Attendance at a Suffolk church has dropped again, despite the promise of eternal life.
St Thomas The Apostle Church in Ipswich has witnessed a steady decline in its flock ever since the New Testament was published in the first century AD. With its far-fetched proverbs and implausible parables, even the most devoted congregant could be forgiven for thinking twice about missing ‘Sunday Brunch’ on Channel 4 for the sake of sitting almost alone in a draughty, brick barn listening to a geriatric living ghost blather on about how “no-one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord” [Deuteronomy 23:1 ESV].
The problem of dwindling congregations has got so bad that Reverend Glynis Galbraith has come up with the novel idea of an ‘interactive death experience’ which can be enjoyed at the church every other week, shortly after evensong, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Advertised under the banner ‘What happens when you die?’, parishioners are invited to ‘come along and find out’.
The clergy and she
This reporter asked the Rev what’s it all about? “So… people around here tend not to believe that when one’s earthly remains no longer remain, one’s soul either rises up to heaven or descends into the abyss of hell – despite us constantly reminding them of this fate. Therefore, the clergy and I decided to create the conditions of both eventualities here in the church so that congregants can experience firsthand, what it is like to (shouting) DIE, ahem, excuse me, and thereafter be judged.”
Hmmm. Sounds… terrifying.
“Yes. It’s supposed to be. What happens is, as the mortal enters the church, they’re immediately blindfolded and forced to run on the spot for five minutes to simulate near death. Then we spin them around a few times and shove them into the nave, whereupon their senses are stimulated by all manner of provocations including, sacred music mashed with prog rock played by Ethel on the organ, or the choir singing variously ‘O Fortuna ~ Carmina Burana’ by Carl Orff, ‘Bat out of Hell’ by Meatloaf, or ‘Keep A-Knockin’ by Little Richard’. We also have an hour-long cassette of Chris Tarrant asking ‘millionaire’ questions played backward blaring out, and also around thirty pigeons that constantly fly around the interior to simulate angels or devils or whatever beckoning them to their doom. I mean destiny.”
Then what happens?
“That’s it. They are then asked to make a small donation of £20 and to remember the experience.”
And what do your churchgoers think of it? Do they like it?
“No, they think it’s shit. But death is, isn’t it?”