Good Friday 3 years on

It’s Good Friday. I’m sitting in the pews of Ealing Haven Green Baptist Church for their (Korean) Good Friday service. They have a weekend of activities planned for Easter weekend.

My brother attended this service three years ago. Later I’d find out that he said to a friend of his that night that the sermon was the best he’d ever heard in his life. He’d left the service in high spirits, looking forward to the rest of the weekend activities before flying off to join our parents, me and my wife in Korea for a family trip to Jeju Island.

He never did join us. That was the last service he’d ever take part in. My brother passed away that night, aged 23.

As I sit here, I have so many emotions running through my being. This church was where we said goodbye to him at his funeral. Of course, he’d never leave me, but he’d never be with me in the same way again.

There’s a guy praying in Korean. I barely understand a tenth of what he’s saying (Koreans pray really weirdly — Korean God apparently prefers it if you don’t enunciate and rattle off the prayer in a unique’ cadence), but I catch a phrase about “Catholics in Spain” and not in a good light. Disgust and anger rises up from my gut and adds to the swirling soup of emotions.

And I let it go. Thank God for mindfulness. “Ok, that guy just said something ignorant and offensive to my beliefs, but I’m just going to park my negative responses to the side for now.” Who knew I’d be down with this hippy new-age stuff, and make it work?

I don’t know why I’m here. Maybe to feel closer to him on a day where people of my faith commemorate the death of a man? Perhaps I want to feel the pain sadness — to go through my own Good Friday, hoping that I’ll get to experience my own Resurrection Sunday.

I whisper “God help me” and something about “baby” and “bathwater” and re-engage with what’s going on around me. The speaker’s come up — a minister / lecturer from Seville in Spain. I think to myself he looks a little bit like my brother, if he’d lived another 30 years or so. About his height too. I don’t share this with my friend sitting next to me.

The pastor starts to speak. He doesn’t have a dialect and speaks clearly and slowly. He’s Korean but you can tell he’s lived abroad (and lived as in properly assimilated into local culture, unlike most of the people in the congregation). He’s talks about holy transformation and butterflies — the slide deck is purple too. Maybe there’s hope (I genuinely love the corny butterfly metaphor). After all, it’s Easter.