i had an interesting experience today. i went up to auckland to attend a "blessing" for a gorgeous little baby, at a church in auckland. i have attended church services before, but not many. actually, i even gave a talk at a service at a church in auckland some years back. that was definitely an interesting experience.
the only other times i've been at a service is for a christening and a funeral. what struck me today was how different the christian mode of worship is, in comparison to what we do. as a summary, it was a lot of getting up to sing, then sitting down to hear verses of the bible or to read prayers. music is not at all a part of our form of worship, though expert qur'an recitation is quite beautiful and melodious (to our ears anyway). i know that hindus also use music as a significant of their worship, while other faiths use chanting.
so the singing felt alien to me. muslim worship seems to be a lot more about the individual connection to God, even though we pray in congregation quite a bit. but even though an imam will lead the prayer, each person is still making their own individual connection. so there isn't that same kind of response from the congregation that you get with the christian service. it didn't seem as contemplative to me, as an outsider observing what was going on, but who am i to say what individuals were feeling at the time. i certainly couldn't see into their minds!
the most poignant part was the middle of the service, where people got up, moved around and greeted each other. and the words used for the greeting, by every single person, were "peace be with you". which is a literal translation of the muslim greeting "assalamo alaikum". it felt quite surreal to be greeted with such familiar words in an unfamiliar context. and yet it brought home our common humanity, the similarities between our aspirations for ourselves and others. i'm sure it was quite symbolic of many things that i can't quite put into words.
it was nice to catch up with some familiar faces, as well as to meet 2 bloggers i'd only known electronically until today. i love putting faces to names, & the process of words on a computer turning into real people.
all in all, a lovely day.