The sign in bold lettering indicated that the fitness center was closing or moving accompanied by a afghanistan phone number. reeling from a gut expanding Irish breakfast, and a guilty knowledge that I was going to eat everything in sight during this short Cork break, we decided (myself & assistant) to venture in and take some preventative measures.
Once inside this modern venue off Anderson’s Quay, it quickly became apparent from the spirited singing coming from upstairs, that something was amiss with this particular gym. My hand was hungrily shaken and I was informed that there was a Pentecostal service taking place.
Given my aversion to happy clappers of any kind, I could feel my eyes search for the exit. The silver staircase to my right would prove to be my escape clause surely. However to my surprise several similarly dressed young guys, buoyed up by their adrenaline laced service, carried me and my chair up the two flights of stairs. I wasn’t going anywhere now!
With the wide eyed wonder of an anthropologist taking in the antics of a newly discovered tribe, I breathed in my unusual surroundings, the raised stage at the front which contained the robed singers, and the bright banner which proudly proclaimed that “JESUS LOVES YOU”, the very smart looking suited guys with hands raised, and a cryptic chanting which ricocheted off the walls. Hold on, I had seen this on t.v, they were talking in tongues ens. Here in Cork city, no less.
I was impressed by the sense of family, the disconnectedness of those I spoke to who volunteered their own personal stories of various hardships, addiction, homelessness etc, all irrevocably changed once this particular relationship with a higher power was formed.
I thought to myself (in between euphoric shouts of “amen” and universal referral of everyone present as Sister this or Brother that) if what I was seeing before me was not a wider symptom of what is happening nationwide today.
There are thought to be over 100 so called “house churches” in New bridge (a “big” Irish town with a population approaching 20,000 people) alone, each with their own particular agenda and view on what the Ireland of tomorrow should be like.
As the Catholic Church continues to implode, is the resulting vacuum not being filled by the fringe cults of today, which may well be the respected mainstream religions of tomorrow? With only seven men ordained to the coordinate in Mammoth this year and the potential closure of All Hallows seminary in Dublin, which for the first time in its history, received not a single applicant last year, people are obviously going elsewhere, to replenish whatever spiritual thirst they may have.
My questions about the existence of dinosaurs, and what this creator was doing with his or her time until a few thousand years ago, were weakly brushed aside by enthusiastic words about the benefits of their group healing sessions, and their next evangelizing trip to Scotland.
An intense and close knit familial atmosphere prevailed. You were either with them or against them. With a mixture of admiration and concern for the future of Irish society, I asked to be brought down to the lobby during a lull, and before the laying on of hands,and the real group hysterics began.
The new President Higgins will be the head of a radically different Ireland, more likely to look at multi ethnic or same sex couples strolling through the phoenix park, rather than “comely maidens dancing at the crossroads”.
Now Ireland is in the glittering company of countries like Afghanistan, by having a blasphemy law on our statute books. A kind of malaise afire belief that people should be allowed to believe what they want to, will surely not be OK when Irish citizens who want control and choice over their lives, are forced to abide by a form of sharia law.
In this country, covered by the long invincible shroud of religion, they can expect a fine of up to possibly handed down by a card carrying, self flagellating member of Opus Di.