The other Sunday, I worshipped in a church. Yes, I know you have questions, so let me answer them now before I get to my gist.
Yes, it was an actual church, not a WhatsApp group chat where they say “Pass this message along to 20 people and receive your blessing!”
Yes, I actually woke up, dressed and went there on my own volition. I wasn’t kidnapped or led there blindfolded.
No, I didn’t go with a bible. But I had the American Gods novel. That counts for something, right?
And no, I didn’t see the Holy Spirit, but I did see the gorgeous Pastor Paul Adefarasin.
Now, you finished? Good. Now that we are done, let me continue my gist.
So, for the longest time, my cousin Uzo had always tried to get me to go worship in his church with him every time I visit him in the Island. The first time he brought it up, I laughed that laugh that says, ‘What nonsense are you talking?’ Then I asked him, “What church is that?”
“House on the Rock,” he replied.
“Wait, isn’t that the church that they say is the Christian equivalent of a fashion show?”
“No o, it’s not like that na,” he protested with a laugh.
Look at this pikin o. I had heard stories, like the one where a student in a university in Enugu exhausted all the shoes she came back to school to go to church with and wouldn’t go to another church service until she’d bought more shoes. And here’s the thing: I am not fashion savvy and I hate to dress up. I especially hate to dress up to go to a place where I am not psyched to be at in the first place.
But my cousin religiously hounded me. It was almost like evangelism. Cuz, come to my church with me na. Every goddamn time I went to Lekki to stay the weekend with him! However, I could always get out of his invitations by blithely giving the excuse that I didn’t come with the appropriate clothes.
I reached the end of my run with that excuse two Fridays ago.
I’d just texted him to inform him that I’d be coming over. And he promptly texted back – not to say “Okay, see you” or “Safe journey, mind the traffic o”… Or at the very least: “Buy Cold Stone ice cream on your way. I’ll pay you back.”
My evangelist cousin’s terse response to my text was: “Better pack a shirt, trousers and shoes. We are going to church on Sunday.”
Dear Diary, that was how I stood there, staring at the text message, completely shook. There was the power of the Almighty God written all over the message. He was not here to play anymore. I had to look around me to ensure I was alone – you know, to confirm that he hadn’t sent a host of angels along with the message to enforce his wishes.
Be that as it may though, I couldn’t just acquiesce right away. You see, I hadn’t been to church since…since…well, since awhile. And I didn’t know how unbelievers are received in churches these days. The last time I was in church, we had ushers at the entranceways, ready with their beatific smiles to receive all ye who are heavily laden. But the bible didn’t say anything about those who have abandoned the faith, dined with atheists, cavorted with gay people and high-fived feminists. For such people, what kind of welcome would wait for them at the church – a ball of righteous flames to reduce them to ashes? I mean, look at Moses and the Burning Bush. That story could have gone differently if the reason Moses fled Egypt was because he’d tried to introduce the Same Sex Marriage Equality Law, instead of killing a man.
So I had to consult with my two trusted advisors, two daemons who go by the names Tibirius, the daemon of LGBT affairs, and Feminazi, the daemon of women empowerment.
I summoned them, and the two hurried over, each perching in either ear. I mean, going to church is a critical decision. Our lives depended on it.
“Absolutely not!” Tibirius outrightly objected, his eyes flashing angry rainbow colours. “Do you want your eternal damnation to start from the entrance of that church, ‘cos I’m telling you, those fires are surely waiting to consume you once you cross over that threshold.”
“You should go,” Feminazi countered.
“What!” Tibirius rounded on her.
“Yes, he should,” the female daemon maintained.
“You do realize it’s a church that you’re advising him to go to, and not a feminist convention, right?”
“Please, don’t patronize me, Tibirius,” Feminazi said icily. “Of course I know it’s a church. And when he gets there, he can use it as an opportunity to climb the pulpit and preach the word of gender equality –”
“Erm, Feminazi,” I interjected, “I don’t think that’s how it works –”
“What!” she rounded on me, the fires in her eyes starting to bank. “You won’t be allowed to talk to the congregation about the woman’s right to be a senior pastor?”
“No,” I said simply.
“How dare they!” she exploded. “That is such a patriarchal thing to do. As a feminist, you should in fact go by all means and dismantle that system.”
“Very well,” I said. That daemon has such an Nkechi-Bianzeic fury that does not brook any disobedience to the feminist agenda.
“And you?” I turned to Tibirius. “What’s your final say?”
“What the heck, just go,” he said. “At least, if we go to hell, we’ll tell them we died in a blaze of God’s glory. That’s better than getting lynched by a mob.”
So that was that. Service at House on the rock was confirmed. And so, per my cousin’s instructions, I packed into my overnight case a shirt, trousers and shoes.
Sunday dawned on us, nice and bright, and we awoke and got dressed up. I looked at myself in the mirror and nodded, very pleased. At least, if the fires of heaven come for me, I consoled myself with the thought that Linda Ikeji’s headline would read: WELL DRESSED MAN BURNT TO CHAR BY FIRE AT HOUSE ON THE ROCK. But just to add an extra precaution, I generously spritzed myself with formula Fire Defender, a perfume that my friend, Maureen recommended I put on for extra divine cover. How this would shield me from the Holy Spirit, I had no idea. But with faith, I sprayed the perfume.
Then I picked up my ‘bible’ and Uzo and I stepped out. A taxi ride later and we were at the imposing entrance of the Rock Cathedral. It was a grand, sweeping building with beautiful people everywhere – moving in, stepping out, shaking hands, flashing smiles.
We walked through the open doorways and I paused. Waited. Breath bated.
There was no scorching tension in the air. No singeing rush of flames. Nothing fiery. Just the cool embrace of the air-conditioned air and a wide-smiled usher saying “Welcome”.
“See?” Feminazi crowed in my left ear. “I told you these angels don’t have the guts to stand up to a man with an agenda for equality.”
“Don’t be so sure of yourself,” Tibirius hissed at her from my right ear. “If anything, it’s that perfume that is holding us together now. Just wait for this AC air to blow it off completely and you’ll see us answering to the Holy Ghost Fire.”
“Don’t be so negative,” Feminazi snapped.
“Is there any other way to be in the House of God,” Tibirius snapped back.
“Be quiet, you two,” I sighed in exasperation.
And they shut up.
I followed Uzo into a vast, auditorium-like hall, with a sprawling seating arrangement that moved in ascension. There were steps leading up to the higher seats, and we moved up a small flight to join a number of friends who we’d be worshipping with. We were early, so there was time for effusive pleasantries and quick banter.
The church was filling up and the choir was filing out. I settled down on my seat. Everywhere else, people were taking their seats too, including a few people behind me.
And then came a burst of prayer directly behind me.
“Abba fada! Ya-ba-ya-ba, yo-ke, ru-ba-ba-ba, sha-ka-la-ka…!”
Good Lord! Clutching my pearls, I tentatively turned to see what kind of apocalypse this was that was happening behind me.
It was a woman. Eyes firmly shit. Face tight with concentration. Thin lipsticked lips pursed over the volleys of unintelligible words shooting out of her mouth. And the occasional hand gesture to emphasize the target of her prayers.
“Ra-ba, ra-ba! Yahweh, ho-ba-ba-ba, sha-ka-la-ka…!”
“Oh my God! We have been made!” Tibirius shrieked. “The prayer warrior woman has made us!”
“Calm down,” Feminazi said. “she’s a woman. She’s not going to expose us –”
“Ra-ba-fa-ya!” the woman screeched.
Feminazi flinched. “My goodness!”
“You were saying?” Tibirius drawled.
“She does mean business.”
“All these women who are treacherous to the feminist movement…”
“Look around you,” Tibirius scoffed. “We are in a church. And it’s filled with women who subscribe to the gospel of submissiveness.”
“Can we just move to someplace else?” Feminazi said in a small voice.
“And what other place might that be?” Tibirius queried.
I looked around. There was indeed no other place to move to without forsaking my friends. There was no other empty row of seats that could accommodate us all. So resigned, I sat there, feeling the splinters of the woman’s righteous rage stab at the back of my head, along with flecks of her saliva. When she was sufficiently satisfied that she had given the Holy Spirit enough to do on her behalf, she finally said her first words of English: “In Jesus Mighty name I have prayed, Amen!”
And then there was peace.
There was also praise and worship – as in, the people of this Rock Cathedral rocked the cathedral. We shook. We shimmied. We got down. We took it back up again. And we waved handkerchiefs.
Praise and worship was such fun. The preaching was interesting too. The gorgeous Paul Adefarasin got to the pulpit and you just knew you wouldn’t be able to look anywhere else but at him. He could change the tithe mandate from a tenth of your earnings to a third of it and you’d simply hand it over. He was that magnetic. And he preached about money, such a rousing sermon that had me repeating after him: “God, give me some wisdom, and then send me some money!”
Now, let me hear you say it:
“God, give me some wisdom! And then send me some money!”
Seriously though – hallelujah! I mean, that’s what you say when you’re a survivor – because I survived. The service ended and I stepped out of the church, unburnt. Isn’t that something me and Daenerys Targaryen should get together to talk about?
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