I am writing this constant contact to you from Africa, anticipating our weekend worship by reflecting on last weekend’s worship for us, here in Cameroon.
We arrived at 10:00 am. Worship was to begin at 10:00, but when we got there the first service, which had begun at 08:00, was still in the middle of the sermon. As soon as one of the ushers laid eyes on us, she led us to the front (before the 700 people in attendance) where there were sufficient spaces for us, taking all three of us completely out of our comfort zones. This was the church that our mission team had helped complete in the summer of 2013, with the construction of pews, the painting of walls (inside and out), the building of a chancel cross, and the creation of “stained glass windows” (using permanent markers and plexiglass).
A moment was found towards the end of the service (which, by the way, didn’t end until after 11:00), for me to greet the congregation. After the service, our plan was to greet the folks coming into the second (10:00 but now 11:00) service, and then leave…this in order to stay on schedule given the other appointments during the day. However, it was suggested that I just say a word of greeting to the congregation towards the beginning of the service, and then leave. That sounded quite reasonable, so we agreed. We went into the church, and sat at the back, hoping to be called up at the right moment. It didn’t take long, before an usher came to bring us up to the front. I resisted thinking that were we to be seated at the front, it would be difficult for us to exit gracefully. He insisted. “No, no, no thank you. We’re fine here. We just want to be able leave after the greeting,” I said. “But you must come to the front. We have saved places for you. It wouldn’t be right to remain at the back, and besides you’ll be asked to greet the congregation next,” he countered. We relented, not wanting to make a scene. We went to the front of church, anticipating the moment to come imminently, for our invitation to come forward. We waited. And waited. And waited. Nearly an hour into the second service, we were invited to come to the front. In the end, we participated in the second half of the first service, and the first half of the second service, and in both cases, led right to the front of the church.
Join us this weekend to discover the meaning of Jesus’ invitation to stay at the back of the church, and elevating those whom we might exclude or leave at the back. We will gather at 5:30 pm on Saturday, and at 8:30 and 11:00 am on Sunday morning. We look forward to being back together with you, and I hope to see you this weekend!