Jane didn’t seem too mad at us when we had to wake her up at 2am (she did say she would give us a key, but didn’t). Perhaps because she knew what was in store for us the next day!
We went to her church, the Jesus Revival Centre, which has been open about 7 years. They said they weren’t Evangelical throughout the service, but it clearly was. On arrival, the people were lovely and friendly, and part of me feels bad knowing what I am going to write. But organised religion isn’t my thing, and fanatical organised religion even less so. Viva la Church of England and its tea and crumpets monotone 45 minute services. The church housed about 1000 people (full at the end) but seems we had turned up 45 minutes early for the second service, so got to listen to a female pastor’s sermon. It was very loud. My head hurt a lot and I’d brought about 100ml of water. My nose was also acting up and I had about two tissues.
The start of the service was exactly what I expected, and had seen on TV, but being there in person was completely different. Saying it made me un-easy would be putting it far too lightly. The possessed, pacing, chanting prayers made me want to cry, or run out of there. It felt so wild and dangerous. Perhaps that’s a compliment – it’s not supposed to be. I know how easy it is for humans to work themselves up into a frenzy (hey, the ending of the Lord of the Flies was all about that) and that also explains the occurrence of many mass killings, and very controversially was used as a defence for the Jamie Bulgar killers.
The songs and dance were quite fun, and amusing to be pointed out as “Hey White Sister… yes you… you are the only white person in here…” but 4 ½ hours of fun it was not. I didn’t really understand the sermons. They didn’t seem to have a clear message, but a lot of jumping around mixed in with many hallelijuahs and praise Jesus. I didn’t really get the bible message being pushed through; though of course that book is open to many interpretations and I was, very vaguely brought up COE (at least when I went to Boarding School – I used to think that the difference between Catholics and Christians were that Catholics got more Easter Eggs. My mum told me if I wanted to be Catholic I’d have to go to Sunday school – this put me off the idea immediately. I was also unaware until the age of 14 that there were four Christmas stories, seriously, wtf?!)
I am also not a fan of the money preaching message. The pastor asking for large contributions so that they could spread the word, through a new top of the range camera and computer editing suite. Jesus didn’t need money to spread his word – look how big it got regardless eh? I don’t believe it’s a sin to have money (in fact, I don’t really believe in ‘sin’ as such. Things are generally right or wrong with a lot of murkiness in-between) but implying that becoming rich is a religious right is just wrong, and distasteful in my eyes. And the psychic miracle healings didn’t sit right with me either… I know a lot of very good people attend churches like this, but I hate the message and I hate the cultishness and I hate the focus (in Africa, not the US) on sorcery and witchcraft. Of course they are issues that need to be addressed, as they are real and damaging, but because people need to realise that someone didn’t die from a curse, rather than needing to save yourself from the witches of Satan’s following that are trying to steal your soul.
One message I did like was that of female empowerment that was brought up again and again. Sadly tainted at the end by declaring that it was thanks to Jesus a widow of 19 years was getting remarried.
I am really glad I went, but it was an uncomfortable emotional rollercoaster (seriously, the praying scared the crap out of me… especially after a night of Tusker/White Caps and Pilsner local beers) and 4 ½ hours is long for a good movie… let along a Church service…
I feel I have to reiterate though how the place must be full of great people. Jane our host is so warm, kind and generous for many more reasons than our listed here, but I’m not going to divulge her personal stories on the net.