At first it appears to be a memorial service. Most of the men and women, even the children assembled on the sandy commons at Joseph L. Alioto Piazza are wearing black.
But no, a group of young people, clad in identical outfits, practice a dance routine behind the stage. A festival of some sort?
The banner above the stage reads, “Gran Dia de Clamour a Dios.” My ancient high school Spanish helps me interpret this as “Great Day of Shouting to God,” which is close, apparently.
Soon a minister, despite the small gathering crowd, is strutting the stage, shouting into the microphone in short bursts. His language is Spanish.
Not to worry. A second minister shouts almost as loudly in English, interpreting for those Spanish-challenged within ear-shot of the very loud speakers. Unfortunately, his microphone is not as clear as the first speaker’s. I miss most of the sermon during my stand for peace, though not the spectacle or the music.
Although there are plenty of chairs, row after row of them, most participants stand, swaying to the music of the live band. A few raise their hands to the heavens.
At the back, behind the chairs, clusters of people chat, ignoring the speakers and the music for now. Soon, though, they are drawn in, first by the music, then by the preachers, raising their hands, shouting encouragement and amens.
Two attendants, clad in black and white and wearing badges, guard a row of toilets. The attendants wear a key on a cord around their wrists. From my imperfect vantage point, it appears they are unlocking the toilets for participants seeking relief. I can’t help wondering what Jesus would think of locks on toilets, preventing their use to all but the faithful.
The ministers ramp up their shouting. The band’s base player punctuates the sermon with just the right ba-dah-duh-dah along the way. Periodically, the ministers give way to the band, and rocking music rouses the crowd.
This is only the beginning. The clamor, as they call it, will continue throughout the day.
Standing, I wonder how the religious beliefs of this group might differ from mine, and from those of the small group of Tai Chi practitioners exercising near me, or any of the visitors to the plaza today.
I wonder, too, what views we might share, we of disparate backgrounds, even cultures and countries. Are those clamoring to God so publicly, like Christ, compassionate toward all peoples? Or are their views constricted, as so many religious viewpoints today–and throughout history–by prejudices against those who believe differently than they?
Whatever the case, as I stand here, I pray for peace and harmony in all our hearts, that the love of whatever god each of us may honor fill us and illuminate our thinking, that we might be understanding toward one another, that we might view one another with loving compassion and a generosity of spirit.
Text and images © L Kathryn Grace – All rights reserved