Saturday, February 2, 2013

The choir sang

Bob described our incredible journey to get to Mutoto. The big event, especially for the youth choir we were traveling with, was Sunday worship. Before the service, we sat with the elders briefly as they prepared. The president of the Kananga youth choir gave them their list of 10 songs they were prepared to sing. Ten! The elders requested only that they break up their songs into 3 groups, to be sung at 3 different points in the service.
Worship started around 11:30, and the sanctuary was about 1/2 full. Benches fill only the first half of the building, so many people bring their own chairs to the service. Younger children sit on the floor near the front because of lack of space.
kids in church at Mutoto
The service started, and after a congregational song the worship leader announced the order of a few of the choirs to sing in that segment. A choir of young people with fun synchronized dancing and guitar accompaniment. Then a duet of 2 young men with only drum accompaniment. And then the Kananga choir gave their opening songs – accapella, with wonderful rich harmony that filled the cavernous building.
Alleluia Song by the Kananga Choir
We went into prayers of confession, and then sang another congregational song before another round of choirs. I whispered to the elder sitting next to me “how many choirs does this parish have?” “Ten.” he replied. Ten?? I was incredulous. I realized what a very different environment and culture this is than the U.S.! The Congolese have a strong culture of music and rhythm, and it is good that they can celebrate and use that in the church. There are not as many diversions for entertainment in these rural communities, or extra-curricular activities to take up students’ time. So, being in a choir is an attractive way to develop musical talent, belong to a group, and grow in a knowledge of God and His word…and a fun way to pass the time.
Then a choir of the students of the pastoral institute, who sang “tuyaye tukebe bantu…” (we’re searching for people, we tell them the news about Jesus…). And a choir of students in their last year of secondary school. Then a large adult choir in their uniform of orange shirts – the largest and best choir of the Mutoto parish. One of the elders told me they call this choir “Sem Mer” (Mother Choir), because it has “birthed” all the other choirs in Mutoto.
Sem mer choir mutoto
As choirs sang, I watched people singing along or moving with the rhythm. Sometimes, when they really appreciated a particular choir, people would come up and give some money to a member of the choir – particularly bold people would slap the bill on the singer’s forehead while they were singing! Several people also came up and posed with the choir (while they were singing) to have their picture taken. I realized that this service felt more like a choir concert than a church service to me…but I enjoyed the singing along with everyone else and settled down to enjoy the “concert”.
Ways to appreciate a choir
Finally, Bob got up to preach. He preached that day from John 10:14, about how Jesus is the good shepherd. He reminded all of us that Jesus goes before his sheep – we do not need to fear the future because we know that Jesus is faithful to go before us and guide us. When he was finished, the Sem Mer choir got up and sang a very fitting song about Jesus being the shepherd to the sheep. They did not know Bob’s topic ahead of time – I was so impressed that they could spontaneously sing a song so well that complemented the message! They have a wide repertoire and a great memory…the benefit of an oral culture and lots of time spent rehearsing shine through!
The offering was taken while the Kananga choir started their final round of songs. A special collection was taken for the choir, who had traveled a long way to be there. Many people savored the last songs, dancing with the choir, waving their hands, and singing along. At the end of the service, around 3pm, the worship leader asked the congregation if they wanted the service to end. “No!” was the resounding reply. All good things come to an end…but we savor while we can the gift of singing our praise to the Lord!

No comments: