Church

When people ask me if I pray, or what church I go to, I say that I am a Methodist, because it is sort of true and it’s a church people recognize. When I am around Estaquinha on the weekends, I like to attend the Catholic mass given by the mission. I prefer to go to the earlier of the two given on Sunday morning (in Portuguese, as opposed to the Ndau of the second mass) and I usually sit with my students or colleagues. It is a way for me to engage with the community doing an activity that people value, and I don’t have to do anything except show up. The mission right now employs a main priest and another junior priest; they offer different services, prayer groups and catechism throughout the week, and the two masses on Sunday morning. I never take communion but I always try to remember to bring some coins to put in the offering.

The services are usually accompanied by a group of girls or women who dance while the congregation sings and kneel towards the front of the sanctuary during other parts of the service. The songs are loud and joyful, accompanied by drums—except during Lent. On Palm Sunday, everyone received a big palm frond and we waved them while walking a loop through town and then back to church. On both Easter and New Year’s Eve, they fired up the generator for late night services. On Easter I arrived late and there were no seats. The ushers were making some of the children leave so that us tardy teachers could sit down, but I felt bad making someone else give up his seat, so I went home.

Luisa is a Seventh Day Adventist so she worships on Saturday. There are awnings erected by some outside organization, both in Estaquinha and in the zone where her family lives, where simple services are held, with people bringing chairs from their own homes or sitting on logs. I went with her once to the church in Estaquinha. It was extremely low-key—different members of the congregation leading songs and prayers, all bent over Bibles in Portuguese and Ndau, discussing different verses and encouraging me to participate. I couldn’t even tell who the pastor was. At the service I went to, people were dressed casually, but when Luisa goes home for the weekend, she wears a uniform to church: a white blouse and green skirt with a yellow kerchief.

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