Before going to Ghana, Africa, I had been told that I absolutely had to attend a church service as it is an amazing event. Moreover, all of the children at the home were very devote Christians, and I wanted to be a part of something that was special to them.
Demet, another volunteer, and I headed over to the church with Mama Sarah, the head of Achiase Children’s Home, around 9AM. The church was in Afransi, not too far from Achiase. It was a simple cement building without steeples, pews, or a name. Inside were myriad plastic chairs and a small stage that acted as an alter. While the decor was simple and a bit plain, the service was anything but. The men were all dressed in their finest suits, while the women wore bold, bright printed dresses and turbans speckled with flecks of silver and gold.
While I didn’t speak fluent Twi, the pastor, who addressed Demet and I in front of the whole crowd, had a translator sit in between us. The premise was simple: Obey God, make lots of offerings, and attend church and you will be rewarded.
Growing up, the loudest we got at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in New York was singing soprano during hymns. However, in Ghana, there were not only notes being belted out but dancing, clapping, jumping, conga lines, and tambourines. It was like a birthday party, only some people were so overwhelmed and full of spirit they began crying and shaking.
While the service was beautiful and spirited, there was one thing that really did turn me off. I am speaking as an outsider here but one who was living in a local compound, seeing the hardships that many people in the community faced. That is why when the three very public donation sessions took place, I was a little shocked. The first time was during one of the conga lines. Groups of people would take turns circling the donation bowl and throwing money in. The second time, people were called up to donate by hometown. Then, towards the end of the service, the people were called upon to donate yet again, this time by the amount of the donation. Beginning with 50 cedi (which for most people, is more than they pay in rent a month), the pastor began shouting into the microphone until someone came up and put in the allotted amount. Next, they moved down to 30 cedi, then 15…10…and so on. He called for donations slowly, making sure each amount had the proper amount of individuals come up and put money into the bucket.
When I went up to donate, the pastor and the rest of the congregation thanked me. Demet, on the other hand, didn’t believe it was right and refused to donate. Not only was she verbally scolded by our translator, the priest would not stop glaring at her.
The service lasted almost three hours, which was a bit long but was kept lively with sessions of dancing and singing. The locals really made me feel comfortable, trying to get me to come into the middle of the dance circles. It was a great feeling.
Overall, I was very happy with my experience attending the church service in Ghana. While I consider myself more spiritual than religious, I felt it helped me gain some insight into the values and beliefs of the Ghanian culture.