Part 4: Praise

Sunday I went to church and felt like it was a good place to be. The first week I went, I had told BN I wanted to go to a church where they spoke English or French. I showed him a video that I got from a church I went to a sometimes back in NS and was like, I want to go to a church like this.  So, after some delicious ginger coffee, we went outside and hailed a moto. BN said a few words to the moto driver including ‘CLA’. I hopped on, held my purse with one hand and the one of the handles with my other and I was on my way to Christian Life Assembly.  Thank God for B-roc (BN’s new nickname).

The first week the pastor was talking about letting go of tradition that people still mingle with their new faith. He gave the example of how some people still marry first cousins, and another of how there still stereotypes against certain tribes that need to stop e.g. if you marry people  from this tribe, you will have bad luck. I thought this was interesting because I’d read that a lot of people here mix the Christian faith with some traditional beliefs. I didn’t’ think that was necessarily a bad thing because I thought at least they were living the faith in their context; that it had melded with their knowledge of God to create something organic and not externally imposed.  But I needed to know what these traditions were to know if it was good that they were being told to let go of them or bad.

Based on those examples the pastor gave in church, I agree with him that there are some traditions and cultural beliefs that just need to go.  But this doesn’t just go for “tribal Africans”, it goes for Christian north Americans as well. We may not have tribes but some of us definitely have biases towards certain people and prejudices against others.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was a bit relieved that day to learn that the cultural beliefs and practices that had to be abolished weren’t essential cultural pillars that would have caused the society to crumble into a state of lost identity, religious colonization, and  confusion for the sake of a new faith.  Rather, the examples the pastor gave of cultural practices that need to stop, apply very much to people in Canada too. They make sense.  Don’t be mean/rude/snub people because they have a certain last name or look a certain way. It makes sense.  I realized that I shouldn’t automatically be suspicious when I read or hear that certain people need to change if they really want to walk in the faith. It’s just that the language used to refer especially to Africans e.g. traditional, practices, beliefs, customs, tribal, indigenous, has a way of creating a separation between normal people who do normal things and other people who have “traditional indigenous customs.”  Making people believe that anything that has now been nicely labeled as tribal, indigenous and traditional would best be removed completely and replaced with how we do things because this is what the faith looks , feels, smells and sounds like to us.  I have a problem with that.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about in this section. It’s funny how when you write, your brain just reroutes you towards something that it wants to say.  I really just wanted to talk about how church was good and how the people I met were nice -not overly friendly (which was good), but self-extending and welcoming.  I wanted to share that God had been so faithful and had made me feel good going to his house and gave me something when I should have been going to give him something. He gave me people. I’ve been feeling a teeny bit lonely some evenings and both weeks that I went to church I met some really great people.  The first week one girl came and picked me up in the evening to go to this thing called Heart of Worship (short message, singing and African tea-yum!).  Last week, (this is the clincher) I met a Ghanaian family who said that they’d invite me over to eat Kenkey! (I’ve been talking about eating a lot since I’ve been here haven’t I?).  Okay, that sounded like I’m only excited about the Kenkey, which isn’t the case.  I’m not even really that into kenkey, I’m more a banku girl. Really, I’m excited because I met people who I guess gave me a sense of familiarity-three sisters and their parents. One of the sisters reminds me of my sisters back in the ‘Nish , K-eze (you know who you are).

So that was my weekend.  I met  great people, played with kids, and bought some bangin’ bangles. My computer is still working. God is good.

One thought on “Part 4: Praise

  1. jonathan says:

    Hey, have you heard of Lamin Sanneh? He’s a Gambian professor of World Christianity, whose book “Translating the Message” I’d strongly recommend. There is no doubt that missionaries have (and will) import cultural baggage with them, even if it is unwittingly. That being said, the Gospel should provoke and even conflict with culture in some regards; and I’d agree it applies to any context. In fact, much of the Bible contains writings in response to cultural conflicts which occured due to cultural conflict; especially in regards to the “old guard” who tried to control every aspect of how faith was expressed by the newer Christian community.
    Going back to Sanneh’s book, he highlights the fact that the Bible in it’s form is intended for translation for each language and cultural group. Rather than being seen as a book being descended by heaven and written in only one language to which all must learn; the Bible is the Word of God writen by men in several languages, whose message is intended to be expressed in every language and culture.
    Here is a quote from the book:
    “In time, Christianity expanded from Europe into Asia and Africa, among other places, and was able to break out of its Western cultural confinement by repeating the process by which the church’s missionary center shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch and beyond. In some important respects, however, the modern shift was unprecedented, for it was the extraordinary multiplicity of mother-tongue idioms that became the subject of Christian mission rather than the cosmopolitan values of an ascendant West. Nonetheless, mission maintained continuity with its apostolic past. In examining the modern missionary phase, however, we should highlight important signposts in the indigenous culture, especially in the local encounter with the modern West. The translation role of missionaries cast them as unwitting allies of mother-tongue speakers and as relucant opponents of colonial domination.”

    Sometimes it seems the spread of the Gospel not only challenges the foundations of the “target group”, but for the bearers of the Message as well.

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