Today, after the morning service, I stayed on to sit in on the afternoon service that takes place in the church hall. It’s a regular event, every Sunday, but it is most definitely not something I have ever experienced – a worship service by an African church (Ghanaian, specifically). Yes we (Caroline was with me) stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only white faces, but we were made welcome and everything was translated so we could follow (not sure it that’s the norm or if it was for our benefit). It was loud, cheery, somewhat chaotic, very scripture-led, with lots of prayer and lots of dancing and lots of ‘participation’. It wasn’t charismatic, but there were lots of hallelujahs and amens and when prayers were being led, basically everyone joined in with their own. The message was very good (an underlying current of liberation theology, if one wanted to be academic about it) and was delivered well and with passion.
We actually arrived part way into the opening Bible study. A passage had been read and was now being discussed (by the congregation). The topic in question was the ‘headship’ of a husband over his wife, modelled by Christ’s headship of the Church. ‘Reverend Andrew’ was spotted and invited to contribute to the discussion. It was obviously well received given the number of amens he was getting. Andrew then introduced me as a theology student and I was invited to speak. Now, it was clear from the earlier discussion that ‘complementarianism’ was the order of the day. But I’m more of an ‘egalitarian’, with a leaning towards using the gifts each is given with no privileging of either gender for specific tasks. Anyway, I fudged and my score of amens definitely didn’t match Andrew’s. It was, however, an interesting challenge to come up with something off the cuff.
The Bible study was followed by music (loud) and prayer (everyone joins in) then the Bible readings, then the sermon (delivered by a woman, despite the earlier discussion). So, in a sense, it wasn’t hugely different to any other service I might have been to, just that it had a very particular cultural slant. Oh yes – there was also the dancing down the aisle to drop your offering in the box. Then there was the time of testimony and singing happy birthday to a couple of Sunday school members (did you know there were 4 verses that could be sung to Happy Birthday?). Then more prayer and music (at which time we made our excuses and left). Apparently it’s not unusual for it to go on until after 6 (having started at around 2.30).
Definitely worth going to. I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable (we were, as I say, made very welcome). Not sure me ears could have held out for the full service though.