Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rwandan Church and Tea

Breakfast was waiting on us as we prepared for the English service at St. Etienne Anglican church this morning at 8:30. We scarfed down pineapples, honey, buttered toast and tea and headed out the door. We walked across the street and through the gates as the first song was being sung. The service was entirely in English. The songs were all familiar contemporary praise songs with a few traditional hymns mixed in by the Prince of Peace choir. The children’s choir sang too before going to children’s church. They all stood at the front in a group as the tallest young girl sang loudly and the others followed suit. She just kept singing and singing and pastor adrian had to wait until she had finished all the verses she wanted to. When she decided she was finished, the same young girl continued singing as the others flowed outside for a service of their own.
Two pastors presided over the service, Adrian and Sam. Adrian handled the first part of the service, scripture reading, announcements, welcome, etc., as well as giving the totals from last week's offering: such and such amount of rwandan francs, kenyan shillings, ugandan shillings, and 2 US dollars. Pastor Sam then preceeded to deliver the message. In the episcopal tradition, they follow the church year, now we are in the season of advent and so all the messages up through Christmas will be in preparation for the birth of Jesus. Pastor Sam gave a really interesting sermon about prophesies, discussing the different passages foretelling Jesus' birth in the old testament up to present day examples and how true prophecies will always be made known in time. At the close of the service we were introduced to the congregation and welcomed, as St. Entienne's will be our church home during our stay in Kigali. (However, I think we will take a Sunday and visit Pastor Nathan's church, the church of the blessed mango tree - yes they do really meet under a mango tree - and sing in the 'God Help us choir'). We were however asked to join the Prince of Peace Choir and I did volunteer to help with the children's nativity play this christmas season.
At the end of the service, Pastor Sam asked for adult helpers to usher angels, and shepherds, cows and magi down the aisle for the annual pageant. He says, " Last year was a disaster with the children going this way and that, this year we're starting earlier and the children will memorize their lines so they understand what this is all about." So, with Rob's consent and a gentle push when I became too shy, I committed to joining what seems will be quite a production.
There is a large expat community at St. Entienne's, the service constitutes about one fouth muzungas (foreigners) and the rest rwandans. We met most of the muzungas after the service and were invited to many bible studies and received many invitations to dinner. Roger, Rob, Pastor Sam, Emmanuel and I all began our walk out of the church yard. Pastor Sam gave his goodbyes as Emmanuel invited himself over for some afternoon tea. ( I really love how people invite themselves over, we have had at least three drop in guests just for me and rob and many others to see Roger, Malu and Janet. Its a great part of the culture that fits us so well). So the 4 of us made our way over to Mercy House for tea.

Emmanuel asked us a lot of questions about ourselves. After inquiring for a couple minutes straight he offered. It is good for us to know about you if you are going to "walk with us". I thought his language was beautiful and dead on, it is most likely an idiom in Kinyarwanda for worship with us or attend our church, but I think it evokes a much more personal relationship. Emmanuel is an older man, a type of pastor who works with HIV/AIDS women's groups. He told us alot about that program with the church and also about himself. He is a Ugandan and his wife and children are still in Uganda. He hopes to return home to them early next year. The conversation soon turned to the tensions in Goma and their underlying causes. It's really interesting to hear about current events from regional people and their feelings towards them. He clarified many things for me and gave us a more insightful look into matters that you would be able to find on BBC.
Some how, oh I remember, Emmanuel was telling us about how they encourage savings groups to keep rabbits as a source of income. They are easier to handle and multiply faster than cows. They are especially good for the HIV/AIDs women because they are easy to kill for meat. After discussing their multiplicative capability, Roger volunteered a family story from childhood.
It seems his family had a rabbit as a pet. His uncle author found out about this and also wanted a rabbit as a pet and wanted to breed rabbits. Rogers dad said no no no, but finally after about a year author won out. Author brought over his rabbit and Rogers family had ceremoniously put their rabbit in a cat carry type kennel in the middle of the living room. Author swung open the door, shoved in the rabbit and closed it. Immediately rabbits were running circles inside the kennel and bouncing off the sides, fur was flying and a terrible commotion ensued. Author reached in pulled out his rabbit -hoping it to save it from death -and the family decided never to try that again. ... 30 days later, bunnies arrived.
As the afternoon wore on, Emmanuel crossed the street back over to St. Entienne's and the three of us retreated into Mercy house for a quiet afternoon.

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