The Elder's discussion of his church experience in China reminded me of a rather spooky encounter I had several weeks ago with a former church.
I was attending a meeting at a place that used to house large numbers of nuns. As Vatican II and societal changes reduced greatly the number of nuns over the years, the organization I work for has been renting out unused space at their facility for meetings and training. There are still quite a few old nuns who live there, but it's not even close to what it was in it's prime in the 1950's.
We were meeting in a large hall and I noticed a room off to the side. Seeking a bit of respite from meeting over-load, I stepped into the room. It was shaped like a church, but much smaller. There was a sign indicating this was a "meditation room". As I looked around further I realized it used to be a small chapel.
Where the altar used to be was now a new agey sculpture. Where the stations of the cross used to be were filled in with marble. Where the cross used to be there was just a dusty outline.
It was spooky. There was still a presence, but the whole place felt and looked like a face with no eyes, mouth or nose.
I'm sure someone felt terribly proud of themselves with the idea to turn this place of worship into an amorphous, modern "meditation center" (It might however be a good place for Al Gore to release his second shakra) but it was just kind of sad and actually pissed me off somewhat as well. I'm not exactly sure what I was mad at...just the general idea of such a great intellectual and moral tradition being cast aside by so many people who grew up with it I guess. I thought about the nuns who left the church in the wake of the disturbances of the 60's and how many may have later regretted that decision after getting a good taste of the secular life.