When we first came to the United States, I was in a complete state of cultural shock. Right from the airport, things were so different. I was shocked to see people queuing up to purchase coffee. Why would anyone scramble to buy some black bitter drink? I was shocked at the amount of sugar in muffins we bought to temporally quench hunger. Did they add the dough to the sugar or they added the sugar to the dough? I was equally shocked at how polite the people in uniform where. Instead of giving clear-cut instructions, they said things like, “you may want to..”.
But nothing shocked me more than how different the church services were. The first white church I attended was a Baptist church my brother-in-law took me to. Coming from an African orthodox to pentecostal church background, I found their way of doing things quite interesting. Since then I have attended a few other white churches. Their way of preaching, dress code and offering time are significantly different from that of African pentecostal churches.
Here are eight real things that differ in both churches!
1. Dress Code
White Church: Jeans, tees, snickers and other forms of casual clothing are worn to church. It is church, not a ball.
African Church: Heels, large hats and big scarfs (AKA canopy), sparkling clothes and suits. You are going to the God of the universe’s house so you have to up your dressing game. How would you dress if you were going to see a president? How much more your Father in heaven? Ha.
2. Energy during service
White Church: Everyone is seated, quiet and paying attention. Everything is solemn and calm. It is church, not a party.
African Church: There is shouting and making of some “Holy Ghost noise.” There is looking at your neighbour eye ball to eye ball and saying things like: “You better respect me now! Next year my level must have changed!”
3. Service length
White Church: Service begins at 11:00 am and ends at 12:13. Some songs are sung, the word is preached and people go home. The end.
African Church: Service begins at 11:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm. The spirit always moves beyond the time. Who are we to stop the move of God? There is also testimony time in which the sister starts by singing a special song to God and asking that we don’t mind her rough voice. She then proceeds to say a twenty-minute story before finally relaying what the Lord did for her. There are long announcements, exhortation before preaching, altar calls and prophecy time.
White Church: Singing is calm and sometimes lullabylike. There might be lifting up of hands if the church is evangelical. There may be some moving of the body but no significant dancing.
African Church: Hands are lifted up, there are screams, there is kneeling down and there is shouting at God. There is also passing of commands: “If you love Jesus, put your hands on your head! Shake am! Hold am! Bend am! Shake am! Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh! Ayayayayaya!” You have to zenge for Jesus.
One preacher who shall remain nameless perambulates the altar in his suit, sweats, opens his eyeballs and shouts things while the other preacher who shall also remain nameless stands at the same spot and says things calmly.
6. Response to preaching
White Church: Messages are received silently. If a member is touched, they’ll sob, remove their hanky and wipe their tears.
African Church: We do not wait to leave church before talking about how much we appreciate the message. We agree to the message right there before the preacher by saying things like: “Tell them! Amen! Ride on! Yes Yes Yes! “Preach Sah!”
7. Offering time
White Church: One offering time
African Church: Many offering times: thanksgiving offering, tithes (without which things will be tight!), mission offering, seed sowing (to seal your miracle), project offering, special offering plus normal Sunday offering!
8. Way of collecting offering
White Church: Offering collection is mentioned then a bag/basket goes round or you drop in basket on your way out. You can even give online if you choose to.
African Church: Semi-sermon with quoted scriptures is preached about the importance of giving, then you dance out with joy to drop your offering. God loves a cheerful giver!
Bonus point: After service meetings
White Church: You go home after service
African Church: There is women’s meeting, ushers’ meeting and building committee meeting after service. After that you engage in “greeting ministry” or “fellowship after fellowship.” There is no hurry to leave the church.
Writing this post has made me so nostalgic. What difference did I leave out?