The lady in front of me looks a bit different from all the others. This is a gathering largely composed of fit-looking women ranging from teens to fifties and they are all nicely dressed – they’ve all made an effort.
The woman in front has made an effort too – a bit too much of an effort, in fact. She is dressed in red: a scarlet cotton cardigan over a red and white floral dress, from the v-neck of which peeks a black brassiere, while her legs emerge below the hem clad in fishnet tights. On her feet, gold leather ankle boots with stiletto heels.
She must be in her early sixties and perhaps that accounts for a slight heavy-handedness which has laid the lipstick on too thick and given her eyes a watery look as they groan beneath the weight of the black gloop that thickens the lashes. She’s not tarty exactly, because that’s as much a product of attitude as appearance. She’s just a little overdone, maybe trying too hard to combat the cruel withdrawal of natural attributes which is how the passing years treat us.
In exchange for the loss of bloom and glow, this woman has gained a few extra pounds, which may have added to the natural splendour of her chest. Many of her younger counterparts here have that padding already, so when age imparts the gift of weight to them it’s going to be unwanted. She, though, the lady in red, can take it. She’s what is sometimes known as a glamorous granny.
Among the rest of the female cast here are some dressed in lycra, in what may or may not be cycling gear, and in strong colours: a striking magenta here and a vivid cyan blue there. It’s like a practical demonstration of a printer’s colour charts, stretched over a female form. There are men here too, I should point out, but not so many of them and not so noticeably attired, at least, from my point of view.
And where is this collection of humanity? At a confirmation service in a church.
It might justifiably be said that churches are usually full of older people, but that is not the case here today because “confirmation” means the service is to welcome youngsters on the threshold of adulthood into the religious community. So we’ve got a group of teenagers deemed old enough to know their own mind, taking the first step into spiritual independence. Up to now they may have been here because their parents dragged them along, but now they’re stepping out on their own.
It sometimes seems this is a daunting time to be a Christian, but then history is littered with daunting times. As documented in the Bible, Jesus Christ’s original followers were persecuted, ridiculed, assaulted and put to death, just as Jesus had told them they would be, and just as he was. And that sort of thing is still happening today in certain parts of the world.
To some people, Christianity is the big bad wolf of religions, targeted because of its traditional success and popularity. The terrorist who blows up your friends at a concert or mows them down in the street behind the wheel of the heavy truck may be a devotee of another religion, striking a blow against what he doesn’t believe in.
But Christians will receive a portion of the blame from certain quarters for having the audacity to continue existing when so many people believe in nothing but themselves.
Meanwhile, back at the confirmation service, the church is full – yes, full – of people from every walk of life. True, there don’t appear to be any crack dealers here, but then what does a crack dealer look like? Also, there is no one brandishing a gun, but we don’t know what is concealed in pockets and down the back of jeans, which films and TV lead us to believe is the best place to keep a firearm.
Nor do we know what nefarious thoughts are whirring in the minds of this cross-section of humanity, because these are just people, with all their innate weaknesses and faults along with their good points. People here are having sexual fantasies, possibly about other people here. Some are struggling with hateful thoughts, bitter about things that people have said about them or done to them.
One or two will be pining for a bottle of rum or a gram of cocaine.
Some may be mulling over a plan for some illegal or antisocial act that they are going to commit out of necessity or just plain wickedness.
If they are serious about their faith, though, they will also be praying that God will make them a better person.If religion is about anything, it’s about that, or should be: trying to improve on how we are. Often we’re going to fail, but like the lady in red, we have to keep trying.