This summer I read Rob Gifford's account of his travel across China from Shanghai to the western border, published as China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. He had worked for many years as the NPR correspondent in China, and his book provides the history and context of a top-notch journalist, as well as a stirring and thorough depiction of modern life across China.
At one point, in the middle of the country, he decided to attend a church service. We all know that China has a sometimes-troubled history with several different faiths, but Rob Gifford discovered a powerful pocket of faith at a house church. In fact, he ended up being invited to preach. He wrote an eloquent description of the vividness of the congregation's faith:
"There is a purity and an intensity to Christian believers in China, and it overflows in their prayers. Mention Christianity to ordinary Chinese people, and they are not burdened by visions of crusading soldiers, fornicating popes, or right-wing politicians. They have heard about this belief relatively late in the faith's long and winding history, and for them it is a matter of the heart. That is perhaps how it was supposed to be..."
He goes on to describe a decrepit organ that cranks out the hymns that everyone joins in to sing. The description reminded me of the power of faith and worship and church music when you are first exposed to it. In Zen meditation it is called "beginner's mind," that mindset where life is wondrous and the joy and love of faith overwhelm us. Music can be one way to help create that thankful, powerful attitude, as can prayer and meditation, Bible study, or even simply going for a walk on a beautiful fall evening.