|A Gambellan Eucharist|
Every morning we have worship on the Gambella Anglican Centre compound. On Friday mornings, at least when St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College is in session, we have a service of Holy Communion. Our small teaching staff, our 23 students, and our staff of about 15 all attend. It is usually a fairly quiet dignified affair (depending on who is leading the singing it may be less quiet and less dignified). But this is Africa; anything can happen. I have been in many Eucharistic celebrations in Africa in which a dog or a goat would take up residence beneath the holy table. Less often but equally interesting have been eucharists with live chickens in the offering, once a small snake quietly killed, once a bat clinging to the “fine linen”, and the usual contingents of hyperactive flies and marching ants. Africa is alive – sometimes frighteningly so.
This particular morning I was the presider. As I listened to the sermon another sound drew my attention. It was coming from the speaker system at the other side of the sanctuary – but the sound was not on – we don’t need it for our weekday services. Then I noticed a few small bees escaping from the speaker, and then a few more. After a few minutes it became clear that no one would be able to receive communion at that end of the sanctuary. At the peace I went to Jeremiah Maet, one of our faculty. Pointing out the growing number of bees in the sanctuary I asked him to set the table during the offertory while I got some bug spray from the house. So here is the now undignified (I told you we are not always dignified) bishop running to the house and running back with my can of bug spray. I quickly got to work spraying the place in the speaker from which the bees were emerging. Well, now the bees start pouring out of the speaker by the hundreds. Thankfully they were too stunned to be angry, so only one person got stung (Darash, one of our staff, who decided that maybe he, rather than the bishop, should finish the slaughter of the bees).
As extra offertory songs were being sung Jeremiah, James Lual (the crucifer for the service) and I moved the communion table and all of its contents down into the middle of the congregation. No one panicked. No one screamed. And, of course, the singing kept going until we were set up. And so we proceeded with the prayer of consecration, the sanctuary area behind me literally carpeted with dead and dying bugs.
I opened the announcement time after the service by saying “this is Africa.” Everyone laughed. Staff went to work. Students went to class. I just shook my head and wondered if Jesus (or Francis of Assisi) would have handled this situation differently.
Worship team present…
~ Please Pray with us ~
~ for God’s call, equipping, and blessing on those called to leadership in this area
~ for the faculty and students of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College, especially for a new Dean, and for our newest incoming ‘first year class’.
~ for Grant and Wendy as they discern and move forward into whatever their new sphere of ministry will be
~ for ongoing healing for Wendy. Her health issues are proving to be both quite stubborn and quite serious