As you may be able to tell from my previous blogs, I am very adamant on trying to care for my mental health, especially while in a foreign country. Well, this Sunday, I decided to take myself to church. I have been part of a Facebook group called “Melanin Madrid” since perhaps my second week here because I was struggling a bit to find people that looked like me in this beautiful city. After expressing my worries, Joe Joseph, whom I previously mentioned in my “¡Cuida tu cabeza!”blog, recommended “Melanin Madrid” and some other groups to me so that I could feel less alone. The group is very friendly, and the members are very helpful. After writing a short introduction upon joining, I decided to ask my first question to the group of strangers. I inquired about non-denominational Christian churches and said I was open to denominated Christian churches as well, and to my pleasant surprise, within minutes I had several responses with recommendations of church services I could attend, and everyone that suggested a church offered to accompany me on my first go-round.
After five weeks of postponing, traveling, and streaming services online, this Sunday I worked up the courage to go to church. Of all the recommendations I got via Facebook, I decided to head to Hillsong Madrid. I honestly get socially anxious, especially when I am in new spaces alone, but when I arrived, I was greeted so warmly. Some people that obviously attend Hillsong Madrid regularly asked me if I was new to that particular church and were so glad to have me. The services for Sunday are at 11:30am, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm, so that morning, I did some homework and meditation at home and headed to the 5:30pm service.
If you have ever been to a non-denominational Christian church service, this was exactly like that. If you have never attended a service like this before, though, fret not because I am about to go into extreme detail about how cool of an experience it is. The most noticeable thing to me when I had first gone to a non-denominational Christian church was that the service very much resembles a concert. Hillsong Madrid is held in Teatro Gran Maestre. (Feel free to copy and paste that into Google to see just how awesome the place looks inside.) There were smoke machines on and strobe lights following the beat of worship music. As someone who loves to sing and personally connects to God mostly through music, it was so much fun to be standing up for the first few minutes with everyone singing along to words on a screen. It felt like a massive Christian karaoke, and I could not have asked for anything more.
The service lasted roughly two hours, and although it is in Spanish, there are headsets available for English-speakers and other non-Spanish speakers. The sermon was very thorough, and the ministers were so punctual and organized! Hillsong Madrid also hosts events, some of which I may go to, and have a ton of groups that people can join to feel more involved in the community if that is their interest. When I was leaving the service, there were women from the church outside giving away free beginner Bibles for people that did not have any Bible and people who were new to the Word of God. All in all, I am excited to make attending Hillsong Madrid a habit, especially since going to church was something so important to me when I lived in New York City. It is definitely a good way of feeling connected to whom I am when I am home despite being abroad right now.
Nicole—or Nico for short—is an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, NY who dabbles in poetry, prose, photography, and vocalism. She has published two books to date, both written in English and Spanish. She is currently attending Skidmore College with hopes to obtain two bachelor’s degrees for Spanish and Linguistics. Her ultimate goal is to someday open a school for deaf children in the Dominican Republic. She uses her writing to discuss taboo topics, like what it means to be a woman of color today’s world and how that shapes her perception.