Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Posted by Tim Nafziger on 03/24/08 at 12:29 AM
Yesterday, Dale and I woke up and headed to the protestant church one block from our hostel for Easter morning services here in Saigon. We arrived at 8:30 a.m. only to discover their special Easter service was at 5 a.m. with the next services not until 7 p.m.
Fortunately, the Notre-Dame Basilica here has services ever two hours through the day on Easter (5 services in all). We arrived in time for the 9:30 a.m. service.
Saigon is known as a city of neon. Wandering through the streets at night is liking walking through a vast neon rainbow. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw that each arch in the cathedral was lined with white neon. An extra neon arch framed the crucifix high above the altar. My first reaction to the lights was that they were an unfortunate aesthetic choice, but as the service went on, the neon lights grew on me. After all, they were an accurate reflection of the city itself.
The service itself turned out to be in Engilish, with readings from Peter’s pentecost sermon in Acts and the story of the empty tomb. An excellent choir accented the service very nicely and sang parts of the liturgy set to traditional Vietnamese melodies. I estimated the crowd to be more then a thousand people, many of them clearly internationals. If that many people appeared for each service, it would have meant well over 5,000 people attended services.
That evening we arrived for the Easter services at the church we had first visited in the morning. It was night by the time we arrive and we discovered that they had gone one better then the catholics. Neon lights framed the entire church. When we entered the sanctuary nearly identical white neon lights framed the interior lines.
This time the service was in Vietnamese, so I wasn’t able to catch much, but a powerpoint projection displayed photos and titles for the sermons and songs much like many contemporary North American churches. This time we were two of the three non-Vietnamese attendees.
Obviously two services are not enough to draw any profound conclusions about these two congregations, let alone the church in Vietnam. So I’ll just leave you with these images of the neon lights that cross sectarian boundaries here in Saigon.
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