I’ve experienced a variety of church services in my time, from High Anglican smells and bells to ultra-strict Plymouth Brethren-with-hats to the Stadium Rock of New Wine, but yesterday’s 3.5-hour Sunday service at Burinkin Miracle Life Centre was something completely different.
For a start we had to travel for about an hour on dusty roads to get there (despite almost every other building in Kenya being a church, Lucy and Andrew’s is about 30 miles from their house, in Andrew’s home village). The building was a glorified shed but the front was beautifully decked out and the Kenyan sun blazed in through the glassless windows.
We arrived in the middle of the first preach – with so many points that the preacher actually lost count after 7 or 8. The preacher rounded off his talk with the slightly baffling mnemonic ‘pitied, potted, and putted’, which I think was something to do with Joseph in Egypt…?!
Then we had worship like you’ve never seen it – no projectors, one keyboard which occasionally cut out, songs with few words that went on for 10-15 minutes each, but with a heartfelt exuberance that was totally inspiring and engaging. (And when the keyboard lost power the beauty of the Kiswahili harmonies was breathtaking.) The worship experience was in no way diminished by not understanding most of the song words.
Our team from Springfield were welcomed as honoured visitors and I had the pleasure of leading a couple of songs on guitar – but was all too aware that my efforts were feeble compared to what these guys do naturally.
One of the highlights for me was Will and our guys doing the conga round the church (I was spared because I had to look after Joel who was drawing pictures of pirates and killer fish).The other was the 45-min preach by the visiting “Man of God” – that’s Will Cookson to you and me. Actually for once I’m not teasing too much (well, Will has edit access to this post and is sitting next to me as I write). I didn’t fall asleep once (though Joel did), and Sally said later that it was ‘really interesting, not like his usual boring ones’! The challenge was to all of us, Kenyan and Engish alike, that Jesus both loves and challenges both our cultures, that ‘church is for bad people not good people’ and that we all need to love more and welcome more. (Beware back in Springfield – Will’s taken to heart the African preaching style – 1 hour is considered fairly short. Mind you, half of the time was taken up with translation into Swahili. And pastors are held in very high esteem in Kenya.)
Sally counted the number of times the phrase ‘Praise God’ (Bwana Sufiyawe in Swahili) was repeated in the service – I think she made it to over 50, or it might have been 100.
Our Sunday club have a lot to live up to as well – the Sunday school kids here could recite about 10 memory verses off pat. I loved the one they had written up on their wall: “CREATE IN ME
A CLEAN HEART
Church in Kenya then is basically a whole day out. I think I need another day of rest now…