Christ on the wrist

By Steve Beard

Her spiritual journey began by asking about a tattoo of Jesus on the wrist of a client. Aimee Burke cuts and styles hair in a hipster neighborhood in Toronto. “She partied a lot and was partial to coke,” reports The Globe and Mail, one of the largest newspapers in Canada. “Her hookups comprised partners both male and female. She was unhappy.”

The question about the image of Christ was the spark that first got Burke to visit church. “I’m pretty sure I went to the service hungover from the night before,” she recalled. But she found herself weeping during the service. “I just felt less empty,” she recalled.

As she looked around, Burke realized she was surrounded by people her age talking about God – “but they looked like people I could party with,” she recalled. “I felt like I could be myself right away.”

Burke’s turnaround is a refreshingly unconventional conversion story, especially splashed on the pages of a newspaper in a country where the numbers of those who reject faith are on the rise. According to the news magazine Maclean’s, the percentage of Canadians rejecting religion (26 percent) is nearly the number of those embracing it (30 percent) with 45 percent saying they were “somewhere in between.”

“As the Christians would say, I’ve surrendered over my life,” Burke said. “I do everything. I pray in the morning, I pray at night, I read my Bible every day. … Now I’m waiting for marriage. I’ve been sober for almost two years.”

As anyone who has battled with addiction or alcohol dependency can testify, this is an enormous lifestyle transformation. While church attendance numbers are not on the upswing for young men and women in Burke’s age demographic, there is still a detectable spiritual hunger. “I think people are looking for something to believe in,” Burke observed, “even if it’s just themselves.”

According to the story, the C3 Church service (formerly known as Christian City Church) has an upbeat vibe that attracts a younger generation of those living in Toronto. “It is making worshippers out of people who might otherwise have spent their Sundays scrolling through Tinder in a coffee shop,” reports Eric Andrew-Gee of The Globe and Mail. There are nearly a dozen C3 congregations in Canada and more than 450 around the world.

“The big thing here is people come and they don’t feel pressured to be anything other than who they are,” said Jonathan Li, 30, another C3 parishioner. “It’s more about having people to do life together. I think people are a lot lonelier these days, even with social media. … I think there’s a false sense of connectedness there.”

The accepting nature of the congregation appears to be one of the key draws to C3. For seekers like Aimee Burke, the congregation allowed her to feel like she could be herself, without feeling “self-condemned.”

All the jokes about saying Hail Marys when she swears at work are worth it, she told the newspaper. “This is going to sound really Christian-y,” she said, “but it felt like the chains came off of me.”

It may sound religious – but it also sounds authentic. And for Ms. Burke’s generation, that is a top-shelf priority and a story that rings true.

To read Eric Andrew-Gee’s entire article in The Globe and Mail, click HERE.

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