This morning I went to church with Abi and Alex, two of the British volunteers. It was an incredibly interesting experience. The room was packed with rows of portable folding metal chairs. Everyone was wearing very beautiful colorful dresses and shirts, definitely seemed like their Sunday best. We got there a bit after the service had started because we went to a different church first where the service was just ending. By the time we arrived at Assemblies of God, the minister had brought 5 people from the audience to the front of the room and had them kneeling. It seemed like he was going through each of them one by one and discussing their lives and their sins. I’m not positive though. Although the service was in English and then translated into Ewe, it took me awhile to adjust to the minister’s accent.
After he finished with the five audience members, he preached about the benefits of marriage. He repeated this sermon three times throughout the service, really trying to drive his point home. He kept saying how people in relationships need to validate their union through marriage in the eyes of God and that marriage was not just for young people. He called upon an older couple in the audience who had either recently gotten married or were going to get married soon as an example of older people doing the right thing in God’s eyes. He continued by saying that those who were living together but did not get married would no longer be members of the church.
The music during the service was absolutely amazing. They only played two songs but both were so beautiful. One was sung by the choir and the other by what seemed to a be a band. The band played this song called “Try to be more like Jesus”, which, although the lyrics were a bit off putting for me, was really inspirational because of the singer’s passion. The band consisted of one lead male singer, several male and female back up singers, a drummer and a guitarist. It was pretty cool. They all had amazing voices.
A man from the audience then gave a long talk about the importance of higher education for Ghanaian youth, which was really fascinating as well. The speech itself was a little tedious and hard to understand but the fact that the minister called upon this 20 something year old man to come up and talk about the benefits of a college education and how important it was for parents to foster their children’s desire to go to school was very interesting and forward thinking.
The minister himself was an intimidating figure. About 6.5 feet tall, very muscular and wearing a fancy suit, he had a very commanding presence. He really knew how to work the crowd, both with his voice and with his gestures. Most of the time, he was yelling at the audience, repeating his most important phrases for emphasis. Throughout his sermon, he used a race metaphor to illustrate people’s life course and goal of entering heaven. It was a very powerful image that he pounded home with slow motion running down the aisle, a loud voice and a variety of examples. At one point, he began preaching about how they should not associate with non-believers because they “will cause the believers to not be admitted to heaven”. He was storming down the aisle as he described how non-believers would taint believers in the eyes of God, and I was legitimately scared for a second that he knew I was not religious and throw me out of the church… Obviously that did not happen, but it was startling to see how many people raised their hands or stood up in agreement with what he was saying.
Throughout the service, people who were very inspired by the minister’s words would show their devotion by either standing or raising their arms or both. The service was much more interactive than the ones I have experienced in the US. Members would not only stand or clap at various occasions, but the minister would also call on audience members to add to the service. At one point, he called out a sleeping women and spent a few minutes discussing the rudeness and consequences of falling asleep in church.
After sitting their for an hour and a half, we left, although the service had yet to finish. We think that it was wrapping up soon after, but I’m not sure. Overall, it was a really interesting experience and I’m glad I went but I’m not sure if I would want to go to a Ghanian church again. I wish I had been able to take pictures but I didn’t want to whip out my phone in the middle of the service.