|The countryside around Thurles is stunning|
A few days ago I accomplished something on my Irish bucket list. I attended the Sunday morning service at the Thurles Baptist Church. Yep, Thurles has a baptist church. Who knew? Actually, I did. I found it online last year and even accidentally drove past it (it’s “out in the country”) when I was exploring one day. But I was preoccupied with standing stones and wedge tombs, and figured relics of the baptist movement would have to wait until I ran up the timeline a few thousand years.
So in early April, I sent an email to the pastor and introduced myself, explaining I’d be in Thurles all summer and hoped to attend church. I got a really hospitable, informative reply from his wife, offering me a lift if I should need one. So Sunday was the day. She collected me personally and was just as warm and friendly as I had expected (and hoped).
|There are over 6 million cows in Ireland. Thank you, Siri.|
Who’s going to disobey the priest? He might be the one who later hears your confession, right? I wonder if the priests were legally and ethically bound to report the sin of “colluding with evangelicals” to the local authorities. But maybe the church WAS the local authority back then. I don’t know these things. Nevertheless, I was told the only plot of land they could muster was the spot where they are, so that’s where they are. It’s a little in the middle of nowhere.
I was so hoping it wasn’t going to be a fire and brimstone experience. Vesuvius is farther east, right? You never know with baptists. They’re as multi flavored as Haagen-Dazs. But I can say honestly, it was the most sincere, unpretentious, reverent evangelical service I’ve been to in a while. And I felt most welcome. I’m going back next week.
I’ve gotten away from “religion” in the last few years, which includes commitment to a church. I prefer to have my worship served with caroling birds and persevering streams as opposed to chatty well-wishers who spoon feed each other platitudes then wash them down with “America First”. Oops! Am I getting political??? Somebody slap me.
|The O'Fogarty clan church in Inch closed its doors around 1700.|
Of course no outdoor excursion in Ireland is complete without a detour through a lichen splattered cemetery and the reading of stones and the lamenting of crumbly, forgotten church walls. The Inch Old Graveyard was our memorial de jour and provided a peaceful rest stop although I don’t think any of us really needed one.
We completed our loop by nine or so and had tea and biscuits (cookies) at a pub/restaurant called The Ragg, which was our starting point. And because no indoor excursion in Ireland is complete without music, we had no sooner started sipping when out of nowhere appeared a penny whistle and a fiddle and two reenergized hikers who knew how to wield them. All I could think of was How Great Thou Art (which doesn’t work as a jig or a reel but nevertheless…).
I’m finding so many venues and ways to worship these days. But I have to admit, I miss church. Just the traditional stand and sing, bow in prayer, listen to the sermon, shake a hand kind of togetherness. Doctrine has zigged and zagged its way through the ages and unfortunately left grooves of self-righteous pride, division and animosity. And the controversies never end.
|Music in The Ragg|