It was billed online as his final Mission to London. In past visits ‘over a million’ had felt the power. Now this internationally famous evangelist was offering deliverance to us hard-hearted Londoners for one last time. A final chance for all us cockneys, city slickers, civil servants, shop keepers and housewives to receive salvation.
But it wasn’t like that.
As I approached Earls Court tonight at 6.30, people were streaming out of the building. The meeting to evangelize us all was slated to commence at 7, so why weren’t people arriving? And why were they they all of the same ethnicity? Was Ghana’s Independence Day being celebrated at the same venue? (Morris Cerullo is white by the way, like me.)
In the foyer, people milled around looking at the goods on offer: Jesus watches made in Sierra Leone, Kingdom mobile phones, God TV and ‘Soldier of the Lord’ T shirts. It smelled of pop corn.
I entered the almost empty auditorium where an all black gospel choir posed for photos on the stage, and a few people slumped in seats looking exhausted. The hundred or more people walking about had obviously been there for hours. Was Cerullo preaching to different audiences in shifts? A few other new arrivals wandered in looking lost too. I spoke to 2 white guys but they didn’t speak English: so much for the cockneys, city slickers….etc.
Then I noticed something extraordinary: apart from the choir on the stage and the techies disconnecting the mic’s there were a dozen or more people lying on their stomachs! One West African woman (I think) in a nice hat and frock was shaking. I didn’t know what to think. In fact my main concern was that they must be getting their smart clothes dirty on the rather scruffy blue carpet. I asked someone if they were ill, and was told something I didn’t follow about ‘anointing oil’. All the heads of the prostrate forms were pointing towards the perspex lectern at the front of the stage where apparently HE had just been preaching! Half a dozen men and women clutched onto it as if they were lost souls at sea and this was their life-raft. One man was whimpering. They were almost treading on the heads of the horizontal folk who on closer examination now appeared to be crawling under the lectern.
If only I had been here to see it all from the beginning. It reminded me of the Muswell Hill church service I went to where members of the congregation started waving their arms in the air and swinging their hips from side to side. It’s not as if I mind what people do in church – it’s none of my business anyway – it’s just a bit of a shock the first time you see it. Just like the things that happen to me in Hindu poojas. (See Posts listed below)
By now I was feeling annoyed and frustrated – I was obviously not going to see Morris Cerullo tonight, and there were no signs up, no apologies over the PA system. And only hours earlier his website clearly stated that his last sermon was to be at 7pm, as did his official glossy brochure I had picked up on the way into the hall. I’d understand it if he was too tired to go on after a whole afternoon at the lectern, but someone could at least have the courtesy to tell us new arrivals. I decided to find out who was in charge, or at least find one of the organisers. There seemed to be a number of men and women with ID tags on chains round their necks. I asked several of them what was going on. Here’s what they told me:-
Story 1: “He’s too tired to go on, he’s over 80 years old and he decided to finish early.” (Fair enough, but why don’t you bloody tell everybody!)
Story 2: “He and the team have to fly to Europe to preach there. They’re on the way to the airport as we speak.” (Really?)
Story 3: “While he was anointing with oil, the Holy Ghost told him he had done enough for today.” (Sounds like a holier version of story 1!)
Story 4: “It was decided yesterday at 2pm, my friend told me. Everybody knew because everyone has been coming for the whole week. Have you really not been to hear him before!?” (No)
Story 5: ” The owners of Earls Court told him he has to be out of the building by 10 p.m. tonight, so there was a change of plan and he did tonight’s session this afternoon instead.” (Bad planning. Why wasn’t this change put on the website, then we wouldn’t have wasted our time coming all this way for nothing!)
Story 6: “No one told me either and I booked an extra night at my hotel for nothing, it cost me £95!”
Story 7: “Morris Cerullo heard that Peter Turner from the Zingcreed blog was coming to analyse what he said, so he panicked and left early.” (I wish!)
So I never got to find out if this American preacher was a snake oil merchant or a bog standard evangelical preacher, a charlatan or a pastor. However as I left the auditorium I was provided with the means to find out. A white man in a jacket and undone tie started passing books of Cerullo sermons around among the people who’d been disappointed so that, in his words, “we could tell other people about Cerullo’s message.”
Well, if ever I run out of toilet paper….
As I headed across the road for the tube station I realised this educational evening was not yet over. On the pavement at the gate a white preacher was spouting something about baptism when he was interrupted by 2 very smartly dressed black guys and a black woman who begged to differ with his interpretation of scripture. He replied to them “Did Jesus sin?” “No.” (Of course I would have said ‘Yes!’ – see my Post Jesus’s Dark Side; but I decided to keep my trap shut and see what happened.) “Then,” came the riposte “Why was he baptised?” A disagreement about scriptural interpretation, and claims like “You’re not letting me finish!” led to the white guy walking away, and calling to his black sidekick “Just walk away from them, Zebediah, don’t talk to them!” A split! Here on a London pavement, before my very eyes, were conservative evangelicals disagreeing with their fellow conservative evangelicals so badly over doctrine that they wouldn’t even continue talking to each other! Now I understood why there are reputedly 40,000 different Christian denominations on the planet all disagreeing with each other. And this split only took 5 minutes on a warm summer evening…. So sad, I wonder what Jesus would have made of it all?
Related Zingcreed Posts:
LOL #5: Spiritual insecticide and Holy Ghost fireworks
I should have gone to the pub instead! Church and me
LOL #14:Getting pasted at poojas
Zingcreed on Aartis
[295 linked & indexed, T&C]