Well, last weekend was great. Payday was followed by a trip to the cassava research fields, Papa Joe's retirement party, a day in Bamenda and a day at the Presbyterian Church in Swie with Pastor Pascaline. Oh, and Sunday ended with a rousing philosophical discusson about the oneness of God while sitting on Beatrice's porch drinking beer. Later in the week, I was feeling lonely and abandoned, but by Friday we were actually starting to do some work so things were looking up again.
Papa Joe was the driver here at RTC until last year when he came to retirement age. They hired him back for nine months to run the cattle program, but now it was time for him to retire. Previously he had been a driver with the PCC (Presbyterian Church in Cameroon) for over twenty years. We had a nice party for him — a great feast, lots and lots and lots of speeches (as is the African way), presents — mostly from the women of the compound and mostly for his wife! After the official celebration, everyone retired to the canteen and put back numerous beers. Music was turned on, there was dancing. It was great. I'm in Bamenda now and didn't bring my photos, but I'll try to post some later tonight.
At the retirement party, I was sitting at the table with the Principal, Mr. Fon and Pastor Pascaline — our local Presbyterian pastor (and a woman!). When she heard I was ordained in the Anglican church, she was quite excited and asked if I'd be willing to help her out in her work in the parish. I said I would love to. Her parish consists of 6 congregations in different villages plus the RTC which is called a prayer cell and is sort of defacto a temporary congregation because there is a land dispute with people in the area and RTC people were run out of the church in Akossia, which is really our home congregation. I'm sure I'll recount more about all that in the months to come.
At any rate, Pastor Pascaline invited me to join her on Sunday morning when she made her visitation to the church in Swie, which I happily did. Interestingly, although there are some theological differences apparent in the order of the Presbyterian service here, it is much more liturgical than I remember the Pres chuch of my childhood and therefore not all that different — and a bit less low-church — than Anglican churches I have been to in Africa. They have a Prayerbook Pew edition for the masses and a collection of books for pastors that lay out all the services. Quite familiar feeling, I must say. During the service, I prayed for those celebrating Birthdays (a gaggle of children) and later for those sick and absent from the service. And I helped serve communion (wafers and wine, I think, in those little plastic cuips in the trays — same as the Methodist church in Ocean City). That was great. Excellent. It felt really, really good to be in a real church and to be participating in a leadership role. Very nurturing for me personally. I'm hoping this will at least open up the opportunity for me to lead the prayers and do the homily at RTC — we have Morning Prayer every Monday and Friday morning and the leadership of it rotates around the staff.
The most amazing thing in the church service was that they took several offerings (well, that's not so amazing in Africa) and the biggest one was a harvest celebration that included the offering of quite a bit of actual foodstuffs from the English Choir members and the Hallelujah Chorus members (there are three other groups that sing in church as well!). So, how to convert foodstuffs to cash that can be used by the church? Well, aucton off the food of course! Right in the middle of the service of course! The men of the CMF (Christian Men's Fellowship) just start picking up squash and plantains and cassava and yelling, "offer, offer" and people shout out the amounts "one hundred, two hundred, two hundred once, two hundred twice, sold!" Given how much stuff there was, it went very fast, but adding an auction into the middle of the service did make it quite a long one!
One thing I love about Africans is that they are so damned practical.
Time is running out I'll write more later.