Belfast Telegraph

Claire O'Boyle: Tears, clapping, cheering and warm hugs, as I take an emotional roller coaster ride

Green Pastures Church
Green Pastures Church

By Claire O'Boyle

I don't know quite what I was expecting, but my experience at the Green Pastures evangelical church yesterday morning was intense. I owned up as soon as I got there that I was a journalist.

Not everyone likes that. And given the few weeks the congregation and their pastor have had, I was pretty well braced for them to show me the door.

But not a bit of it. Instead they welcomed me in, gave me a tour of the state-of-the-art building and got me a coffee before finding me a spot in the 'auditorium', ready for the service.

But it wasn't the sort of service I'm used to.

For a start the darkened room, decked out with huge screens, thundering speakers and bright, moving lights, was packed. Around 600 people file in every Sunday morning, apparently, with another 500 or so arriving later for an evening service.

And it wasn't all oldies, either. There were young, beautiful people there, too. Women who wouldn't look out of place in Belfast city centre on a Saturday night. Handsome fellas, kids and loved-up couples.

There was a band at the front of the auditorium, acting as a focus for much of the highly-charged, emotional energy in the room.

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Because it was emotional.

People cried. I welled up myself because to see a room filled with hundreds of people, eyes closed and singing, and so lost in the moment with their thoughts, was a lot.

When I asked one or two if it was a more emotional week than usual, they said no, it's always like this.

The sermons fired up the congregation, and there was clapping and cheering.

And in a step up from the Catholic handshake sign of peace, here there were full, warm hugs with strangers. I got two.

When it ended, I'll be honest, I felt like I'd been through the wringer. An emotional roller coaster of a Sunday morning.

Belfast Telegraph

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