Sunday, November 2, 2008

My last day in Florida - for now

This is my last day in Florida for five weeks. This morning I checked out of the Best Western on the Bonson Hwy in Kissimee and decided to drive south on 192. I always thought Kissimee was pronounced kiss-a mee; I was disappointed to discover that it’s actually ki-sem-ee, with the accent on the second syllable. I thought it would be fun to say that I was in kiss-a-mee!

As I drove I realized I didn’t have any reading material for the plane later today so I stopped at Target. Target is very much like our Zellers stores and even sells some of the same brands such as Cherokee. All the aisle signs were bilingual: English and Spanish. This was the first time I have run into restrooms also marked Bano.

I found the book section and side-by-side were books by Obama and McCain. (Obama’s was right next to a Spanish/English dictionary.) Obama’s space was full; McCain’s, has two books left. This was a bit puzzling as one gets the impression that there’s an Obama love-in in these parts. Perhaps Obama had sold out and his space refilled, I mused. Later this morning I bought a local paper (Orlando Sentinel ) that claimed the candidates were in a dead heat in Florida. Tuesday will be very interesting. The Sentinel also proclaimed that it was supporting Obama. Florida is a key state - remember what happened to Al Gore?

The Rock Church. There’s a shopping centre on the Bronson Hwy that I’ve passed several times in the last few days that has a sign outside announcing The Rock Church. Was that Rock as in “Rock ‘n Roll” or “Rock as in Jesus is my Rock”?

Today I decided to find out and went to the Rock Church’s 11 am service. The mystery was solved when realized that it was both. The church service was held in the “arena” – a true arena that holds about 1500 – 2000 people in comfortable upholstered seats although there were perhaps 150 - 200 people there. The floor of the arena was set up with several round tables and chairs which filled up mostly with people with babies and lots of baby paraphernalia.

The stage was set up to accommodate the singers whose movements appeared choreographed and who sang to recorded music. (I was secretly hoping for a live band.) They were enthusiastic and tuneful. There was a light show, the congregation stood and clapped and danced along. The young man leading this part of the service kept entreating the audience to clap, sing and dance. Clearly this service was about having an experience. It turned out the young man was 19 years old and had recently been cured of leukemia after much prayer.

This is a congregation that believes that God is active and personally involved in their lives. They had many prayers of thanksgiving for God’s intervention: thanks that Florence didn’t lose her home and now has money to boot; a small baby was brought up on stage – this baby was born weighing one pound and now was six months old, 10 lbs and thriving, and apparently free of residual effects; another woman had been cured of cancer and returned to her family; someone else had found a job.

The congregation was mainly Black or Latino or variations of both. White faces were the minority. The pastor who preached on a passage from Corinthians was a 40ish Latino woman.
I am glad that I went. It was both interesting and uncomfortable to worship in such a different way. I figure that anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone is probably good for me!

I had lunch after church and returned to the Best Western where I spent last night. I am writing this in their lobby. In a couple of hours, I’ll head for the airport – and Calgary.