One service at The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Dublin is all it takes to understand the great difference in how diverse cultures from various regions of the world practice their religion.
If you are like me and familiar with the standard procedure of mass in Ireland, then you know that there is a structure that each service follows and there is a similarity to each mass with different readings along with the priest’s insights being the only variables.
When it comes to a Nigerian church service, there are two things that will strike you as completely different to an Irish one. Firstly, don’t expect to flock out of the building in a timely manner after an hour. Going over by five minutes in an Irish mass will most likely lead to a sea of frustrated faces and a rush to the exit as soon as proceedings wrap up. A Nigerian service will most likely be scheduled to last three hours but may stretch even longer if there is a special occasion or if the pastor is driving home a point.
The next most glaring difference is the pastor and the congregation will have the same amount of energy three hours into a service as someone who has been chugging energy drinks, which is remarkable when you consider how important dancing and moving is in these masses. For someone who is not used to that sort of thing, I was ready for bed afterward.
There are songs that the choir or the pastor will sing and the crowd will sing along, feeling and believing every word they are singing. There is a passion that flows through the church when there is a song in progress, something that I feel is missing in Irish mass where songs are murmured for the most part (if they are sung at all by anyone outside the choir).
Songs don’t just start and end though. More often than not the band will keep a beat playing during a Nigerian service. This keeps people on their feet and moving and swaying so even though the attention switches to what the pastor is saying, the impression is that there is more singing and dancing to come and this is just a cool down period.
My own experience with people close to me and around me who come from different parts of Africa, and also from everything I have been exposed to on television and so forth, has formed my opinion that people from religious African families know far more about what they are practicing than an Irish family with the same religious beliefs. My experience of The Redeemed Christian Church of God made me believe that that could well be the case.
I listened to every word the pastor said and unlike an Irish mass, in which a reading is read out and we all follow along in our pamphlets before moving on to a prayer, the pastor explains what exactly the scripture means and will go as far as to use a modern example to show how what we are reading applies now, not just at the time it was written. I left the church thinking there is a reason why my African friends know so much more about religion than I do and there is a reason why they can dance so well.
I was the only white person in the building on that day but I was welcomed with open arms. Many people came up to me and shook my hand, asked how I was, welcomed me and made sure I was ok. I felt comfortable and didn’t feel for any reason that I was an odd one out. I would recommend attending a service at RCCG or any African church if you haven’t already to experience the sense of community and to see people rejoice and celebrate in unison.
*Note – The Redeemed Christian Church of God originated in Nigeria but I cannot say whether or not all in attendance were Nigerian. My opinion of the services is based on two visits to the church.