Dear reader, let me admit beforehand that back in England, I am not a very regular churchgoer. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is a fact. So last Sunday, when one of my friends, Joe, invited me to his church in Adabraka, I readily accepted. I was ready for some real, vibrant spiritual healing.
I had not stepped into a Pentecostal church in a long time. It was rather hot for me to wear a suit and tie like Joe, so I opted instead for a batik top and light khaki trousers with sandals. Joe gave me a slightly quizzical look when he arrived to pick me up, almost as if to admonish me for being underdressed for the occasion. But I was determined to feel comfortable. It was about 8.30am.
As we drove along, I could not help but notice that most people seemed to be heading in the direction of a church, or 'chapel', as my dear Fante friends would put it. The men were in their smart suits or flowing agbadas and the ladies looked resplendent in their colourful 'kaba' and 'slit' or lovely dresses, tugging along their smartly dressed children. Everyone clutched their bibles tightly en route to their conference with the Almighty, their angelic faces shining with purity and holiness.
The praise and worship session had begun already by the time we arrived. The young, pretty lady who was leading the session looked as if she was in the very throes of being ruptured into the heavens. I clapped and sang along with the congregation as they writhed, leapt and raised their handkerchiefs in praise of the Lord until sweat poured from every pore of their glistening faces. The praise and worship leader encouraged everyone to 'make a joyful noise unto the Lord'. And you bet your last pesewa that they did. They literally shook the building to its very foundations.
By the time the pastor was ready to take the pulpit, the congregation had been fired up. They were ready to absorb the word of God, even to the last comma and full stop. And boy, could he preach! He was a man of ample proportions, confident and self assuring, with a booming voice to match. He smiled and exuded love, and then scowled in righteous anger. He preached the unconditional love of God and then warned of his wrath come judgement day. He quoted ad infinitum from the scriptures. This pastor knew his stuff. He wagged his thick index finger at the congregation and admonished them to abandon their evil ways. He sweated and huffed and puffed, until his mighty jowls shook with raw emotion and his bushy moustache twitched vigorously like a nervous rabbit's ears. The preacher did not pause, not even for a glass of water. He was on a roll, and the Holy Ghost was coursing through his veins. The congregation nodded their heads in unison and intoned 'hallelujah!', or 'Praise God!' at regular intervals. It was obvious that some would go back home and do exactly what he forbade them to do.
I was sitting by one of the doors. I must admit that about halfway through the power-packed sermon, I lost my concentration and started admiring the rather pleasant view outdoors. The ceiling fan was whirring, and there was a slight breeze blowing outside. I think I even rather shamefully nodded off a couple of times. The congregation willed the pastor on.
Finally, the sermon ended, and the brilliant choir took over with some beautiful hymns, which surely must have had the Almighty tugging his beard gently and tapping his feet up there with content. The offertory, which came later, was a one-hour event, during which we were admonished to cast our bread upon the waters. The pastor and the church elders beamed like polished mahogany as the congregation danced by and the notes tumbled into the offertory box. I am sure I observed one elder's Adam's apple actually bobbing as the offertory box filled up. I duly did what was expected of me.
Finally, at about one in the afternoon, the service ended. It had been a spiritual marathon, and my stomach was rumbling like thunder. Luckily for me, I did not know anyone in the church, so I did not have to hang around and do small talk. My friend Joe, on the other hand, was a popular guy around, so I made my excuses and left. I am sure Joe had a couple of meetings in church before going home. I know he attends bible studies on Tuesday evenings and is involved in an outreach programme every Saturday. He also attends prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings. A holy man indeed.
Through the rest of the day, I could not help but notice that Ghana is a very spiritual country indeed. A look at some business names is telling: God is King chop bar; Onyame Asem Vulcanisers; Holy Spirit Hairdressing Saloon, etc. You can hear gospel music everywhere-in the taxis, communication centres, shops and on the FM stations. There is always a revival or crusade or all-night somewhere in town. Churches are springing up everywhere, to feed the people's insatiable hunger for salvation. In a way, it was almost new to me, for back in England, it is possible to forget it is even a Sunday. Such is the secularity and spiritual deficiency of their society. But on the other hand, I kept wondering whether in Ghana, or indeed in Africa, we are the victims of our own spiritual zeal, given the fact that we devote so much (some would say too much) time to spiritual matters to the detriment of productivity and consequently, development. When a neighbourhood has more churches than businesses, it is perhaps cause for concern.
I have had a spiritual injection into my soul, and I am buzzing like a bee. It has certainly opened my eyes to an issue that is of such importance to us Ghanaians. Upon return to England I hope to take church attendance seriously. For the time being, however, I will go easy on the spiritual marathon services whilst I enjoy my holiday. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.