I am fairly sure if I asked anyone of you to guess how long the service lasted today (Sunday 15th January 2017) you would get it WRONG! At the end, even the Africans and the charming Bishop of Lomega said it was too long. I am going to send a photograph of three of us westerners who now have a badge that says “survived a marathon African Service!”
Well, it was seven and half hours for us – we entered at 9.30am and left at 5.00pm. The service was a mixture of liturgy, joy, noise, drama, singing, endless speeches, communion and the longest litany of confession I have ever heard. Some entered at 8.30am, an eight and half hour service for them!
I sat one away from Jacob Haasnoot the Dutch theologian who has worked out here and I know him reasonably well – we were given Pastor Henry in between to translate. Both of us kept leaning over and announcing to each other how long so far!
I took a “comfort“ break at three hours and managed to get back to my room to get a cup of tea and fortunately had some Graze tasty nuts. I then took another such break at five hours twenty minutes when Emmanuel Murye who had given an excellent speech outlining his vision in English then said he was going to repeat in Bari. Too much for me especially as hymn followed – this time no tea in the house but fortunately I had a stale Coca Cola in my room and half the nuts to finish … they have never tasted as good! (I had forgotten my snack bars and when you are out here you cannot find spare food anywhere).
The cathedral was packed – we were given very comfortable chairs which was the saving grace and I had this cold shamee leather thing around my neck which helped. There were about 2000 people in the “cathedral” (a concrete shed with a tin roof) and then at least the same outside. Many stood throughout at the back, outside they peered in the windows some in the scorching sun and with no water all day. We were at least given some bottled water from the Revival water treatment plant.
The Bishops looked magnificent in their Red robes – some had special hats – and they kept changing clothes. Emmanuel and the other two Bishops also changed outfits, many times. There was a hooter that kept going off at exciting moments and someone shouting out the odd words of praise.
All the congregation except say thirty sat the whole time never leaving their seats. It was quite extraordinary! Gary Ion who works as a surveyor for CMS out in this part of the world and has done so for 23 years always sits at the back with his camera and moves about taking photos. Oh yes a lot of filming and moving around of equipment went on and the microphones given by St James’ Devizes seemed to work very well – the best yet I have heard.
There were some very good speeches at the end about working together from Ugandans and different tribes and some outspoken criticism from the pulpit of the South Sudan leadership – so this was good to hear. We then went for food – lunch at 5.30pm where we enjoyed some nice rolls and cabbage and tomato salad.
So a day with a difference one might say. Neither Gary nor Jacob had ever attended such a long service in their many years in Africa. When we got back to the Bishop’s house we had a very amusing time talking about how we had survived!!!
Joseph and I then had a good long catch up and forward planning session – and some brainstorming!
Photos to come when I am at the Lake Victoria Hotel tomorrow afternoon I hope!
Founder and CEO