Raw Faith

Pastoral Reflections

Raw Faith.

Being already close to the area, a friend and I drove to the village that suffered the first in a series of terrorist bomb attacks at churches in recent Nigeria. It happened on Christmas Day, 2011. So much water has since passed under the bridge. (This is far from my part of the country.)

Then Sunday, I went for worship at an Anglican Church in the metro area. I was one of several hundreds making their way toward a cathedral in Abuja. The taxi was not allowed beyond a security checkpoint about two blocks to the church. It was easy figure this was about safety. I didn’t press. I came down and walked to the church building. I was dressed in mufti, not my clergy wear. Three security men were at the gate. I was scanned for any arms and let in. “Unless you were a familiar face,” I reasoned, “you were scanned.” Well, I saw a few that weren’t. The greeting was different with them too.

The liturgy was, of course, familiar. It was like being home again – in the ‘church’ sense. You are easily home anywhere – once Anglican. But, I was also home in a particular way. I was in my home country. 

I was deeply moved. The faces – a people that had taken general caution but certainly not fearful in worship. The songs – pregnant with audacious hope. The prayers – palpably fervent. The sermon. The testimonies. The dancing – oh boy! 

I thought to myself, “This is worship that reflects the people’s place and times.” The liturgy was standard, yet the worship was flavored by the realities of life here and now, whether knowingly or inadvertently. 

When we came to the Table, that’s when I choked up at those familiar words: “The Lord be with you… Lift up your hearts… Let us give thanks…”

There are moments when raw faith can make “theology of the head” look small. I was going to meet with clergy there to discuss some ministry related things – like exploring need for specific type training for ministers. As I took all this in, in the context of worship, I instantly knew that I, myself, was there to learn too. There’s a whole lot more to faith! 

I choked up again as we turned to the recessional hymn, and I saw which one it was. A familiar hymn I hadn’t sung in a while: Christian Seek Not Yet Repose.

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Donald Nwankwo
The Light of Christ Anglican Church
4000 W. Yale Ave.
Denver, CO 80219