“Brethren, turn to your neighbour and say, ‘you are blessed’ !“
No, he didn’t just say that. Well, he couldn’t be blamed. This man of God was not exactly omniscient, so he couldn’t possibly have known that you have been holding your breath at intervals for extended periods because the brother who is seated to your left possesses a breath similar to the “aroma” of soaked cassava. Yes, it’s Sunday morning at “Password To Heaven Ministries”. Truth is, it’s your first time in a Christian gathering this year. Church is not particularly where you get to be found on Sundays, yes, age and education have ensured that you no longer subscribe to organized religion. Well you are here on this day much thanks to your friend Damian, who convinces you by saying that most pretty ladies in the city attend that particular church, and furthermore that the finale of the Singles’ Weekend is scheduled for that day.
The pastor begins by quoting that part from the third letter of St. John which states that “I want you in all things to prosper, even as your soul prospereth” (3 John 1:2). He proceeds from there, dishing out prophecies of financial bliss, cancellation of debts and gainful employment. His motivational lines appear to hit the mark, and the congregation, much fired up by now, respond with shouts of “ride on Pastor” after every three sentences. There is no talk about “prosperity of the soul”, no mention of salvation. Who were you to ask questions anyway? After all, you did not possess the kind of anointing he had, you had not spent weeks in the wilderness like he had, nor were you there when the Spirit was placing the message for that day in his heart.
Service gets to the Anointing Segment in a matter of minutes. Once anyone felt the breeze from Pastor’s mouth or feel his palm on their forehead, they had to do the needful: fall down! Their falling could be accompanied by hysterical screams as well; after all, it was the Holy Spirit moving. You don’t exactly feel moved after feeling the blend of air and saliva from Pastor’s mouth, but you eventually go to ground after Damian urges you by saying “guy, this church pays a lot for televised services, Pastor cannot be seen not to have the Spirit manifest.” You frown as you lie down in co-operation, but what you observe next almost causes you to exclaim. A lady on the floor hears her phone ring, picks it and says, “I am under the Anointing, please call me back.”
It’s offering time after that. The Pastor tries to loosen the pockets of his congregation by treating them to verses like “the measure you give is the measure you receive”, “God loves a cheerful giver” and “let there be meat in my house, says the Lord.” He then goes on to say “don’t rob me so I won’t rob you back, says the Lord” with such authority and conviction that you would actually think that those were the exact words in the third chapter of Malachi. You see out the first three rounds, but when the Pastor calls for a fourth collection, you decide that you have had enough. You quickly move out through the side door before those on your row stand up, as if you plan to relieve yourself outside. Three more rounds of offering follow after that, and members of the congregation empty their purses and wallets willingly. Such money flowing into the church coffers, you say to yourself, and that witch-slapping Bishop who runs a conservative university would still go on to scream “pay tax for what?” A mini-launching in respect of the following week’s annual harvest is up next, and someone makes a cheque donation of six million naira to much applause. You look closely and you recognise him. Yes, it’s the same man whom you saw ignoring a crippled beggar at the gate while you tried to get in, ignoring him as well.
Praise and worship that day is led by a familiar face. It’s Pat (or Sister Patience in this context), a girl you know from the club downtown. You know her to be a pretty good dancer, you know how she twerks on the floors of Safari Lounge like Nicki Minaj, yet here she is, raising her voice to the Lord like Nikki Laoye. Dancing to these songs of praise takes a slightly different dimension too. You see people placing their right hands over the eyes and stretching out their left hands like it’s that Lil’ Kesh song playing. You are in no position to comment though, pagan that you are. It’s alright so long as it is to the glory of God. Who says we can’t have “Shoki for Christ”?
The choir ministration is so touching that you almost repent that day, yes, almost, until you spot Juliet in the row meant for soprano singers. Juliet! The same lady who spent two consecutive weeks at your apartment six months earlier, and who once called you “lazy” because you could only go at it with her for a maximum of ninety minutes. She sings pretty well while the ministration lasts. Why wouldn’t she? Thanks to something you own, those two weeks had caused some adjustment to her vocal chords. Announcements follow, and those attending service for the first time that day are eventually welcomed. You almost burst into laughter when you see who comes to usher you to the newcomers’ section. Gertrude, of all people! Gertrude, the town crier of your former neighbourhood! Gertrude who had something to say about everyone, always glad to provide unsolicited information about neighbours and friends of neighbours. You remember the popular saying in the neighbourhood, that one could not be said not to have notice of something so long as it was within Gertrude’s knowledge. You are in no mood to be rude though, and your decision to follow her pays off. She puts you in the middle of two good-looking ladies, you turn your charm on, and phone digits are exchanged in no time. The grace in fellowship is shared soon enough, but not before the hug-a-thon in which you participate actively.
You get back home after thanking Damian for providing you with the opportunity to add new entries to your contact list. Waiting for you in your bed and clad in just a short wrapper is Magdalene, your present distraction. She is Catholic, the mass for that day lasted less than two hours, and she finds the key where you left it for her. Jollof rice is ready, but she has a little something for you first, beckoning to you with that “come get me” look.
“But….but….are you not just coming back from church?” You pretend to protest.
“Just come over…..don’t worry, I’ll go for confession on Saturday”, Magdalene replies.
She wastes no time in taking your lips into hers, and her wrapper soon finds its way to the ground. For you, it’s a unique taste of the Holy Communion she must have received today (Magdalene never missed The Eucharist). You shrug mentally as the make-out session goes on. This Jesus must be pretty liberal, you say to yourself. Anyways, it was the Good Book which stated that the more the sin, the more the abundance of Grace. Yea, Grace. That concept which had been much talked about, and which was sometimes hard to understand, in fact so hard to understand that some Pastors would have to impart it to female members of their flock in hotel rooms. You reach for the bulletproof which you tucked neatly in an old torn Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the book falls in a manner that leaves it open, and your eyes unintentionally meet a portion of Scripture as you try to pick it back up and get to business. It reads:
“It is not they who are healthy that need a physician, but they who are sick!” (Matthew 9:12)
HERE’S TO A SWEET NOVEMBER, EVERYONE!
– 2:00pm, 2nd November 2014.
(Follow on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)