20th World Methodist Conference in Durban
World Methodists take part in African way of worship
Stories and pictures by Peter Teo in Durban
WORLD METHODIST CONFERENCE participants fanned out throughout Durban on Aug 7, 2011 for their Sunday morning worship services.
It was a totally new worship experience for many of the 1,850 participants as they congregated in churches to stand side by side with their African brothers and sisters in eight communities. It was also a cultural journey like no other as the local church members sang and danced to the beat of drums, bells, hand claps and foot stomps in the sanctuary.
This is how a typical African community church will conduct its worship service. Spontaneous singing and dancing break out at the most unexpected times. Just when you think a song of praise or hymn has ended, someone will pick up from the last strain of the music and the entire congregation will rise in crescendo again. Or while the pastor is speaking and he decides to sing a line, the whole congregation will join in and dance and sing to the end. All this without hymnals!
At least this was our experience at the G2 KwaMashu Methodist Church, 17 km from the city centre, when I worshipped there with the Rev James Nagulan, President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference. For the most part of the two-and-a-half-hour service, there was singing and dancing, even in the chancel area and the aisle.
Bishop Denis Matsolo from Mozambique was the guest speaker. A tall and well-built man, his half-hour sermon was delivered in English with sprinklings of Portuguese, French and native languages.
The other conference participants were ferried by coaches from the International Convention Centre in the city to churches as far as 20 to 30 km away.
The G2 Methodist Church was built and dedicated in 1961. It served as the only church building for the first Methodist church members who had been forcibly relocated to KwaMashu in 1958 after the demolition of the shack areas that they had occupied in the greater Durban area.
More and more newcomers arrived to worship at the church. A few smaller churches were then built nearby to satisfy the spiritual needs of the burgeoning township population.
To meet the demand for worship services as well as social and community programmes such as food distribution and the HIV/Aids helpline, the church is now working on its extension project.