For quite some time I’ve wanted to write about the church we’ve been attending but other entries kept rising to the forefront. But humility is one of the characteristics the church should foster so perhaps it’s appropriate that it’s taken “the back seat”. Almost from our first Sunday here we’ve been “anglican/episcopal”. While we visited a few churches initially we have opted for St. Peter’s Anglican Church. It has two services on Sunday, English at 7:30 am and Chichewa at 9:30 am, although often the second service starts later because the first service goes over. There is also a service every weekday morning at 5:30-6:00. I guess you could say they take their worship very seriously.
Since Malawi was a British colony it is not surprising there is a large anglican presence here. We often visit anglican/episcopal churches when we are traveling because of the predictability of both the liturgy and communion. While we have enjoyed that aspect here, we have also enjoyed that the church is all Malawians. There are only a few Westerners (besides us) and even those are married to Malawians. Also it’s only a ten minute walk from our house down a beautiful tree-lined street.
With such an early start time of 7:30 the pews are relatively empty at the beginning and seem to gradually fill up as the service progresses. But even if there are only a few of us it begins mostly on time. We have been encouraged to take the seats in the front so there is more room for people to slip into the back as they arrive and not disturb the worship. Coming to church late–a problem the world over!
There are also joint English/Chichewa services for special events, for example during Palm Sunday and Easter, as well as special collection Sundays (Paper Sundays or Golden Sunday as they are called). On those days the church is fuller, the service moves back and forth between the two languages (because everyone there speaks both), the Chichewa singing is way more spirited than the English hymns and the whole thing is much longer. It is really an event not just a worship service. The service is always followed by tea in the garden.
So here’s an idea for a church fundraiser–last week one of the sister churches from outside Lilongwe brought their farm goods into sell. There were pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, maize and live chickens. No bargaining at this “market”, they gave good prices but most people rounded up or gave extra when they paid.
There are many denominations represented in Malawi and a number of Bible Colleges as well training pastors. There are several large non-denominational churches too. One called Living Waters, which is attended by one of the guards who works at our house and several people Randy works with at the hospital, we hope to visit since we have heard much about it. And as in nearly every city in Africa there are also numerous mosques. Although we sleep through it now, the call to prayer for the mosque goes out at 4:30 every morning. Now we only wake up when it gets all the dogs howling.
On Sundays while we especially miss our community of faith at Faith Presbyterian, not only because there is much that is comfortable and usual but mostly we miss the shared lives and friendships with those we’ve known and worshipped with for years, we also feel blessed for the deep privilege to worship with our Malawian brothers and sisters and get a glimpse of the foretaste of heaven, when every tribe, tongue and nation will worship together the Creator-Redeemer.