Monday, September 22, 2008

A "usual" Sunday

I remember again why we're often so tired here. Yesterday we renewed, after our three months away in America, our relationship with a small "Pentecostal" (for lack of a more precise description) congregation on a location just outside town. We arrived at 10 am ("like usual", the pastor confirmed to me over the phone), but didn't begin (like usual, I say) until nearer 11. You see, it had rained the day before, and the little church structure with the leaky roof had too much standing water. So we waited a bit longer than "usual" to get started at the house of one of the mamas in order that people who might be going first to the "usual" site could make their way over to the house.

We know this well. And we usually plan accordingly. We time our morning routine in our house just so so that we will show up just about the time we suppose the service will actually start on a given Sunday. But, as it has happened, the pastor and indeed other members, have scolded the church for "arriving late in the house of God". And so, sometimes, we with our three-boy circus show have arrived after things have already started. And then we remember the renewed push to start on time. And then we feel bad for discouraging their good efforts by our tardy example, or so our thoughts go. And we do want to encourage promptness.

So, now we've got the game down, right? Wrong. We arrive promptly, with our three boys. We wait around for an hour, with our three boys, for the service to begin. By the time the service begins, we've already used up all our lads' placidity. Four more hours lie ahead.

There are half a dozen or so mamas in the church on this Sunday and three youth. Each will come to the front and give a testimony. In between each will be a chorus many times repeated. In between all of this are some ecstatic prayers. Moses has fallen asleep on me, so too Levi upon Anna. This is good. But Moses will wake up when we are finally called to the front to share our word, this time a report about our doings in America. I bring some greetings and brief pleasantries in Xhosa. So does Anna, followed by a summary of what we told the North American churches about this little congregation in Mthatha. Anna finishes. Immediately the women begin to sing. We make to return to our seat on the couch. Pastor says to me, "aren't you going to say something?"


I preach a sermonette through his translation. He confirms the word via another word from the scripture, brilliantly done, as usual.

Now another mama, a guest on this day, will rise to bring the message for this morning. Our boys are beginning to wrestle one another on the floor at her feet. To let them go or not to let them go? They are children, after all, and it's been a long morning. I make to break it up. The pastor tells me not to worry about it. My concern, however, is respect for the speaker. I break it up. Anna takes the boys outside for awhile. She comes back in. The boys stay outside briefly, then come back in. They take up the collection. The boys are generally restless. The service ends while I am outside with them.

I talk with the pastors and a few others outside. Usually, Anna will do the same. I am aware on this day, however, that she has not left the building. And the boys also must be back inside. I assume they're having tea. "Let's get inside for tea", says the Pastor.

Another hour passes. Now it's time to go home.

This Sunday has been just a bit too long--a bit too unusually usual.


1 comment:

  1. Joe and Anna,
    I hope you are well. I have really appreciated your blog entries and the little window on your life in South Africa. It sounds wonderful and very challening at the same time. I had to smile at the thought of Joe spontaneously bringing a word while the boys squirmed. We didn't have to contend with those conditions in preaching class, did we?
    Blessings to you today,
    Paula SB