09 August 2014

Last Sunday, I walked to church with my family

I walked to church with my family last Sunday. Why is this newsworthy? Simple. That was the very first time this has happened. As a little boy, I used to walk to church with my parents.  However, at the time, going and coming from church - a long stretch of more than two miles away - meant being desperately thirsty afterwards and often being short of breath. 

The experience of last Sunday was different. This was with my own family and it was a very short distance. We had elected to attend the nearest church, and as it happened, it was an Anglican Church. The walk was refreshing, it was peaceful and it provided another opportunity for family bonding. It took all of seven minutes to achieve this feat.

The service was short and simple. The vicar is female.  I went up for Holy Communion; and the taste of real wine was different from the Ribena substitute to which I was accustomed. Thankfully, I didn't get drunk as I only dipped the wafer in the wine. I never knew dipping was possible until I saw someone use this style just before my turn. I thought it was cool and decided to adopt it. The vicar obliged without questioning. I hope no one would take offence at what may be considered my half-hearted approach to what is sacred. Well, I won’t pretend I am bothered. Jesus died for me.

At some point in the service, we were asked to write on a postcard some prayer points that would be attended to during the week. I wanted the containment of Ebola in Nigeria and West Africa, the end of Boko Haram and also an end to the war between Israel and Hamas.

The service was relaxed. Most of the congregants wore simple clothes. One of the deacons who also intermittently held a baby in her hand walked about performing her duties barefooted and without a care in this world. A little area was created in the main auditorium (this sounds Pentecostal) for little children, most of whom were less than four years in age. The adults ignored their constant chatter, and ‘distraction’. I suppose they took the position that children also have a right to be in the house of God and do their own thing.

At the end of the service, the customary tea and biscuits were served. We made for the door where the vicar was waiting to greet everyone. She told us she was going on holiday that same week with her husband and family. As we left, I began to hum one of the songs that had been sung in the church and immediately one of my daughters came with the line: “I don't like that song.” I persisted.

We stopped at a park a few steps from the church. Our children took the opportunity to do some running probably practicing the 100 metres dash for the Olympics sometimes in the next decade.

Some of my observations of the whole experience are:

1.     Before last Sunday, going to church with my family was a driving experience. I suppose for many Africans, and perhaps Pentecostal Christians, a 2 to 3-hour round-trip to attend church is not unusual. I can understand why people do it, but I am not sure whether this is the right thing to do.

2.     For Nigerians and certainly many black people, Sunday is also the day to put on our most beautiful clothes and showcase the best car. Has this phenomenon turned worship on its head? Must the outward outweigh the important? I do not see any problem with going to church in a good attire, however when this overshadows everything else, it becomes questionable. And rightly so too!

3.     Further, many of our services are hardly ever relaxed. For a start the music is often too loud. I have the belief that there is a conspiracy to make everyone deaf by the ridiculous hair-splitting loudness to which congregants are subjected in many of our churches. This too must be questioned. Why for example, should microphones be connected to the drum set in a church that sits 10-20 people? Why is there a need for the microphone to be tuned to the highest volume even for those leading worship? The effect of this is that the voices, the drumming, and other musical instruments collude in an offering of painful uncoordinated noise. 

4.     I also noticed that no one attempted to outdo the other in prayer or testimony or worship. Absent too was the desire for power and control over others by church leadership. This, if truth must be told is one of the key issues for many of our churches in Nigeria and the pentecostal movement at large. We may employ many reasons to justify this stain, but the reality is that no one is more special, no one died for another human being, it is Jesus who died. Even God does not control or manipulate us. This is food for thought and for comtemplating digestion. 

5.  I suppose the most important thing for me was the conscious desire to accommodate every congregant including children. In many of our churches, children are often seen as a distraction and are told off or carted away to a children’s church where they can’t be seen or heard. I am a ardent believer in Sunday school for children, it's only that some parents are not bothered about what their children learn at Sunday school provided they can concentrate on their own worship uninhibited.

6.    I must reiterate that I am at home with the sheer exuberance of worship of the pentecostal church to which I belong, I will not trade this for anything. My only wish is that we take things easy a little bit, understand we are not the centre of attraction and allow compassion to rule everything we do. Then, we will probably be like Christ. 

Finally, I like the simplicity of walking to church. I like the simplicity of the service. I also like the fact that God is at home with all kinds of worship and none of us can claim ownership or knowledge of His preferred agenda.

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk to church last Sunday. It is different and it is beautiful and I wish this becomes the norm for me. The irony is that I probably will drive to church next Sunday. What about you? PostcardfromLagos

Photo courtesy of Yinka Oyelese

1 comment:

Pawpaw & Mango said...

A very refreshing read and a reminder that peace is found in simplicity! It's been a while!