The brilliant sunrise that day had promised me a wonderful ending to the day. As I entered the gate to this big building, something inside me told me I was not in the right place. I felt lonely. Not until this beautiful, boldfaced, long-haired, slender and tall lady of African origin come smiling at me. She ushered me into a well-lit room that later turned out to be the worship house. It was half-filled as I entered. I looked back and forth to see if I could recognize anyone but all was in vain. I was shown where to sit slightly after the fifth row. No sooner had I sat than a man wearing a brightly colored white shirt stepped in front and requested us to stand up. It was time to begin the service.
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Initially, the mood was calm with everyone facing the front. The people looked reserved but welcoming. Later, a group of youth comprising of five gents and four ladies came in dancing and screaming. It was time for praise and worship as I later learned. The arrangement of the musical instruments right from pianos, guitars, public address systems, and speakers told of a jovial mood that would follow. My mouth could not shut as the dancing that followed perplexed me. The singing filled the air, the nice musical voices from the youths made me wish that the day would not end soon. I in fact found myself swallowed in the dancing until no one could tell of my status: a stranger. It was dancing, and dancing no one could tell the line.
Suddenly, the mood changed and singing soon turned to worship and I heard people praying in a somber mood and low tones. This is where I went off completely. I did not know how to behave. Should I go out? Should I stay and pray as well? Or should I continue singing? All these questions and many others run through the mind haphazardly. I decided to sit and watch others. The mood was solemn for some time. Fortunately, for me, this did not last long we got into another phase.
A man stood up and led us in a general word of prayer. It would emerge later to me that he was the church secretary. I did not know whether to close my eyes or not as I thought, it was optional. I guess it was optional because somewhere along the line of prayers, my eyes happened to meet those of another person that had not closed hers. Another man who sat next to me also had his open. Towards the end of the prayers, I opened mine fully. Unfortunately, the church secretary had his open at this point. I was relieved. My sigh of relief could be heard a mile away when I noticed it was not evil as I always thought.
The church secretary called upon the pastor’s wife who requested us to stand up for a while. She started a song that I had not heard before. I found myself twisting my tongue just to act as though I knew the words of the song. For the first time in my life, I found myself completing sentences that I had not started in a song. For example, I would only manage to sing where familiar words like Jesus, my savior, amen, and blessed were mentioned. It was belittling. Nonetheless, I consoled myself by saying there is always a first time. This was mine.
The pastor came to the alter at this point ululations and jubilation started as everyone turned merry. This pushed me even further. Do you know why? I did not understand all this. I looked lost. Hardly had he started the day’s sermon when I found myself in the message. It was the parable of the prodigal son. It appeared as though he was addressing me. I kept turning to confirm that the pastor was not addressing me specifically. He was also addressing the others. The church was full to capacity. At some point during the sermon, some people would stand up and shout “Hallelujah”. The mood was enthralling. The atmosphere was heavenly and at some point, I felt like heaven was with us. The pastor concluded his sermon and it was time for some music again. This is where I liked most. It was dancing once again.
This second dancing lasted for another twenty minutes and the pastor directed everyone to greet the very seventh person to their right, left, back and forth. As we tried to move to greet one another, we all got confused. So it was colorful as one tried to trace who is seventh in the counting. People were jovial and merrier than before. They hugged so warmly as though they were brothers and sisters. The confusion was all over but at least everyone had moved some steps from their original positions. I could not trace my seat. I sat somewhere I was not before.
It was now time for offertory and people moved around collecting offerings. At this point, the air had calmed down but people were still jubilant. They sang songs of praise as they gave their offertory. Afterward, all visitors were advised to remain behind something I never wanted to do. However, I gained courage and remained. I was encouraged to come another day after I declined the offer of becoming a follower of Christ through salvation.
I want to go back to the church another day and I will. Though I was uncomfortable at first, I became more confident and as time went by, I missed that atmosphere. So merry was the atmosphere at the church.