Worship in Mozambique
Gordon and Elaine Brown reflect on the second week of their sabbatical journey
Our first Mozambican worship experience, the introduction and welcome of Pastor Ernesto Langa and family to his new congregation, was a mix of formal statements, a serious charge and the friendly banter of greetings to which we were invited to contribute.
Instructed to join the processing Presbytery dignitaries, we were led to the dais and seated on either side of our interpreter. Singing seemed to start unannounced from different parts of the church and was taken up all round, unaccompanied and without two people starting different songs. It was tantalising to hear a familiar tune yet find our familiar words deserted us as words in the local Ronga language or Portuguese were sung. Hymn books were solfa style and even though many people had no book, they were singing in harmony, the women often ululating to express joy. The men showed their joy in exuberant dancing.
More dancing as members were called out by zone or elder’s group to bring their tithes, it being first Sunday of month. Visitors were also invited to participate with offerings, and dance, but we had no local currency at the time. I’d have had two opportunities as all who’d had a January birthday were congratulated, on giving another donation!
Various choirs performed. The Women’s group, dressed in their uniform for this special service, pulled Argentina, Ernesto’s wife into their midst in welcome.
Worship over, we processed out and lined up to shake hands with congregation.
Worship at the retreat felt more intimate as the common purpose was the focus, but there was still singing with gusto, led by one Presbytery President thumping the beat on a leather-covered Bible.
Attending Saturday’s wedding was a different worship experience. Once more placed up front, we had only photographers between us and the proceedings. Bride and groom, very solemn, were from two different denominations, so choir and congregation were vying to sing, and seeking to find a hymn known to all. Pastor Marcus smoothed things by engaging everyone in repartee as he gave his sermon, then led the dancing as he signed the register.
Smiles all round however once the certificate and couple were photographed. Two elderly elders took over and directed presentation of gifts to the bride, efficiently whisked from her and displayed while the giver made a speech dispensing advice. A length of traditional cloth, symbolically wrapped the two together before gift-wrapped boxes, pans, and crockery appeared. Then, through a side door was carried a double bed, mattress and bed linen. Both sides swarmed to dress the bed and the couple were seated on it for more photographs. Pastor Marcus played the Wedding March on a portable keyboard and we slipped out, leaving the party to their wedding breakfast.
Sunday’s services were no less musical. We walked to the Synod compound for 7am worship in English, led by a young woman elder reading the set liturgy, each part followed by a relevant hymn. People were invited to contribute news, prayer or song, one child took the offering and said the prayer of dedication, another played a saxophone then we were invited to give greetings before Gordon preached. After-worship breakfast arrangements had fallen through but gave opportunity to chat with those present.
Later we were driven to a church in the suburbs where it was my turn to preach, a translator by my side. The Sunday school came to remind families of the new session commencing and to bring their children. They gave an enthusiastic example of their songs, and dancing of course, and welcomed the new Youth Worker. Later one young girl stole the show by marching confidently to stand before the congregation to thank everyone for “being like Father and Mother to me, teaching me about God”. She was a hard act to follow but the choirs gave it their best.
We were instructed in moving to the rhythm of the hymns and had the chance to show what we’d learned as the offerings were taken up. And there was more dancing as we lined up to shake hands. Altogether a joy-filled time of worship.
Office prayers again was an intimate time of sharing both the synod’s vision and personal needs. What will next Sunday bring?