WATAMU Nov 15th
I went to Blue Bay Baptist Church yesterday. It was a tremendous experience. I had spotted that there were two services advertised and, having been warned about the potential length of the average church gathering, thought I would go for the 8.30 option, given there was another at 10.00. It was raining as I walked the 3 kilometres to the church but I was keen to do it the African way and it was not cold. When I arrived, I was shown to a seat amongst 20 or so others, almost entirely youngish, dressed to the nines and female and without another white face in sight. Everything was already going on in Swahili so I simply clapped at the relevant places and sung my own words to the songs. This went on for about half an hour. No books or screens were used, it was all in sensational harmony and accompanied only by a set of drums. There was then a testimony slot and inevitably I was asked if I would contribute. One of the two males present then translated my message of thanks for the welcome and greetings from Crowthorne Baptist Church. This was followed by open prayer, when everyone prays at the same time. I could not tell if it was in strange tongues or Swahili. It started quite quietly, built to something of a frenzy after 5 minutes and then just stopped. I didn’t detect any prearranged signal but there must have been some indication for everyone to fall silent at precisely the same moment.
The sermon, delivered in Swahili, from no notes, by a very young preacher and translated into English entirely for my benefit by the only other male there, came from Revelation 2 and the words to the church at Pergamon. At least it started there. It went on via several other references and various passionate statements to the conclusion that Satan lives on earth and God in heaven. There was then a song, during which the children, who had been singing outside, came in, dressed in neat shirts and shorts or party frocks. They were followed by lots of other older people, again almost exclusively female and dressed to the nines. There were more songs and at 10.15 I decided to call it quits.
I nodded to the bloke who had preached on the way out. He came over to ask me why I was leaving so soon. I replied that I had much enjoyed everything but had to be on my way. By this time we were near the door and he beckoned me outside to where we could hear ourselves speak. It turned out that I had been to the Youth Service, which precedes the main gathering. The real service followed seamlessly and, it was explained, usually finished around 1.00. I was profuse in my apologies but it was a struggle to make good my escape, so anxious was my new friend to prolong the conversation.
In some desperation I asked where it might be possible to leave a small offering, thinking it might help my cause. I was highly amused when the preacher produced an offering bag from behind his back. A couple of hundred Ksh ( about £2.50 to you and me ) meant honour was satisfied on both sides and I was on my way.
I went to Nicky and Giovanni’s for lunch. Giovanni told me that the church service is a real social highlight. They love dressing up, meeting together, exchanging gossip and having a bit of a party. It gives the women time off from domestic duties for the only time in the week. The men will be watching telly and drinking palm wine.
I’m really glad I went.