A six hour service

Just sit right back and you’ll read a tale, a tale of a very long worship service.

Katie and I met Rev. Dr. Joe Lüdemann, a pastor in the Durban Central parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, a few weeks ago.  After nearly two hours of conversation about various church things, he invited us to the Durban circuit’s joint worship service this past Sunday.  The Durban circuit is made up of thirteen parishes, each of which has multiple congregations in it.  For example, the Durban Central parish has seven separate congregations, served by three active pastors and a retired pastor.

This past Sunday morning we traveled down to City Hall, in Durban, for the joint service.  Joe encouraged us to arrive at 8:50, as the service was to start promptly at 9.  We arrived at 8:45, went through a metal detector, briefly said hello to Joe, and took our seat.  Worship started almost immediately after we sat down – around 8:50.

A procession began at the back at this time, led by a young person carrying a crucifix, another with a thurible (it carries incense) other young people behind, and then a group of twenty-odd pastors.  They processed in, bowed in front of the altar, stood in the smoke of the thurible, and took their seats.  A processional song was sung at the same time by the whole congregation.

The seating was half full at the time of the procession.  After another half hour or forty-five minutes, every seat was taken.  The majority of the service was in Zulu.  The sermon, some songs, and a few other pieces of the service were in English.  At a few random times, people would break out into song, then the whole congregation would join – even when someone up front was speaking.

After the procession, the opening prayer, welcoming each other to worship, the Dean stood up and began an official welcome.  During this time there were people milling around with bulletins for R5 each (about 45 cents).  I passed some money along to the aisle and received a bulletin in return – which I think greatly helped our understanding of what was going on.

Confession and Forgiveness followed, then a sermon and the Nicene Creed.  Then there was a fundraising talk/sermon, and an offering prayer though no offering plate/bag was passed.  Pastor Joe sent a Zulu hymnal to us partway through all this.  Not that we understand Zulu – but we at least have heard enough of it to know how it is pronounced.  This was apparently a BYOH – Bring Your Own Hymnal – affair.

I should mention that the picture at the end of this post shows a little of the service.  Lutherans in South Africa, at least at public/official gatherings, wear colors specific to Lutherans – black and white.  Other denominations wear other colors.  So the Lutheran women where white hats and black dresses with white lapels/collar.  The men where black suits and white shirts.

After this there was a break from the official order of service in the bulletin.  Each of the thirteen parishes in turn gathered at the back of the church.  Each had a special worship song picked out, and as they danced down the center aisle, they and the rest of the people present sang with them.  After the parishes, it was time for the “leagues” (women’s prayer league, men’s prayer league, youth, and others).  They danced, and they sang, mostly in Zulu.  And they danced, and sang, proud of their parishes, worshiping God.  For two hours the processions continued.  For two hours the singing remained strong and the dancing was full of joy.  Only near the very end did the fervor subside somewhat.

After this they talked about each parishes money – I will admit I don’t know exactly what they were talking about regarding these.  I do know it was money and parishes, because although they were speaking Zulu, most of the parish names are in English, and Zulus use English numbers.  Zulu numbers apparently are a mouthful, so the great majority just use English numbers.  So every once in a while I would here “2000 Rand” and would know that we were still talking about money.

After this came Communion.  Parts were in English, parts in Zulu.  After the Words of Institution (“In the night in which he was betrayed…”) the young people kneeling by the altar rang bells.  They had eight communion stations around the outside of the room, where we received a wafer and then drank out of the cup.

During this we sang many, many songs.  Afterward, there were multiple more speeches in Zulu, a hymn, and a recession.  But before the recession finished, many people were already leaving.

It was a long, long service – the longest I’ve ever been to, I think.  Six hours.

But more than the longest service, the thing that struck me the most was the mix of high- and low-church elements. (For those who might not know, “high-church” is roughly characterized by certain things such as, but not limited to, wearing robes and stoles, incense, bowing in front of the altar, processing the cross in and out.  “Low-church” is roughly characterized by the absence of many of these things, a more free-flowing worship service/less structure, and spontaneous singing.  These are not full descriptions.  Another way to think about it is that Catholic services are more high-church and non-denominational churches are generally low-church.)  I haven’t seen a service like that before, where there is random congregational singing, dancing in the aisles, as well as incense and vestments and bowing.

It was odd, which made me think.  This kind of worship is very real for this group of people.  They are reverent and acknowledging of traditions and the past – but they felt moved to dance and sing and shout and interrupt the flow of worship so they could sing to their God.  It was church that was alive, yet grounded.  It may not be able to be recreated in other places with authenticity – but it inspired me in that moment.  It showed me that the church has a vibrant future – and that future is grounded in its past.

Finally, partway through the service (I can’t recall if it was two, three, or four hours in, honestly), the power went out.  It was only for a minute or two, I think, and then it came back on.  But we then had a brownout/flickering lights and momentary blackouts the rest of the service.  “Load sharing” is the phrase they are using around here.  A silo at a coal plant collapsed a few weeks ago, so there isn’t enough electricity being generated for everyone who wants to use it.  So, we are on rolling blackouts (we had one in Gillitts tonight) for the foreseeable future.

There’s the tale of the very long worship service!  Now, time for bed before going to church in the morning!


Durban Circuit Service




The sun burns hot in the mountains of Lesotho

Hello, lovely people!

This past weekend Will and I spent some time in the lovely, hilly/mountainous country of Lesotho. For those that are not acquainted with Lesotho, it is a mountainous country located between Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg and completely surrounded by the country of South Africa. It is a place filled with hundreds (thousands?) of little villages hidden on the sides of the mountains. There are not many roads that are developed enough to drive on between the villages. Most people there either ride on donkeys or horses or walk to get between them. So, we got to go off-roading a bit to get to the places we visited. The roads that are fairly driveable are usually not paved, making it feel like you are off-roading even when you are on the road. It’s an adventure to drive anywhere there.

Another interesting thing about Lesotho is that there has been snowfall registered there in every month of the year. Because it is mountainous, I suppose this isn’t all that surprising, but it means that you are never safe from being cold. The people of Lesotho frequently walk around with blankets wrapped around them and fastened with large safety pins or they tuck them in. Anything to keep warm. While we were there, it wasn’t particularly cold. In fact, it was quite nice during the day. Because of that, Will and I didn’t wear long-sleeved shirts on the first day we were out visiting and “doing ministry” in the villages and therefore got lobsterized….that is to say we got pretty severely sunburned. We were mostly attacked in the face and the arms. This made for a rather painful rest of our trip. We had not thought to bring sunscreen, as it was not on the (supposedly) comprehensive list of supplies we were to bring with us. And we had no aloe or anything to put on our aching skin. So, we suffered through the next two days trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible. This is easier said than done.

Another fascinating part of Lesotho is that there are very few trees. Because there are few trees, there is little shade or escape from the sun that is beating down on us. On top of the lack of trees, there is almost always an intense wind blowing that whips across you and scratches any exposed skin with the dust and dirt that it kicks up….it doesn’t feel good on burned skin.

Though the sun and wind were harsh to us, the people were most certainly not. We shared almost every meal with people in the village we were staying. We shared smiles and tears with the people in the villages. (I love that the language of emotion transcends the languages of the tongue. It’s great to be able to translate even when you don’t speak the same language). W played games with kids and preached the gospel to those hungry for words of grace and love.

We made friends and more connections while we were there also. We met some American missionaries (one of whom is a Midwesterner) that we are hoping to stay connected with. And we met some local pastors that are preaching and praying in the area.

All-in-all Lesotho was an amazing experience and I, for one, hope to get back there sometime. As for now? I am going to go lather my face and arms with more camphor to help soothe my burns.

Much love from South Africa (and Lesotho)


A dark and stormy night…

There have been a few of these lately.  Nights dark and windy, rain pitter-pattering the thatch.  It’s spring in South Africa.  And no matter how many times I tell myself this, November doesn’t register as “spring”.

The last few weeks have been busy – I’ll relate more about them soon.  Tomorrow we head up to Lesotho for a couple of days of…well…I’m not totally sure what.  The organization we are going with (created by members of RedPoint) keeps saying that it will be an amazing experience.  I don’t doubt them, it’s simply that while we’ve been told what we will be doing (possibly preaching, experiencing life, working at a soup kitchen and maybe with some children), we’ve also been told that our plans could entirely change and not be any of what has been explained to us.  Should be an adventure!

It’s now 9:15pm and I haven’t begun to pack – let alone find my camera and charge it.  I do know where my passport is which is a step in the right direction!

More soon from KZN.  Hope all your faithful readers are well.


Je m’appelle Katie

I’m learning French. And by, I’m learning French, what I really mean to say is that I am trying to learn French, but don’t really feel like I can even put a sentence together in French yet. I’ve been working on it for about a month and so far, I can tell you what my name is and that I would like some wine. (perhaps that’s all I need to know?) Okay, maybe I know a bit more that that, but not much. But, in about 6 months, Will and I are going to need to carry on conversations in French, so I hope my recall begins to pick up.

Initially, I was trying to learn the basics with a free program called Memrise. It is actually quite helpful in some ways and they have many languages you can choose from. So, if you are thinking of learning a new language, but you’re not sure. Try that out in the beginning instead of paying the price of an expensive language program just to find out you don’t actually like the language at all. It really is quite a good place to start. However, when you are in it for the long haul and want to actually learn the language, you (or I, in this case) realize that you really need something else.

Anyway, in my research of place to begin to learn French, I have found that it must be difficult to write progressive learning materials for languages. Where do you start? Who are you writing for? Do you need to know phrases first (like, “where is the bathroom”) or do you need to know how to conjugate verbs first? Do you really need to know how to say the alphabet or just know whether it is the same as the English alphabet? What is the most helpful way?

In a few of the programs I have looked at, the way the language is taught is really counter intuitive, but makes sense in the broader context. Whereas with others, they spend a lot of time with the basics and you get bored to tears before you can even ask a person what their name is. Or some make assumptions that you will be able to figure out what they are trying to teach you by throwing you into the deep end with a brick tied to your feet…that way is not for me. I knew that eventually I was going to have to stop scamming with the free programs and take the leap of faith.

This week we bit the bullet and bought a language program. It is called Rocket Languages and it comes very highly recommended from just about every place we’ve looked-even more highly regarded than Rosetta Stone, in some cases. But now that I’ve started that I’m stuck between feeling like I am smart because I have learned some of the words and phrases from Memrise and frustrated because I learned to say something one way and Rocket tells me a different way to say it. I suppose this is actually great, but can be confusing in the beginning. In the end, I’m just learning more, though, which is great.

I’m really enjoying the endeavor nonetheless. I have always like languages. I just sometimes have a hard time retaining what I have learned (perhaps the 6 concussions have something to do with that?). I can memorize the vocab for the test, but I need to continue to use all the words to keep them. This is when having my Lizzi near would be helpful. She is a French queen….otherwise known as my brilliant sister who majored in French in college and has lived in France for a year. I’m sure that once July comes around and Will and I have been speaking almost exclusively in French for two months, it will be as if we never didn’t know the language. (one can hope). For now, I will mispronounce my way into fluency and hope that in time the fluency will come. (actually, I think my pronunciation is pretty good…I just have no idea what I’m saying)

I guess it’s time to mange.

Au revoir mon ami!


A few less than 1000 words

Hello, lovely readers! I’m sorry it has been such a long time since I have been present on this wonderful communication resource! The main reason is that I have been having trouble getting the pictures that I have taken on my phone to upload onto the blog and I really wanted to show you some of the wonderful things Will and I have seen. Of course most of the pictures I would want to share would be on my phone and not on my actual camera. This is 2014 after all. Anyway, I think I have figured out a way to do it! Huzzah! So, with no further ado, here are a few sights of our African adventures.

This is a Jacaranda tree. They bloom a beautiful purple, as you can see, and then the flowers fall off and they look like a regular, green-leaved tree.

This is a Jacaranda tree. They bloom a beautiful purple, as you can see, and then the flowers fall off and they look like a regular, green-leaved tree.

This is a beautiful red flower that was just sitting by the side of the road.

This is a beautiful red flower that was just sitting by the side of the road.

This lovely flower is my African, African violet....from Africa. My mom had these growing up. I have one too...from Africa.

This lovely flower is my African, African violet….from Africa. My mom had these growing up. I have one too…from Africa.

As, I have mentioned before, the trees here are VIBRANT! This picture doesn't really do justice to the vibrancy. But, yes, it is a red tree.

As, I have mentioned before, the trees here are VIBRANT! This picture doesn’t really do justice to the vibrancy. But, yes, it is a red tree.

There are Birds of Paradise all over the place...this one I believe is the one outside our door.

There are Birds of Paradise all over the place…this one I believe is the one outside our door.

This may look like a normal bird. It's not. It is blue on the outside, but the underside of the wings is a brilliant tangerine color. I don't know the name of the bird, but I have taken to calling it "my bird".

This may look like a normal bird. It’s not. It is blue on the outside, but the underside of the wings is a brilliant tangerine color. I don’t know the name of the bird, but I have taken to calling it “my bird”.

DOUBLE RAINBOW!!! They are just as amazing in Africa. And it was a complete one!. I just didn't do a good job of capturing while Will was driving. Sorry.

DOUBLE RAINBOW!!! They are just as amazing in Africa. And it was a complete one!. I just didn’t do a good job of capturing while Will was driving. Sorry.

The boy peacock doing its best to woo the peahen. She was not impressed.

The boy peacock doing its best to woo the peahen. She was not impressed.






Don't worry, we've been feeding Will well.

Don’t worry, we’ve been feeding Will well.

Will is having a staring contest with a South African seal. It won...it's made of metal.

Will is having a staring contest with a South African seal. It won…it’s made of metal.

More to come, once I forgive the Chromebook for making this so difficult in the first place.

Much love!