Halfway Across the World – and Home!
We attended worship this morning in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Narimbe. The hotel in which we are staying is part of the complex of the diocese here.
I have just returned from that service and wanted to put my thoughts down now while the feeling is still deep. I am, in a word, overwhelmed.
There were actually two services. The first featured communion but no sermon, the second vice versa. Some of the service was liturgical, being in the Anglican tradition, but the music was more contemporary and the style freer than we would normally associate with liturgical worship. The music was moving. The praise choruses were different than those we sing. I wish we knew them. And some of the hymns were exactly as we sing them, but others were different words to familiar tunes. I wish we knew them, too. They truly put me in a frame of heart and mind to worship.
I wrote yesterday of the strange and insecure feeling of being a minority on the city streets of Kampala. It was an uncomfortable and uneasy feeling. I stood out. I was alone. But this morning, despite the fact that I sat apart from others and was the only white person in a sea of Africans, none of those things were true. I was with God’s people. I was at home. I was not a white in a crowd of black people, I was not an American in a crowd of Ugandans, I was a worshipper in a crowd of worshippers. I knew God’s presence. I knew His peace. I have been missing home, and longing to be home. This morning, I was home.
I was touched by a family that took the pew across the aisle from me. They were a middle class family dressed beautifully in African clothing. The father was clearly pleased to be at worship with his wife and children. As we sang, the mother danced and sang with her whole heart. And so did a daughter, perhaps 12, seated at the end of the pew only a few feet from me. Another daughter, a year or two younger, sat quietly and read her Bible. Midway through the song service, another family came in with two daughters, I would guess ages six and eight. As the mother found her place in the pew in front of me, the two girls peeled off to the left and greeted the daughter who was reading her Bible. She looked up, smiled with joy, and they celebrated seeing each other. Then, like a mother-in-training, she took the younger girls under her wing, and settled them in for worship. My heart rejoiced, and I thought of how many times I have seen my own daughters, Annie, Beth, and lately Marie, serve as a surrogate mother in that way. In that moment, I was home.
At some point in the service, a man and his son joined me in the pew. When the text was announced in Rev. 4 and then Mark 1, I saw him look at his Bible’s table of contents for a moment, then he just started paging through the Old Testament. A motioned toward his Bible and smiled asking, “May I?” I did not mean to embarrass him, and thankfully, I didn’t. He handed it over wth a smile, and said “Thank you!” when I returned it with the passages found. We were brothers. I was home.
It was wonderful to be in God’s presence with God’s people. There really is no place like home.