Feb 082010

I’ve not blogged much recently simply because I’ve been pretty busy. I know I owe Scott a post about my own theological stance but that’s going to have to wait a bit longer as well.

I finally got the first of my research essays handed in last week. Late, but accepted, after a slight misunderstanding over due dates (and how ‘fixed’ they were). A week past Sunday I was preaching and Sunday past I was taking the entire service. So I’ve had little time to focus on reflection and even less to blog my thoughts.

I’m also in the middle of preparing the devotional slot for Wednesday’s MTN and was exceedingly grateful for the distraction of Dorothy’s blog post here which fitted very nicely with where my thoughts were headed.

But I didn’t want to witter on about how busy I am and go for the sympathy vote. I wanted to blog something that is more of a reminder to myself than a full-on, warts-and-all description and reflection.

Yesterday evening was the monthly evening service in my placement church and the theme for the evening was “Sing a new song”. It was an opportunity to learn a few new songs which would be getting done over Lent and Easter. It was in part my fault. Whenever I send a list of suggestions for hymns each week, invariably there are a few (many) which aren’t known. So it was decided that it would be a good time to expand the repertoire a little.

Let’s just say that reactions were mixed (but generally favourable) but the way the service was done was a masterclass in the art of the  ‘ gracious and gentle rebuke’. Sort of like being pummelled by a giant, soft pillow, but one that weighed a ton so that you knew when it landed on on you.

I know that hymns can be an especially emotive subject with people and I do sympathise. I have ranted about it before (can’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about it though). Communal singing is one of the few times when the congregation gets to participate directly and actively in worship and I get very annoyed when that opportunity is compromised through inaccessible hymn tunes and words or overly complex arrangements which only the trained choir can do justice to.

But anyway, there will be a few new tunes over Lent and Easter, and we may even do them several times just to be sure they stick.

Jul 122009

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.