We are on the way home, and I’ve been reflecting on the authentic worship we have experienced in Africa. With the long days and even longer drives, we sometimes missed a few blog posts. Consider this a makeup-post, before we land at ORD — seasoned with time to reflect.
A “Motorking”, a three-wheeled motorcycle with a cargo bed, struggled up the hill where we had set up, tires slipping in the dry red dust. The Motorking is ubiquitous. It can transport 15 people, or thousands of pounds of clean water bags (sachets). As the driver gunned the small motorcycle engine and powered up the hill, pursued by billowing black exhaust, the cargo was finally visible — massive, massive, drums. I unconsciously took a step backward as three strong Ghanaian men lifted and set the two largest drums, one by one, on the ground. The drums were old, rugged, weathered, and battered. Rusty bits of sharp sheet metal covered some of the larger cracks, and in other places, nails, wire, and animal skins were providing integrity to the ancient wood.
“Wow! Did you make this drum” I asked man who looked to be coordinating the actions of the others.
“No, these drums were made by our grandfathers,” he replied.
The metal, wire, cracks and patches were probably added by fathers, sons, and great grandsons. Heritage. While we waited for the churches to arrive, the drummers wet the drum heads to swing their pitch into the correct range.
The largest of the drums was the Female, and the smaller, the Male drum, according to the leader. He tried to explain the difference in pitch and drumming for the two behemoths, but I really didn’t understand – it seemed my cultural frame of reference could not understand the nuances of Anufo translated into approximate English, and heard by an American from the Midwest.
When most of the churches had arrived, women began wetting down the dance floor, to reduce the clouds of red dust that would otherwise swirl as everyone stomped around the circle. The drummers tested, rubbed more water onto the animal skin drum heads, and then started warming up. Other forms of percussion, carried by the dancers, were adjusted.
When worship lacks performance, it is beautiful and authentic. Everyone can participate, from sleeping babies to the oldest grandmothers and grandfathers. As the churches began, everyone found their place. Drummers pounded out energetic rhythms as sweat dripped from faces and onto the drums. I wondered how many generations of drummers had pounded out joyful rhythms announcing weddings, funerals, and church, on the dark wooden instruments. A handful of singers huddled closely around the microphone tripod, so we could record voices over the din of dancing and drumming. Babies so small they could not walk learned the dance steps and rhythm while sleeping on their mother’s back.
I invite you to watch the 4 movies below:
It is beautiful when God’s people participate in Worship without performance — there is only the church, the whole church, singing, dancing, clapping, and drumming. There were no spectators, we joined in worship. Of course, it was not perfect, some singer’s notes stood out, and some dancers may have been less graceful, but the heart of worship is not perfection, but authentic praise.
Worship is joyful.
It is Unperforming.
Another lesson learned.