Monday, February 23, 2015

When culture and liturgics collide

As we remind our students, we have chapel services first for worship, but second for training.  The teams get feedback on how they lead the service, and since we’re using the "new" liturgy, the students occasionally fumble, but overall, are getting on fabulously well.

Last night, the congregation’s response to the Dismissal was less than stellar, and since it has been several times, I was quite annoyed.  So I asked the Michael, the service leader, to dismiss us again, and asked that the congregation be serious and read the response that is provided in the prayer book that they all have.  The response is “Thanks be to God!”, and since that is not terribly difficult, I get fairly exasperated when that’s not done well.

So, Michael dismissed us again, the congregation replied in a hearty “Thanks be to God!”, and all was well until Michael showed his appreciation by saying, “Hallelujah!”  I quickly said, “Ah-a! No hallelujah; it’s Lent!” which left the congregation laughing.

And as much as it was funny (and I even thought so), the collision of culture and liturgics often leave me puzzled, if not exasperated.  Once again, we had no ashes on Ash Wednesday, though the chaplain said we could do it next year.  I told her I’d hold her to it.  The opening worship on Ash Wednesday featured songs full of alleluias and exhortations to dance for Jesus!  I turned to Samson, one of the assistant chaplains, and pointed out that it’s Lent, and neither of those is appropriate during this time on the church calendar.  He pointed out that this is Africa, and this is what we do in Africa.  I countered with the fact that we’re Anglicans, and that should supersede culture.  Unfortunately, I think I will always lose that one.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Strange sights while driving

Driving in Uganda offers an opportunity to see many interesting things.  I usually can’t record them because I’m driving.  However, today, Mary Jane and I went to have lunch in Kampala, so she could be my photographer.  We went to a cute little place called The Bistro; the décor resembles a French café, though we can’t decide whether the owner is Pakistani or Turkish.  It has great food, great coffee, and a lovely ambiance, if you can ignore the hot mess of the parking lot for the tiny shopping area where it resides.

On the way there, we passed the construction of the new St. Andrew’s, Bukoto (Anglican).  This is a wonderful church, and they are building a new building that will hold up to 1,500, and are building it without getting a loan from the bank.  This means that it’s taking them quite a while to build, but it also means that they won’t be paying a bank note at 22%.  Ahem.

As you can partially see here, the architecture is rather distinctive, especially the roof.  What you may not be able to see as well (and I apologize for the old auto insurance sticker; I need to scrape those off, and yes, that’s where they go) is that there are four men working on the roof.  You should definitely be able to see the man at the top, and possibly another at 9:00.  Neither appears to have any protective gear, like a harness or hardhat.  TIA:  This is Africa.

Then, on the way home, we were driving on the Northern Bypass, and I remarked that there was a hearse behind us with its blinkers on, and that it looked to be a Volvo.  I never knew that Volvo manufactured hearses, and regardless, Volvos are exceptionally rare here.  Also rare are funeral processions; there is a funeral, and then the burial usually takes place at the family or ancestral home, not necessarily on the same day, so there generally isn’t a procession.  Hence my surprise at the blinkers; no one following the hearse had blinkers on.

The hearse had been following me at a good distance, so I was rather surprised when it overtook (passed) me.  You can ignore the double yellow line; it does mean no passing, but rules are flexible as long as the traffic police aren’t around.  When we were behind the hearse, we noticed several other surprises:  there was neither a curtain nor dark windows to hide the casket from view, and golly, what a casket.  The gold ornamentation is rather ornate, so I’m inferring that the deceased was either a prominent member of society and/or came from a wealthy family.  We were mostly surprised that we were afforded the view of the casket; one would never see that in the States.  Once again:  TIA.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fruit of the land

Recently, one of the students from western Uganda, Justus, was going home for the weekend to look for school fees for the children, and he said he'd bring me some "cocow."  With his accent, I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about, but thanked him nonetheless.

He returned with a kavera (polythene bag) bursting with fruit:  the biggest bananas I have ever seen, and the elusive "cocow."  Of course, he was talking about cocoa.  I never knew it grew in Uganda!

I tried to find something to photograph so you could have a size comparison, but it's probably easier to tell you that they're about the size of an ear of corn, and about that easy to peel.  I've never shucked a banana before.  These bananas aren't sweet like traditional bananas, and one must be sure to be incredibly hungry before eating!

See?  The bananas completely take over the fruit basket.  The Irish potatoes in front are quite small, the cocoa at the left is presumably normal size, and the mango in back is a nice size, a little bigger than two of my fists (because I have tiny hands).

Once I hacked into the cocoa, this is what I found.  I feel like the proverbial dog who caught the car:  I'm not quite sure what to do with this.  Justus told me to just suck on it, that it's sweet.  He's right, it is sweet, and sticky, and I'm not quite sure what to do with it in my mouth.  I bit one, and that was an incredible mistake - raw cocoa is worse than powdered cocoa.  

I may have to Google some recipes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Welcome to my world

A Christian refugee family is staying in Mukono, and we are trying to help them get on their feet in their new country.  They speak some English, though obviously prefer Arabic.  I’ve only seen them a couple time after services, and they seem delightful.

Thursday evening, after our chapel Eucharist, I was leaving the Bishop Tucker building, and the family was standing with some students, including the one who speaks Arabic (and therefore is their sole translator).  They had a conversation in Arabic, and the Ugandan students stood by, looking slightly perplexed, because they aren’t used to not being able to pick up at least a few words from a conversation, even in if the conversation is in another tribe’s tongue.

I had to laugh, as it was pretty funny to see Ugandans thinking that they were at the Tower of Babel.  I told them, “welcome to my world!” and they readily agreed, and said that they now understood how I generally feel.

Please pray for this family as they adjust to life in Uganda and begin to rebuild their lives.  They have endured much for the name of Jesus, and it's a joy and an honor to fellowship with them.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hoping for ashes for Wednesday

I have long been dismayed that our Ash Wednesday services on campus do not involve the imposition of ashes, so much so that I called it Ashless Wednesday when I was a student.

This week, the chaplaincy informed me that I'm leading the Ash Wednesday service, which I'm happy to do.  Since we actually have an Ash Wednesday service in the prayer book, I showed the service to my friend/brother Amos, and asked if we could use it.  He agreed (!! be still my heart!!).

You have to remember that I live in paradise; we have palm trees all around.  On Palm Sunday, the congregation brings their own palms, rather than the church providing them.  However, they're not saved for Ash Wednesday.  

As you can see from the picture, we're in the tail end of the dry season, and everything is brown and crunchy.  I honestly don't understand how anything survives.  The palm trees are doing their usual molting, and it occurred to me... we can actually pull these dry fronds down and burn them for ashes!

So, we'll see if ashes actually happen.  A girl can dream, right?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A request for assistance

Friends, I'm writing to ask for your help.  There is a Christian refugee family that has recently fled an unsafe situation to another nation.  The father had been beaten and held in a safe house, the mother assaulted, the children hidden for about 1.5 years, and they have not been in school for two years.

We are looking to raise money to send the two children to school; the total cost for one semester (for both children) should be about $450.  

Would you please pray about contributing?  Also, please keep this family in your prayers.  They are in a land far from home, and really do not speak any of the languages of their new home.  

If you can help, please email me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"You must come preach at my church!"

This week I am teaching the modular (highly compressed) Biblical Interpretation course for the Masters of Child Development students.  I took several of these compressed courses in my first masters program, and the students have my deepest sympathies.  Basically, they're in class for eight hours a day for a month, then they go and do all their assignments, and they return in May for exams. Just thinking about it gives me flashbacks to Marymount University, and I graduated from that program a decade ago.

It's a class of 10 students, and one walked in and said, "hello Jessica."  I recognized his face but not his name; our student days at UCU overlapped a bit, and he is the vicar of a church in Bwyogerere,not too far from UCU, and off my least favorite junction (intersection) in the entire country.

As we were leaving class yesterday, he said to me, "Rev. Jessica, you must come preach at my church.  How about Easter?"  When I visit various churches for Sunday supervision of my students, vicars often tell me they want me to come preach; I think it's the prestige of having a muzungu preach.  However, this was a specific request, and he meant it!

Now, something that I still get surprised about is how often priests do not preach in their own churches; it's rather the norm to have outside preachers.  I find that a bit odd, but then, to ask a virtual stranger to come and preach on the biggest holy day in the Christian calendar?  I'm quite flattered and honored at the request, though part of me is surprised that he didn't have a preacher already lined up.

Since the UCU Chaplaincy thinks they own me, I had to check with them as to whether I am on the program for Easter, and I am, so I will have to decline the opportunity.  However, I remain honored to be asked to be the guest preacher on Easter.