Religion, as a subject of public discourse, has been hijacked by political analysts who talk about faith mostly in the context of political battles or culture wars. Christianity, according to the commentariat, is a set of values usually aligning with a political platform which ¨the people¨ can vote for or against. Leaving aside the banality of these assertions, it is worth noting that they are far removed from the basic experience of Christian America.
Notably lost in the chatter is the intense fusion of solitary and communal experience that makes Sunday service a pillar of Christian life.
The congregations in Miami represent almost every group in our polyglot culture. Their modes of worship are as varied as their roots: staid Episcopalianism, severe Pentecostalism, age-old Catholicism, and the incense-drenched mystery of Greek and Russian Orthodoxy are among the branches of Christianity.
While solemnity is a necessary component of any rite of worship, there are some churches where sheer elation and joy manifest themselves physically -- and where repentance is expressed with tears and convulsions of shame. These are places where people come to feel as close to God as humanly possible, to experience rapture. While such demonstrative displays of happiness and pain aren´t the stuff of American pop culture, which tends, increasingly, toward the glib or dismissive, they are the foundation of religious life for many of the Christian faithful.
Over the course of several weeks, New Times photographed Sunday services at three local churches: Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Liberty City, House of God Church in Perrine, and A Place Called Hope in North Miami.
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