Tuesday, December 13, 2011

church in the khomasdal township

one of my most interesting colleagues is a South African born woman named L. During the week, she works as a lawyer at my office. On weekends, she's a pastor. In her spare time (whatever spare time she has), she's a doctorate student. She's also blind, so she does all of this - reading legal documents, writing sermons, studying textbooks - without sight at all. And she's brilliant. There's just something about a blind African pastor/lawyer/student that seems straight out of a Coen Brothers movie.

I asked her if it would be okay if I could come with her to church last Sunday, because I've been really interested in the local churches, especially since Namibia is such a predominantly Christian country. She preaches at a Methodist church way out in the township of Khomasdal, which was where the "coloured" people lived during apartheid, and still do predominantly. I haven't been back to Khomasdal since my first night clubbing there, so i figured that visiting the neighbourhood on a quiet Sunday morning for church might be a bit different than the night club.

it was a nice church, a simple building with a cosy sanctuary and a small but very friendly congregation which was mostly composed of older motherly women. It kind of reminded me of the Korean church that my parents helped start up back home, where everything was do-it-yourself and grassroots. There is no dazzling sound-and-light show, no Christian rock band leading the worship with a full PA system. Instead everybody lends a hand in running the service. Hymns are sung with voices only, and from memory without hymn books. It was less about putting on a show and more about joining together as a community, which is what I think churches should be about anyway.

the churchyard

Because the congregation was mostly "coloured", many of the hymns were sung in Afrikaans, but I found myself surprisingly able to follow along anyway. Even though there wasn't a choir to lead the music, I was amazed at how lovely the congregation's voices sounded in the acoustic space, filling in the harmonies naturally. It was one of the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard. And such a wonderful atmosphere of love and community. Nothing fancy or pretension, just sincerity and devotion, just like the way churches should be.