Sunday, May 27, 2007

And they'll know we are Christians . . .

I suspect most church members would be able to finish that hymn line and might even, like me, cringe a little. On Saturday at our Cursillo Provincial meeting in Falkirk, I was reduced to a state of mild hysteria and immoderate giggles by the combination of that hymn, the pianist's (wonderfully executed) accompaniment and an unfortunate typo which exhorted us to 'wok' with each other. I'm sorry - it's a weakness of mine as those who know me will attest - my giggle threshhold is low.

However, I have to admit - reluctantly - that those words make sense when applied to Cursillo. What is it about Cursillo that changes lives? I know lots of folk who say, unequivocably, that Cursillo has changed their life. It's changed mine, dammit, when I was quite happy with it the way it was, thank you. But that's what happens and it happens to a LOT of people who go on a Cursillo 'weekend'.

So, apart from the regrettable giggling episode, what was it about Saturday's gathering that elated me, filled me with joy and then left me with a warm glow and a sense that the Holy Spirit had been fairly whistling around that afternoon? The venue was well appointed, with kitchen and adequate loos but the church itself was one of those depressing balconied affairs with dreadful acoustics and pews with gates (I never manged to get my gate open and had to leap over the back to get in and out) and the poor organist had to clamber into a pit from which, disappointingly, he failed to rise like those wonderfully tumescing theatre organs. We were a motley collection of oddbods, mostly over fifty, mostly a bit 'hand-knitted', some downright eccentric-looking. Frankly, it was the kind of gathering I'd have run a mile from under normal circumstances. But there I was and it was heaven. Heaven because we all had one thing in common - we'd all been on a Cursillo weekend and learned that it was all right to love each other.

We Brits are a pretty repressed lot on the whole. We don't go around showing our emotions and certainly my generation don't go in for excessive hugging and kissing. I remember a dear old lady at my last church when the pax was introduced declaring, "If anyone tries to kiss me I'll bite!" and she spoke for many. But during a Cursillo weekend, people learn to take off that mask of reserve and allow their inner child to come out. We discover, maybe for the first time, that God really loves us and accepts us just as we are and suddenly we begin to love and accept each other. After all, Jesus told us over and over again to do it, but so many of us didn't really listen. Me - I'd been happy to love the lovable, but there were far too many folk whom I considered decidedly not my type and therefore unlovable. Cursillo allowed me to see everyone as potentially lovable, as a friend, like Jesus. It helped me to look for the good in people and not to judge them.

So there we were on Saturday, the Cursillistas. Yes, we were a bunch of assorted oddbods, but we knew God loved all of us and we loved each other. And that, I think, is the essence of Christianity. Or it should be. Unfortunately much of that essence has been lost or stifled by organisations which have introduced rules, created factions, hierarchies and all the baggage the church is now staggering under. Cursillo gives us a taste of what the world could be like.

Oh and . . . 'they'll know we are Christains by our love' btw.