This Sunday my partner and I attended the Hope Center, which is a Pentecostal congregation. I went in not knowing what to expect as I had never been inside a Pentecostal Church, and I knew very little of the religion other than what I have seen in Hollywood movies. The first thing I noticed was how welcoming everyone was. As soon as Claire and I walked in, we were greeted and welcomed. We were given little slips of paper to fill out and then given a pamphlet of upcoming events. After we went down and took our seats, the reverend came up and talked to us after he noticed we were students. He welcomed us as well and said he hoped we would return.
The very first thing that happened as the service started was singing; there was a lot of it! The music was definitely a main part of the service, and it lasted for about an hour. The whole first half consisted of the choir singing songs which revolved heavily around the Lord and forgiveness of sin. A couple of the singers were very highly enthusiastic, and a few were clearly having very intense spiritual experiences through the music. The congregants were clapping their hands, raising their arms, and jumping around. This was like no other church experience I have ever had. It really did feel like I was at some kind of rally or concert. After the singing portion, the reverend started his sermon. At first, it simply consisted of reading from the Bible. However, before long, he was yelling and red in the face. Some of the congregants and other religious officials would periodically yell out “yes!” in agreement to his statements. During the sermon, a few people started speaking in words I couldn’t make out; I then realized they were speaking in Tongues.
What I noticed about this particular congregation was the intensity of the religious experience. Although the message didn’t quite reach me and I didn’t feel the same sense of spirituality that those around me felt, it was obvious that many shared a very intense spiritual experience. This experience was achieved and shared through song, scripture, and stories. I did not observe much in the way of ritual, although they did talk of baptism. The main message was of salvation through Christ, and repentance of sin.