I had a visit to the Usuthu Mission Parish today. It’s a parish that I’ve heard so much about back at home and I finally had my own chance to see the faith and work of the people of that place.
We arrived early enough to meet the clergy and plan what would happen in the service. It was all familiar in many ways, and yet different.
I started to cry when I heard the sound of the singing with the first hymn. In fact for most of the service tears were always near at hand. I can’t describe the power of the human voice when it is raised in praise. I’d heard of this wonder – this was my first chance to experience it. For an old choir member to have a chance to hear a whole church sing with such power and beauty was reason enough to have made this trip.
I managed to pick up the tunes of the hymns after hearing them. And finding my way though the words (phonetically) came after a bit too. I wish I could have a picture of the looks on the faces of the acolytes sitting next to me when I started to sing along in the hymns. (I hope it was a look of bemusement at my trying to sing, and not a look of horror at my pronunciation of the words… Grin.)
Father Josiah gave me the honor of preaching the sermon. I told the story of the boy and the starfish – a story that has become the symbol for what I think we are trying to do here.
Father Josiah asked me to bless the children after the communion service 2 by 2 as they came forward to the altar rail. Again – this simple act is one that I shall never forget. I hope that Dr. Wallace has a picture of it. I may ask that we do something similar back home.
After the service I met with the Parish Council. I handed out pens which had Operation Starfish emblazoned on them. I asked people to use these pens to write down the story of how their lives were being effected by the scourge of HIV and AIDS. They told me they would. I reminded them of the story of the Diocese of Sudan and Bethlehem… If they tell us what is happening, we will try our best to respond somehow. But they must tell us.