to think of how different again that would be and then I looked at the statue of Jesus at the side of the church. It was one of the traditional poses with his arms outstretched, welcoming, and I realised afresh that it's the same Christ, who calls us to be close to him, in a formal Roman Catholic service in Italy, a liberal evangelical meeting in Linden, a halfway-house in prison and the chaos of Zac's.
But we didn't get a cup of tea afterwards.