I had attended a few of these kind of services many years ago (in a church in Salem, Massachusetts no less), so I knew pretty much what to expect. Even so, I had some misgivings about going because of the Biblical injunctions against mediums and communicating with the dead. Even in my skeptical Christian state I did not want to offend the Christian God, should he exist. My RM had some qualms, but was definitely curious and wanting to check it out. His opinion before he went was, "I think there will be some supernatural stuff going on, but it will not be of God. Even Pharaoh's magicians could copy the miracles of Moses and Aaron."
My RM was late picking me up, and it was a long drive, so I was disappointed we wouldn't get there on time. I wanted him to have the "full experience." Luckily, he has no regard for speed limits, and even though we made a wrong turn on a highway we got there just a few minutes late, and the service had not started yet.
The church was an old white shack of a place, and the sign out front was in disrepair. There were just a few cars in the yard, and I had some hesitation about going in if we were going to stick out like sore thumbs as visitors. But we pushed through the rickety doors and entered the sanctuary.
There were probably about 50 folded chairs set up and we sat near the back. There were only about 3 or 4 other people in the congregation besides us, so it was difficult to "hide." The place was dimly lit, had a typical stage with a pulpit, religious pictures, organ, and had a dank atmosphere. It was hot! The thermostat on the AC was broken so we suffered the heat of July in Florida, fanning ourselves with manila folders that were handed out.
A stocky woman of about 60 led the service. We sang old hymns from well-worn hymnals, accompanied by a rickety organ. In one hymn they had changed the words to "I'm so glad I'm a spiritualist." (I can't remember what the original line was.) There was prayer and scripture. More people drifted in.
Then we had a time of meditation. We were instructed to close our eyes, the lights were dimmed (even further), and we were guided to visualize a garden with Jesus in it. We were instructed to sit with him and talk to him and ask him any questions we had. Then Jesus gave us a hug and we left the garden and opened our eyes and "came back" to the room. (I remember a Christian therapist guiding me through something similar once.) I've never been a great visualizer, so the experience was not dramatic for me.
Next was a time of healing. They placed 2 chairs up front and "healers" stood behind them. Soft music was played on a CD player. The leader read several scriptures throughout. Anyone that wanted to could come and sit in a chair and receive healing. I was there for the experience so I went up. I was told to put my hands on my legs, palms up. The healer put her hands on my shoulders, then head, then waved them around my body, and brushed away negativity.
When I returned to my seat I had no idea what my RM was thinking of all this. Surprisingly, he got up and went forward for healing as well.
The finale was the "readings." This is where someone stands on the stage, points out someone in the congregation, and asks for permission to "come to you." Everyone says yes, of course. Then they go ahead and give a reading, meaning they tell the identified person what various spirits might be trying to communicate to them (a la Jon Edwards). As there were only about 8-10 people in the congregation, the "reader" went through the whole congregation, one at a time.
My reading mentioned mental anguish, a difficult childhood, and that I am a "sad clown," as I bring joy and calm to a lot of people in spite of my suffering. At one point she mentioned that I should write down "belief systems" in order to sort them out, which got my attention as I have spent the last two years studying religion in depth. My initial impression was that my reading was fairly accurate.
My RM's reading said he was a "wild man" and that he needs to be more careful (like driving) because he needs to be around for his kids, which he will have one day. Also, it mentioned business opportunities that would be coming along soon that he shouldn't neglect. Also, that he was procrastinating, wasting time on things that were not important. I thought his reading was even more on target than mine. RM is all about speed and business.
The service ended shortly thereafter. I shook the leader's hand and left quickly because I was late for work.
My RM was smart enough to record the readings on his smart phone, so since the service we have had a chance to review.
- MINE: Even though I identified with the sad clown comment and the difficult childhood, I did not agree with what much of the reading was about... changing my belief systems about past events (not religious systems), and learning to accept that they have made me what I am today. I feel like I have done that work thoroughly some time ago, and my mental anguish now is primarily biochemical. It would have been handy if I had been told what medicine my doctor should try me on next.
- RM: At first he said the procrastination topic did not apply to him, because he is constantly busy and getting stuff done. A couple of days later a light dawned, however. He saw that he was procrastinating on the major goals of what he believed his life was supposed to be about. It lit a fire under him that has borne fruit to this day.
My RM was thrilled with the whole experience. He said it was very similar to charismatic churches he has been to, albeit in those churches it is a "house prophet" that gives words of prophecy or knowledge or wisdom to individuals in the congregation.
In my current skeptical state, I'm not an easy believer. My experience was interesting enough that I would like to do more research. My main question is whether there is something actually supernatural going on there or not. Whether it is from God, the devil, or something in between is another question that only comes once I verify that something supernatural is going on. That's a big question, and if the answer is "Yes," then it helps me on my spiritual journey, being comforted that there is something beyond what we see in this world. If the answer is "No," well I'll have to deal with it, won't I?