Sunday in Newala

We got up early, chatted over breakfast, then made our way over to the cathedral for the service. Bishop Miller preached, and Paula, Oswald, and I celebrated the Eucharist together. I did a passable job, I think, with the Swahili bits of the Eucharist; people spoke or chanted the responses as if they knew what I was saying, anyway! Sister Helena told us later that we did a “missa nzuri” – a beautiful Mass. The cathedral was full, lots of life and energy. Three choirs (Imani, Maranatha, and Ephatha), in their different colored shirts and dresses, sang and danced for us. The kids all sit in one big section up at the front, and are amazingly well-behaved during the long service. At offering time, one of the older girls holds a plate and the kids come up and put in their little coins, as the adults do the same. I love having a kids’ offering plate – what a neat idea! Paula described the tone of worship here well: a beautiful combination of dignity and abandon. After church the Mothers’ Union gathered to meet with me briefly, all in their beautiful tailored blue batik outfits and white headdresses. I had a gift for them, sent by Connie Ott as a representative of the Episcopal Church Women: a beautiful pectoral cross, blessed by Presiding Bishop Katherine. They sang for me, a little honor-song that mostly consisted of “Mama, mama, mama.” (We heard the male version – “Baba, baba, baba” – several times, too. I finally recorded it on my phone!) I read them the note, and my friend Yusuph translated. They were very tickled by the gift, and one of the older ladies came up and made a little speech back to me. (Later, our last evening there, they brought a return gift: a Mother’s Union headdress to take home to their friends in Wisconsin.) Then I shook everyone’s hands – the Tanzanian three-part handshake.

Next was tea at the SSM house – such a refuge for us, a place to sit and breathe and be cared for, in the midst of all the excitement and bustle of being here. They feed us a delightfully local meal – it makes me think of St Dunstan’s and Madison: Tea or coffee with milk from their cows; boiled eggs from their chickens; papaya from their trees; doughnuts made here; and cashews – not from the sisters’ compound, but from the Newala region.

That afternoon we pile into the Prado and make the rounds of several nearby parishes. We visit St. Bernard’s, Nanguruwe, and meet Father Samuel Luhuna, and his wife and sons. Father Samuel has charge of eight churches! – most of them very small. He travels between them on a very smart bright red motorbike. St Bernard’s is a comparatively wealthy church, because there’s lots of cashew farming nearby and that has provided a decent income for local people in recent years. People often bring their offerings in food or grain, rather than money; inside the church we see one area with piles of corn, beans, and other foodstuffs, the Sunday offering, and another area with a huge pile of dried corn, offerings for the building fund for a new church. While we’re visiting with people outside the church, someone happens by selling large roast rodents. Bishop Oscar buys one as a gift for Father Samuel’s wife. Apparently they’re quite good.

Father Samuel shows us another of his churches, at Samora, a beautiful old church with bright rag garlands and a membership of about 25. (Many churches are decorated with simple, delightful banners made from rags and scraps of fabric, tied onto a string or sewn together at their corners. I love them. Bishop Steven says he fully expects to see some, next time he visits St. Dunstan’s. I assure him that he will.) As we drive between parishes, we can look over the edge of the Makonde Plateau and see down to farmland, a great river, and beyond, the wooded countryside of Mozambique.

After Father Samuel’s churches, we visit Holy Cross, Nambunga. Holy Cross is a big church, with about 350 people on a Sunday. The building is well-kept, and decorated with neatly-sewn fabric flags. They are building a new building for the church offices and Sunday school rooms, and digging a cistern to harvest the seasonal rains. The church owns a big chunk of land here near the church – most of it a pea field, at present. Canon Edgar Ligumba serves this church and two others. Besides Canon Edgar, a man who sings in one of the choirs comes to welcome us and show us around. He has his one-year-old daughter Jessica in his arms. She watches us closely, never cracking a smile even when we give her a lollipop. We are entranced by her grave and lovely little face. Next on our itinerary: St Raphael, Mvita. St Raphael is one of only a few churches we visit with paintings on its walls – wonderful angels up flanking the altar, one swinging a thurible. It also has a carved wood rood screen. A beautiful and well-cared-for space. Nearby we visit St Claire’s, a smaller church. The lectern there is woefully wobbly; Bishop Oscar jokes about trying to read from it while it’s leaning wildly from side to side!

My notebook fails me here; I’m not sure when my notes turn from Sunday to Monday. It was a busy two days, touring churches, piling in and out of the Prado, meeting people, taking photos, signing guestbooks, receiving gifts – on Sunday alone: a live rooster, a large roast rodent, eleven eggs, and a dozen oranges. So much graciousness and welcome! I have no notes on how we spent Sunday evening, but I believe we all headed to bed after only one round of Serengeti beers or Konyagi and tonic.

The Sursum Corda (the first, responsive part of the Eucharistic Prayer) in Swahili - with solfa tones!
The Sursum Corda (the first, responsive part of the Eucharistic Prayer) in Swahili – with solfa tones!
Bishop Oscar and the wobbly lectern. And some of the fabric flags I love so much!
Bishop Oscar and the wobbly lectern. And some of the fabric flags I love so much!

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