Reflections about Madagascar-Part 2
Another rhythm of life that I enjoyed experiencing was the worship life of the Malagasy people. We of course were close observers of the Lutheran Church and their worship life, but we also observed Christians from other denominations, primarily Roman Catholic and the Reformed Church, from the street view. People walk to church, there are few who own and drive a car to church. So the streets are filled with wave upon wave of people coming and going to church. You can tell they are church attending because you do not go to church with casual clothing. The people do not have much, but they do have dressy clothing and they wear them to church.
The rhythm of worship in every service we attended is a very formal service, a set liturgy. The people love to sing and in addition to the set liturgy they sing numerous songs during a worship service. When we attended a meeting they always start the meeting with a devotional and also sing numerous songs. In this situation they do not have a piano to lead the singing, but one person who serves as the song leader and they all join in singing every verse most often by memory.
We attended a worship service in a prison for young boys, up to 17 years old. I was amazed that these Lutheran boys in prison sang the liturgy from memory and also the hymns. Why were these 75 or so boys in prison? I would imagine for stealing basics of life like food and clothing. They were inspiring to me because they came to worship and participate with enthusiasm.
We attended two Sunday worship services where they had incredible choirs. The number of singers in each of the choirs was around 60-70 members. We were all amazed at one of the sopranos in the front row who was not only holding her young child but nursing the child as well as she sang. I guess there is no excuse for not singing?!
The church services are packed with people, get there early to find a seat! And the first service is at 6:00 a. m. with a second at 10 a.m. because the services last 3 to 4 hours.
The final rhythm of worship that wish to share is the structure of the service:
- opening liturgy of the Word which includes a sermon
- Baptisms are almost always a part of each service
- Offerings, yes plural, normally three or four offerings take place for different causes and purposes. Everyone marches up to the front and places their offering in huge baskets of different colors. I notice every time I attend a worship service that everyone in the family offers a gift. What a way to teach our children to give!
- Announcements take up 20 to 30 minutes of the service. There are no bulletins so there is a person who makes all of the announcements which includes observing anniversaries, etc. It is a community celebration time!
- Either the celebration of Holy Communion or a service of confession and forgiveness which they call an exorcism. Not the Hollywood version of exorcism but a Biblical one of helping people to understand that the power of evil works to destroy them and the power of the Gospel is there to forgive and renew one's life. It is powerful!
Their faith life is a powerful rhythm of form and meaning that helps them to transcend their daily struggles and grants power to their lives.
I will forever remember these rhythm of life experiences!
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