Our MCC Learning Tour group grew to know and love one another. Eric’s passion for birding and photography brought us all into a brighter awareness of the glory of Southern Africa. Devin’s passion for Church history—specifically the Brethren in Christ Church—made visiting the storied sites deeper. I could see their eyes full when they were in their zone on the trip. I truly felt in mine when we got to experience music and worship.
I tried to record most of the moments on my phone, so they have pretty rough starts. They are field recordings, so with respect I offer the top ten on this Soundcloud playlist. I want to offer some stories for each song (you could listen to them while reading), and express my gratitude for being part of a church that affirms and celebrates cultural Jesus music.
“Love is the Main Thing”
We visited an MCC partner, a daycare for kids with severe disabilities. Several children lived with cerebral palsy and blindness. The small staff and parents recently had to restart small after the previous director ran away with the money, leaving their daycare in ruin. How many ways and how many times will these children face systemic and personal dehumanization?
The staff told us that MCC actually listened to what they needed, and provides development help and money to be able to function. They were really excited for us to visit, and to make warm introductions and share stories. As we were wrapping up our time together, members of the staff asked us to pray for them. They responded with an impromptu song and dance. My friend Tino told me that it was a Shona (majority mother tongue in Zim) song called “Love is the Main Thing.” It moved me to tears. I love spontaneous song and dance as a response to loving conversation and prayer.
OMAMA, a group of traditional Brethren In Christ women, go visit shut-ins and help with spiritual, physical, and economic health. They sang this variation on a Zulu classic after bringing us on a visit to a woman with a severe leg condition. As they did their visit, we sat outside in the afternoon with the lady and her two sons. They asked us if we had any questions. I asked what they usually sang to people. They jumped right in, and their arrangement of a similar song to one we use for worship blew me away.
“My Desire is to Know the Lord” and “Medley” are my favorites.
The Macha Brethren In Christ Church (over 100 years old) has a sign-up where people or groups can offer a song during their Sunday morning worship. They also have a few choirs that practice regularly. Their hymnal is mostly Western hymns translated into their mother tongue (Citonga) with some indigenous songs as well. I knew what some of the songs were and got to meet some of the performers for all these other tunes during Sunday morning worship.
The one I called “Medley” in my notes happened during a part of the meeting where the beat started and the dude on keys started playing around. With only one microphone, it starts out pretty awkwardly. I’ve been there as a worship leader! After just over a minute, the whole choir flows and they are awesome (including claps on beats 1 & 3).
I think we’ll incorporate a few of these songs (or at least parts) into our worship at our Sunday Meetings. I hope these stories help with personally connecting us at Circle of Hope to people who speak Ndebele or Shona (Zim) or Citonga (Zam) and their story. We don’t sing in 2-3 languages every Sunday to accessorize ourselves with someone else’s culture, to turn off our brains and dial in our “wildness,” or just to make people uncomfortable. We are following Jesus, who like we say in our proverb is transnational, transcultural, and even transhistorical. We can loosen the grip of the domination system and dominant culture by worshiping Christ through other traditions, and inspire solidarity connecting to the people, their story, and their struggle.
If you want some details about what we did and powerful reflections, check out what Rod’s been writing. If you want to hear the two-hour version from me, Rod, Gwen, and Bethany—come on Tuesday, May 17th at 2007 Frankford Ave. at 7pm [FB event here]. I wrote about having the faith to Mosi-oa-Tunya here.