Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Power of the Usher

We have not always gone to the same church here in Benin.  One Sunday we branched out and visited a Presbyterian Church in Cotonou.  As we arrived, we were greeted by an usher and given a bulletin.   Then, another usher took us to our seat.  Although the church is separatedby sex- men on the left and women on the right- they were expecting us and allowed us to sit together.  We were the only couple sitting side by side in the whole church- roughly five hundred people. We watched as the ushers showed people to their seats.

Not only were the two sides of the church separated by sex, but the ushers seated people by filling all the front rows before continuing on to the next row. This meant that every row was packed with 6 people- with very little personal space. This continued all throughout the service until the church was packed- two hours after the service started.

One of the ushers was on a power trip that day.  He made several women move seats, presumably because they were too close to the male choir members. An argument ensued, but he did not relent.  The women moved to another section.  I watched as people gave the ushers tips for giving them bulletins, seating them, and even retuning their tithing envelopes (there were four offerings at the service- the first being the tithe- and there was a big banner in the front reminding people that everyone NEEDS to tithe).  I bet more people would sign up to usher in the States if they got tips!

We are not sure if the ushers played a role at the end of the service-we left as the service hit the four-hour mark. The announcements were over an hour long, including the introduction of a new baby that took about thirty minutes (the entire family- over one hundred people-paraded in from the back of the church).   

In addition, the pastor spent over thirty minutes guilting individuals to come forward and pledge money for the church to buy a piece of property.  First, he asked that those who would promise 50,000 francs (100 US dollars) come forward.  He waited five minutes, begging people to come forward because ¨the Spirit was calling them to do this¨.   He painfully did this many times, asking for those who would pledge 30,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, etc. He kept saying ¨no pressure, but God wants you to do this¨. No pressure indeed!  It didn’t take me that long to figure out that these were not things I would introduce to my internship congregation back in the USA!

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