Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sundays in Uganda

Sarah and I with Collins from whom 
we have learned so much about ministry
The first service is at 7.15 am, and it's the most well attended of three.  Although very few people are there when it starts other than the worship band and choir.  Even the clergy arrive a bit late.

We process in during a rousing rendition of 'The River' by Brian Doerksen.  I barely knew this song before I heard it in Emmanuel Cathedral but it's a great start to a service.  We line out to reverence the altar together - the provost, vicar, Sarah and I, and the readers.  In fact, no one really walks past without a quick bow - worship leaders, ushers, wardens.  Ugandans know how to do Anglicanism in this respect.  Everybody's a bit of everything when it comes to churchmanship here.  Lightly charismatic worship with uplifted hands, evangelical approach to the Bible, liberal social concern for the world outside, and catholic reverence for the Holy Communion that's set up.  And vestments.  Lots of vestments!

Rev. Collins keeps me right
The service is from the new liturgies of 'Come and Worship'.  It's not a million miles away from Morning Prayer in the Church of Ireland, but fewer canticles.  They project it onto a screen at the front, and the congregation (filling up by now, maybe several hundred) look like they believe every word of what they're saying.  It's essentially a prayer book service, but it doesn't feel like one because people look up and look enthusiastic.

Just a short sermon.  Thirty minutes or so.

Leading morning worship
from 'Come and Worship'
As the service continues, wardens bring bottles of Rwenzori mineral water to us.  One sits on the altar alongside the bread and wine.  What would they say if I set up a bottle of Evian on the communion table at home?

Leaders slip seamlessly in and out of the liturgy, engaging the congregation naturally and warmly but with no frothy blah-blah-blah.  A massive mic floats around as clergy and others share out the service, dropping out every few sentences as batteries run low.  But to compensate, the keyboard, guitars and drums are hooked up to an amp and PA system so as to reverberate across the greater West Nile region.  It's about decibels rather than clarity!

There's a measure of comfort in a hand-held mic when preaching.  By now, there were close to a thousand people in the cathedral.  My biggest congregation yet, probably ever.  What could I say to these people that would connect, relate?  Oh well, give'em a few words in the local language.  Yesu ru ma ovo inzizaro!  (Jesus' name be praised!)  They laughed.  OK so I butchered their language ... but they laughed.

I take the cash ...
The offertory is a sight to behold.  It's not really a cash economy, and rather than put a couple of grand into the collection bags (several thousand Ugandan shillings isn't that much), some bring a 'hand' of bananas, a basket of mangoes or a goat.  The goats offered were not sacrificed, you'll be relieved to know, but were 'offered' so they could be sold for church funds.  Or provide clergy with some milk or failing that some meat, as part of a stipend. 

... but the provost receives the goat!
Then the Eucharist.  To avoid the spread of HIV or hepatitis, it's administered by intinction (dipping), which I prefer by far to using a thousand tiny cups.  The wafers are made mainly of rice flour, so coeliac moi can even join in!

Holy Communion service

Many bow low as they receive the bread and wine.  They have a high regard for the sacrament here.  But one man gets onto his hands and knees and practically crawls towards us.  He's wearing a white suit, he looks rather well-to-do, and generally it's lower class people who bow the lowest.  Later, I ask about this man.  He was a general in Idi Amin's army.  He did a lot of bad things.  He bows so low because he feels so penitent.  I don't know what to make of all this.

Holy Communion service

It's hot under a surplice.  When at last we recess out into the sunshine and back to the vestry, I neck a couple of bottles of water.  And they serve us breakfast.  Why did we have those mangoes this morning?  Milky chai, groundnuts, boiled eggs, bread.

Another two services back to back, after which second brunch and then lunch will be served.  Each service will last a couple of hours or thereabouts.  The record was 3.5 hours (a Lugbara language service, by the way, so we didn't understand much of it!)
In the vestry, so eating lunch number ...
actually, who's counting?

While all this is going on, there are a thousand Sunday School kids, divided into five classes.  We were invited into a class one week to teach them the story of the prophet Samuel anointing a new king from Jesse's sons.  That was a real highlight of the three weeks!  As you can see from the photo, I was really getting into enthusiastic narrator mode, while some of the children acted out the scene.

Jesse said, 'Look how big and strong this son of
mine is.  Surely he should be king!'
Liveliest Sunday School class I've
ever taught!

After a lunch in the vestry, there might be a last-minute invitation to a wedding anniversary reception.  Meaning another lunch!  Otherwise, it was home about half three for a quick rest and some preparation for the next working day.  Which started at 7 am!

Zzzzzz said the mosquitoes.  Lights out, mosquito net tucked in, and before long at all we couldn't hear the bats drop fruit on the tin roof any more because we were zonked and fast asleep.

Recessional hymn after the Lugbara
service (#3)

Last day in Arua with my mentor,
Uber-Pastor Collins

What a congregation of 1000 looks like leaving church. 

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