Friday, January 20, 2006

Part III – Pastors’ Conference Highlights

With the assistance of Rev. John Thornburg, I pulled a tricky little experiment in Kribi. John put together a tiny sampler of hymns, songs and prayers to give to each pastor. On the left side of the page, the material was printed in English; on the right, French.

In each service, I used one or two of these hymns from the sampler in an attempt to see what it was like to worship in two languages – at the same time! There was a time in each service to sing everyone’s favorite local praise songs and choruses, and to dance and have a good time. But I wanted to know if our pastors were interested in singing some hymns by Charles Wesley and other legends of the faith.

And they were! I had to teach them some of the tunes all by myself. But they quickly picked them up, and soon were singing “And Can It Be” louder than me.

In the end, their only complaint was that each hymn only contained two verses; they knew that there had to be more! John just didn’t have the room to print all 18 verses of “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing”!

Additionally, we had Communion at the end of each evening service; so I provided a printed Communion liturgy. One side of the liturgy was in French; the other, English.

The first time we tried it, it felt a bit awkward. I read one paragraph in English, Pastor David followed in French. No one was quite sure when it was appropriate to respond. And it felt weird to hear such a disorganized “Lord’s Prayer.” Part of the beauty of liturgy is hearing it spoken aloud at the same time, with a common cadence and rhythm.

But we had none of that! Instead, we had a herky-jerky, stop-and-go feel to our Eucharist. Though it made me feel a little uncomfortable at first, I suddenly realized that this was beautiful in a different way. This was the sound of people with many different interests deciding and purposing to worship the Lord together, at the same time, in one voice, even if not one language.

Then I remembered that the very word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” And that’s exactly what happened in our little chapel on the beach. We made worship work. It was beautiful, and it was very good.