We’re getting a pretty good feel for the rhythms of our church now.
The service is meant to go from 10am until 12:30pm but it’s only finished on time once of the times we’ve been there. Everyone’s always quite concerned about that though, and there’s lots of talk of keeping various things short so as to achieve this. Possibly it’s the translation that makes the service long. The service that we go to is translated into Swahili. (The first service is in English.) We often find the Swahili easier to understand than the English!
There are various elements, some familiar to us from our experience in Australian churches, others unique to our experience in Tanzania. The following elements are a part of every service we have been to, and roughly in this order:
Extended worship time
At least 30 mins and maybe 3-4 songs, led by a praise and worship team of 15-20 singers, all in matching colours that change each week and with one leader. The praise and worship team seems to rotate. It’s accompanied by a live band with keys, guitars, drums, etc. A combination of English and Swahili songs. This time plays a liturgical function. There is then also singing between the various other elements.
Those who are traveling and sitting exams are invited by the pastor who is leading to come out the front and the elders lay hands on them. Sometimes there are prayers for other issues as well, such as when the Archbishop’s wife was sick.
Introduced by the pastor and happens in two stages.
First he invites those who tithe to come forward and give theirs, with an explanation of what tithing is. They are prayed over, thanking God for their faithfulness and asking that God would give them success in every aspect of their lives from their marriages to their businesses.
After this there is a general offering where everyone else files up the front to drop their offering envelopes in basket. Ushers co-ordinate when people move from their seats to do this. The praise and worship team plays background music and sometimes we sing.
These choirs seem to be visitors rather than CCC regulars, performing to recorded music, with some actions / dance moves. No one in the congregation sings along to this and often no one even bops along – it’s to watch and then clap at the end. In Dodoma there were sometimes multiple choirs in one service but we’ve never seen more than one in a service at CCC and they only do one song.
Has its own special song, “I love you in the love of the Lord / I can see in you the glory of the Lord / And I love you in the love of the Lord.” You shake hands with those around you, going several rows further afield than your own.
Generally read out verbatim by the leading pastor from the news sheet, with extra details added. Notices range from organisation detail like talking about upcoming meetings, to introducing brides and grooms in upcoming weddings. I believe the latter is a formality has to happen several times before the wedding.
Sometimes another offering is included in this, for an upcoming event at the church, or a mission.
Certain people pre-arrange to give a short testimony of God’s work in their life. They are given in Swahili and then the translator will summarise at the end, as they are often not that short after all! They stand up the front with their family (can include aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) The subject matter of these testimonies ranges from wedding anniversaries to children passing exams to having come through a time of trial to the birth of children, sometimes all of the above from one family. They then give a thanksgiving offering and sometimes the church is invited to join them as which point the offering baskets are brought out again (i.e. possibly for the third time), and as you file past to give this offering you also greet the family or families. Sometimes this comes after the sermon, sometimes before.
I’ve written about a number of these so far. Normally given by a different pastor from the one leading the service. Generally under an hour in length.
Sometimes after the sermon there’s another special offering or prayer time, or the testimonies. There’s some singing to end and a dismissal by the leading pastor.
There’s lunch after the service but if we make it to the end, we often just head home as the boys are past it.
There is a children’s program but Elliot has been reluctant to go to it. It has some good elements but one of his early experiences of it was 45mins of drilling the children one by one in a memory verse and he was bored. So we sit up the back and I bring a bag of activities and snacks for him and he’s in with us. There are a number of other kids who don’t go to the kids program as well so there are children he can play with (hopefully quietly) along with Callum of course. Elliot’s favourite parts of the service are going up the front for the offering, doing the greeting of the peace, and dancing during the singing as long as the sound system is not up so high that it hurt his ears.
We’ve only been there for communion once. The pastor introduced it, reading from one of the gospels. It’s wafers, and watered down grape juice in individual cups. They’re brought around by the ushers, you keep them in your hand and then you eat and drink together at the instruction of the pastor.
What surprises are there in here for you? What’s familiar? What’s different?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.