Angelica, the EP Primary Ho-Bankoe Headmaster, insisted that Christie and Angela be her guests at church this past Sunday. We asked her how long it would take and were told about two hours. We arrived in her town, Kponoe, about 9am, when the services were scheduled to start, and the ceremonies were not over until 2pm! Wow, that is the longest church service either of us has ever been to. We are told that it is like that on many weekends for Ghanaians. The Christian services typically last at least two hours, and often longer. We got the luck of the draw for a four-hour service—the additional hour was due to the Ghana Maybe Time late start. Angelica’s church is EP, the same church associated with EP Primary Ho-Bankoe school. It is a large church of very simple design—concrete floors, concrete block walls with lots of ventilation, a high tin roof, ceiling fans, a raised alter area in the front, and large entrances doors on both sides of the church that were open the entire time. By the time the services started there were about 300 people in the church.
When we arrived we tried to quietly grab a seat in the back of the church, but as you can image, we are very easy to spot in Ghana. We were immediately summoned to the front of the church and invited to sit near the pastors, the same area the chiefs and other local dignitaries sit. We were honored. We learned later that Angelica and her husband both have significant roles in the church so we sat next to the two of them and they translated for us, as needed, and ensured we were actively involved with everything. They took great care of us.
The best part of the service needed no translation—singing, dancing, and drumming. There was a ton of it—way more dancing and singing than talking. And singing is not a passive activity in this Ghanaian church. People do not just stand up in their seats and sing. They are in the aisles, moving around, gathering in small groups for different songs, and dancing their hearts and souls to the music. It was inspiring and energy was infectious. Although we did not know the words to the songs, we jumped right in with the dancing and clapping. Even the offerings, where they collect money for the church, were active. The music and singing were the focus as everyone got out of their seats row by row and made their way up front to make an offering, dancing in a line as they went. It was an amazing experience.
The service included “thanksgiving” for two pastors who were being ordained. As an aside, when we were discussing celebrations and traditions in the schools, some of the kids were telling us that they also have Thanksgiving in Ghana. Now we understand what they meant. Evidently, thanksgiving is a Ghanaian term used to honor someone at church. We understand that thanksgiving is most often associated with funerals. Funerals in Ghana are big multi-day events (always on Friday and Saturday) to celebrate the life of the deceased with dancing, singing, eating, drinking and more. On the Sunday afterwards, the community gathers in the church to honor and give thanksgiving to the deceased.
There are so many interesting things we could share about the church services. We’ll just share a few more things that surprised us. First, we saw a large group of people in black robes and the types of hats we wear at graduations—flat on top with a tassel. We thought maybe there was another type of celebration that might be happening while we were there. Then we learned this was the choir. It would be interesting to understand the evolution of how our graduation outfits are the same as their choir outfits. And second, we were surprised when a woman came down the aisle with a big bunch of plantains on her head. We learned that they were auctioning plantains and yams to raise additional funds for the church. All and all, church was another amazing Ghana experience and despite our shock at being there for four hours, we were so grateful we had accepted Angelica’s invitation.
After church, we visited two of Children Inspiring Hope’s scholarship students, Godfred and Angel. We were reminded that they live in extremely simple conditions—small house made of wood strips, tin roof, dirt floor, outdoor “kitchen,” and wooden shelter with no walls for protection from the weather when they are outdoors. The kids and their parents were very excited to see us. They do not speak much English but we could feel their gratitude through their eyes. After visiting them, we were even more grateful that Children Inspiring Hope is supporting their attendance at school. These children are creating the foundation for a new generation of their family to live differently.