Having ﬁnished my last interview, I prepare to leave and see that my informants, who belong to a Charismatic youth group, are also packing up at their sales booth. Their private college, known for its medical degrees, is celebrating its foundation week. Like their peers, they set up a booth to attract potential members and raise funds from sales of their ofﬁcial tee-shirt. Before I could even say goodbye, some of them have decided anyway to invite me to the group’s fellowship at half past six. It is a thoughtful gesture, I admit to myself, which has just opened up an opportunity to observe their interactions and meet other potential respondents. The gathering is a weekly activity that members of this recently established
organisation conduct to interact with one another, and pray and sing worship songs to God. We go into the main building and gather at the college’s chapel. Quite frankly, the chapel is merely a corner room that resembles all the building’s other clinically white classrooms, save for its makeshift altar and the images of Mary and Christ next to it. Twenty of us gather in a circle as soon as the male worship leader, accompanied by a guitarist, begins welcoming everyone to the session. Many of them, regardless of gender, embrace one another. Physical intimacy seems to be taken for granted among the members, the majority of whom are female students. It is obvious that I am the only adult in the group since all are in their white uniforms. During the worship, the leader interjects some notes of encouragement, which
are, for the most part, based on his experience in the organisation. One recurring theme in his interjections is that nobody among them is ultimately “worthy of serving” (in his case, as worship leader) or even becoming part of the fellowship. He is also being apologetic for it is his ﬁrst time leading a session. Whether this is because of my presence I do not know. Nevertheless, he resolves this tension by invoking his encounter with a senior student who has inspired him a lot to contribute his talents “to serve God.” By the third song, at least ﬁve of the female students are already in tears even if, admittedly, the delivery of the songs has been somewhat off-key. The others have their eyes closed except for one male member, apparently observing the others. The session is increasingly emotional for many. Noteworthy is that their songs are from albums produced by Hillsong, a con-
temporary megachurch in Australia. As I have indicated in the previous chapter,
these young people are very open to non-Catholic, mostly Evangelical inﬂuences. In fact, during the interviews, some have even admitted to me that they attend Evangelical services regularly. They have also pointed out that their group welcomes non-Catholic members as well. A strange event takes place as the third song draws to a close. The male stu-
dent who has kept his eyes open throughout worship begins physically assaulting others. It dawns quickly on me that this might be a form of what some during the interviews have mentioned in passing as “oppression” or even “possession,” but of course, I did not expect this to take place – at least not while conducting my research. He starts to scream and push people around to the point that the singing has to stop. When he decides to confront me, some of the members grab and lock him down until his aggression subsides and he feels restored. Around him are the leaders, mostly female, crying and praying over him. One is on her knees before the Virgin. Thankfully, he is then taken out and the worship leader attempts to re-gather
the group. Once again he offers words of encouragement, saying this time that the attack is an “evident sign” that as a young organisation, what they are doing is good and that “Satan is attempting to terrify members,”most especially the new ones in attendance. He remarks too that he has encountered much worse and that “they ought to be expected.” So, many of the students start embracing one another again. In the conversations I have with some of the leaders after the session, I
discover that some of them in fact think that it is not a case of possession but rather of a psychological condition that the male member has. They explain to me his background as a guy who seems perennially left out. They suggest, too, that he is envious of another male member in the crowd, who is apparently more accomplished academically. Another member reveals, too, that he is involved in some occult practices.
When asked, I share with them my opinion that he does seem to have personal issues that need to be counselled, but immediately add that they must inform their adult overseer about the incident. Unfortunately, they do not have one. Upon realising that some members including the worship leader have left, I
feel the need to move on as well to get to another appointment. The atmosphere has become sober anyway, I think to myself. Upon reaching home that night, I receive text messages from the ofﬁcers, thankful that at least there was an adult in their midst whose mere presence they found comforting. That short text message has helped me make sense of the entire fellowship and
why it was thoroughly personal and emotional. Moments such as embracing each other, the successive interjection of encouragement whose main point was about discovering worthiness and drawing strength and tenacity from within, and the leader’s narrative based on personal experience with inspiring adults all, to me, suggest underlying feelings of isolation and longing for companionship. In fact, even the rupture that was the spiritual oppression makes sense in light of this longing. In their view, the “demonic attack,” whether it was such or not, had roots in the member’s personal issues. The text message reveals a yearning for adult mentorship.