Why do you attend the church that you attend? That's hardly an earth-shattering question, is it? But seriously, why?
Is it because you first attended that church when your family dragged you screaming every Sunday as an infant? That's what happened for a lot of us older people. Or did you get dragged when you got married, by a spouse who was insistent that "My church is nicer than your church!"?
Or maybe you began attending your church in school, maybe boarding school, or university, and just stayed with that denomination because you got used to it? Or was there something different about it that attracted you, perhaps something you couldn't quite place....but your spirit could?
I'm asking because recently I attended a church service that was NOT at the Accra Ridge Church. Sure, I've tried other churches over the years, usually because of an invitation to an event (wedding, christening, confirmation, etc.), but I don't remember the last time I went to a church because I just wanted to see what it was like.
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Regular readers of this blog (I'm hoping against hope that there is at least one person other than myself who reads RamiTalks regularly) will have deduced by now that I am a die-hard Anglican member of the Accra Ridge Church. I began attending my church because my Mum dragged me there. And I have happily stayed there forever.
I was confirmed at the Accra Ridge Church. I got married there, I buried my Mum there, all three of my children were christened there, my first public testimony was there, and most importantly, I pay my tithe there. So, yeah, you might say I'm a dedicated member. Oh yes, and I have 'my place' where I sit: third pew from the back on the left, in the wing, as you enter through the main entrance. If you like sit there and see what the Holy Spirit will say to you! Even the priest knows where to find me....behind the pillar, looking from the direction of the altar!
Speaking of priest, the two Anglican priests are buddies. One is a senior from school. I even briefly deejayed at his wedding many years ago, at the Achimota School Assembly Hall. And the other knows me because I know him.
Seriously though, I'm just trying to make a point about being bound to your church. I guess it can be a good thing. Possibly, also, not a good thing, I guess. Maybe if you are bound to a clergyman and not a denomination. Wherever he goes you might also go. But if you like your church then it is not a bad church for you.
One fine weekend evening I found myself sitting in the car park of a new church. Okay, not new as in just opened, but new to me. I had been chatting with a friend about worshiping and we had spoken about our churches. I had been experiencing a somewhat niggling feeling in my heart that I needed to spend more time with the Lord, and I shared this with my friend. And here I was in a large unpaved car park, waiting for my friend. I like large car parks. I feel like I can enter and exit freely. The only problem is choosing a spot when there are like a thousand spaces. Oh, and I didn't see any security....
My friend turned up slightly late, and we went inside. It's nice and cool, pleasantly air-conditioned, and we are firmly ushered to our seats. So, none of that Ridge Church 'my seat' thing, right?! We are in the third row from the front, and the church is rocking already.
A band is playing on the stage, bass, rhythm, keyboard, drums, and five singers arrayed in the front, three female, two male. This band is tight! As I immediately get into the swing of things, spiritually speaking, I am once again grateful for projected lyrics. There is a huge television screen at the front and the lyrics of the song are projected in a huge font which even the angels can read from heaven. When you can't sing to save your life (like me), and you don't know any songs (like me), huge projected lyrics are a blessing.
The praise and worship session starts the service and it is truly inspiring. Like I said, the band is tight, and the production seems very professional. As soon as the session ends, there's a news clip on the television screens at the front. Excuse me, say that again: a news clip! Yes, news about the church, and upcoming events. That's new for me! But the more I think about it, a very practical technological medium. Takes the place of some announcements, I suppose.
Then, the sermon. The preacher is....not Ghanaian....shall we say. He is very enthusiastic, very energetic (without trying to behave like a decathlete), and very motivational in a very spiritual way. You know what I mean. There are preachers, and there are those who call themselves preachers but are actually motivational speakers. I liked this preacher. He seems to understand what I want to hear. He even interspersed his preaching with some Ghanaian terminology, which was cool. How long has he lived here?? Anyone who can start a sermon with the story of King Midas and his touch....
There is an altar call this evening, and I like the way he segues seamlessly from his sermon into an exhortation to come forward. Beautifully done without putting unnecessary pressure on anyone. There is another priest to do the invitation to us to give an offering. Again, done without too much pressure to take your clothes, wigs, shoes and socks off and put them in the offering envelope. I like the fact that their offering and tithe envelopes are reusable. Practical.
The band came back on stage when the altar call was being conducted, and they are giving it their all. Good singing and playing can make any song sound great, and they did justice to their repertoire. Tune! By the by, why is the drummer encased in his own little....cage? Didn't do anything to dull his sound though. I noticed that the lectern used by the priests on stage was not fixed. It was moved back and forth as needed. Practical.
There was an 'order' for first time visitors to stand before the sermon started, and the congregation applauded. What a sorry-looking bunch....oh wait....that's me I'm looking at! They also asked second-time visitors to stand, which was new to me. But when they asked us first-timers to follow them to a Welcome Room just before the end of the service, and they explained why we were there (to be welcomed), and why the second-timers are also called (to let them know that, hey, I'm back!), it made an awful lot of sense to me.
This church reeks of practicality. Even the lady from the welcome crew who spoke to me personally; not only was she fluent in the ways of her church, but very efficient in her spiel. She made me want to come back. Truth. You know what, I think it was because she was simply NOT overbearing, as a lot of church staff tend to be. I left bearing my little gift bag. It had a branded writing pad (something I always need), some cookies (very tasty, as it happens), and a soda. Again that word comes to mind: practical....and thoughtful.
Speaking of practical, my friend who chaperoned me told me dress for Saturday evening was fairly casual. I tested it by wearing jeans and a cool shirt. I was not out of place. Practical. And the most practical aspect of this new church? They started on time, baby! I was there at 5:40pm, and if my friend hadn't been held up I would have been seated when they started at 6pm, prompt. And the whole service was approximately an hour and forty five minutes. Practical.
And the best part of this exploratory evening? I met a much-loved friend I hadn't seen in awhile, in the churchyard. Oh baby. No coincidences in life, or didn't you know?? And I discovered a few more friends who had been 'hiding' at this church!
So, am I thinking of leaving the Accra Ridge Church? That's never going to happen. Am I thinking of visiting this new church again? Most definitely, very soon hopefully. On the first-timer card I filled I ticked 'Regular attender'. Was my spirit moved by this new church? Oh yeah....and that's the first step.
(Copyright: RamiTalks 2020)
Source: Rami Baitie | blog.ramitalks.com