In leaflets pushed through household doors by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, you’re invited to tick a number of boxes to see if you are “cursed” – boxes that declare “My life is a cycle of ups and downs” and “At times I feel I’m losing control of my life.”
According to UCKG, if you’re cursed you’d better seek help for it.
I arrived early for the event in Phibsboro. As soon as I walked in, I was accosted by a young woman who asked me if I was “new”.
I was brought to the front of the makeshift church and had a sit-down chat with Pastor Alvaro Lima, who told me about the bad things that had happened in his life.
His mother had a terminal illness, (“osteoporosis, but much worse”), his father had business debts of €400,000 and a relative was going down the road of prostitution.
He himself was drinking too much and his best friend had slept with the woman he loved.
A bad series of events, anyone would agree. But did the family put their faith in doctors, bank managers and counsellors? No, they turned to UCKG instead.
For that they were rewarded with a miracle cure, banished debts and happy marriages for the pastor and his sister.
The pastor is tall, handsome and very charismatic as he sells “hope” to his audience.
The audience was an odd mixture of young, old, Irish and non-national. But they had one thing in common – they all seemed to be looking for something to fill a spiritual deficit in their lives.
The chanting and prayers began. If we had demons in us, they were going to show themselves.
And show they did as four women began to howl and weep.
“Lord Jesus Christ, let the curse be gone,” Pastor Lima intoned as he held one woman’s head.
Grape juice, or “the blood of Christ”, was put on her head and, voila, the demons were gone.
We were then invited to “sponsor the lighting and building” by placing donations on the Bible – straight to God. Pastor Lima told us our donations were our way of “materialising our faithfulness”.
So where does the money go? “What we do with this you will not know,” the pastor said to the faithful audience, though judging by the 50 or so sealed envelopes that were stuffed with money and placed on top of the bible, most of the group’s congregation didn’t seem to care.