Our neighbour was adamant that the local Anglican service started within 15 minutes of the start time (10:00am). His estimation never got a fair test. Rain bucketed down until about 10:00am and there was no way people were walking to church in that rain (and fair enough too). When it rains here it pours, and the ground becomes a muddy mess. Everything is dirt, not concrete like New Zealand. There’s an English service for medical/nursing students from the rest of Uganda who work at Lacor hospital, but for community building and language purposes we’ll definitely be part of the Acholi congregation. In the end we arrived at 10:20 and the service started at 11:20. It was (of course) quite disconcerting not being able to understand much, but it was great to feel the warmth and love of the congregation who may well be our spiritual home for some time. You’ll hear more about church, but here are some initial observations.
1) Lack of paper. Only five of the 20ish adults were holding a book (Acholi prayerbook or bible).
2) Enthusiastic singing. There’s no dancing in the aisles, but you can certainly feel people’s love for God. Wa tyeka Pako rubanga (we worship God).
3) Young demographic. About 20 adults and 25 children. How often in New Zealand do those under 12 outnumber adults?
4) Sleeping during the service seemed more accepted than in New Zealand. When the sermon hit 40 minutes there were plenty of struggling eyes.
5) Simplicity. Worn concrete floor, not enough wooden pews, no wall decoration, faded cloth on the altar.
6) Age of the priest. He wasn’t lacking in vigour, but must be close to the enforced retirement age of 65.
7) The offering. You have to walk to the front and put money into shallow baskets. It’s pretty hard to hide what you put in and everyone watches. Although this seems voyeuristic and non-biblical (and made us feel quite awkward), I struggle to see another way which would ensure no money is taken from the collection in such a poor context.
We’ll see if it starts at 10 next week!