I'm coming down the home stretch here in China. What an amazing experience it has been!
Glen's near debut as English singer in a choir for thousands to hear
Just before the team of pastors left, they invited me on a weekend-long tour of a neighboring province: Enhui. Yanling arranged for a pastor to translate for me (she had since left for Canada). After a three-hour long bus ride I was treated to a lovely hotel room in the city of Hefei. The name of the hotel was The Wanderful Hotel. The hotel was on property owned by the church and was next door to the regional seminary. We were treated to a visit to the seminary. The chapel beside the seminary was a massive church that I mistook for a Roman Catholic church. (I often feel that the Pope has most of the nicest churches in the world; I was wrong this time. ) The next morning we were off to the main church in Hefei. It is a magnificent, recently redone church that reminded me of the St Paul's Bloor Street renovation. Everything was first class in an effort to reach out to urbanites in the downtown area. The church is equipped with four elevators that take people to one of six floors.
I had heard that they focussed on excellent music which is true. What worried me was that I was soon brought upstairs and fitted with choir gown. (At the seminary some weeks before, I was called up for a skit, and, not knowing what else to do, I yodeled for about twenty seconds. Miraculously, it sounded quite good and since then people have been asking me to sing, at which point I quickly change the topic because i know nothing about music, including not knowing how to carry a tune.) So here I am in with the choir. I quickly found a great excuse: I don't know Chinese and thus couldn't sing the hymns. "Oh but there will be some in English that you can give us special help with" my choir mates replied. "Just mouth the words for Chinese." I had already thought of this but it is hard to know what shape to make your mouth when your don't know Chinese characters. So here I am in the first photo in the middle of the choir. And here I am in the second photo making my way to the side of the choir. And finally, I disappear! (You will notice a few empty seats among the choir in the picture below.) Sometimes it is best not to explain, but simply to disappear! I spent the rest of the service taking photos and worshipping quietly in the back of one of six or so different stories of seating area in addition to the main sanctuary level. I didn't feel guilty until (I think) my name was called as a special visitor––where is he anyway?. There were at least 400 people in the basement watching the service on a large screen and additional 100 or so in an open attic. It was an average Sunday with usual attendance--a few thousand. P.S. I later found out that I had been recruited as part of a secondary choir of pastors who sat in the front row.