Pastoral Power! Holding That Much Power



To Bee Honest…

Religious officials have wayyyyy too much power and authority in Nigeria and it’s really all kinds of ridiculous.

Last Saturday, I attended a wedding I’d been anticipating for months. About an hour before the wedding was to start the heavens opened, you might not know this, when it rains in Lagos it pours. No gentle drizzling for this city, it’s a torrential downpour or nothing.  I’ve had to remind myself a number of times that we don’t have tornadoes and hurricanes in this part of the world, and despite the terrible winds we’re safe.

Anyway, we hunkered down at home, until the rain abated, it would have been craziness to step out in that weather. To me it was a no brainer that the bride would stay nice and dry inside her house.  We still made it to the church in decent time, and as expected the wedding hadn’t started. I proceeded to study the church and people. If you’ve ever been to a Nigerian wedding, you’ll know why I was studying the people, Nigerians may have troubles in medicine, finance, construction, name it, but we’re all fashionistas.

To help you visualize the church, this is all you need to know; it was a traditional orthodox church. If you haven’t been to a church in a while (or ever), here are a few more clues, think high ceilings, stained glass windows, and hard wooden pews with even harder kneelers (Hunchback of Notre Dame anyone? It obviously wasn’t as regal ).  The choir was stationed at the front of the church to the left and right of the altar/sanctuary; their outfits terribly ill-suited for our climate. Not only were they wearing heavy robes, they also had these funky chiffon-lace neckpieces that came all the way up their necks, kinda like a turtle neck. I was like people really? Do y’all realize you are in the tropics, and the church is not air-conditioned? The neck pieces weren’t even their original white anymore, but back to the original story.

The wedding march begins, and the bride walks down the center aisle on her father’s arm. I’m mentally and verbally congratulating her for getting there only 20 minutes late. I settled down for a beautiful wedding ceremony.  No! That would have been way too easy, instead we got to listen to Mr. Debbie Downer (deacon/pastor/priest) who in all his wisdom, decided to keep the bride standing and scold her. I’m paraphrasing here but the essence of his rant was, “You made the Bishop of our diocese wait, there are Kabiyesis (local chiefs) here, distinguished men and women who have come to celebrate with you and you’ve kept them waiting”.  I was completely aghast at this point, looking around; I noticed similar expressions on everyone’s face, people going “Haaaa!!!” with open mouths, but he was on a roll. Next I heard him say “come here and apologize to everyone”. Now, it’s to my friend’s credit that she’s a lot wiser than me because she actually apologized.

As for me and my household, the church wedding would have ended there oh! I would have just said “To the reception hall everybody, thank y’all for coming, you are far too kind”.  I probably would have regretted that, because the consequences would have been terrible.  Anyway, the wedding went on, the couple was married which was the most important thing. An hour we were out of there and proceeded to have a terrific party.

I was still getting over my Saturday experience, when I went to church on Sunday and had another encounter with the clergy. This was my first full church experience since coming back and quite honestly it was a bit weird. I missed my church, the small intimate building, with the sense of community.  There wasn’t anything wrong with this church, but it was so big and cold, there weren’t any familiar faces or people smiling and saying hello**sniff**. I did sit behind the most adorable little boy and he kept me company all through mass.  At some point he kept offering me his half eaten cracker, I knew if I attempted to take it he would probably freak, so sadly I had to leave it alone.

Half way through the sermon, a few babies started crying and just being babies. The priest interrupted his sermon to say “please control your babies”. Ohhhhh!! I wanted to give him a piece of my mind; poor babies were probably bored. But seriously, control them? I generally don’t have a problem with the fact that Catholic priests remain single; however, this would be a great argument for those who say they should get married. If he had kids of his own, he would know that babies get a bit fussy sometimes, and parents can’t go rushing out of church every time their kid whimpers. We encourage parents to come to church, and we want them to raise their kids in church. It’s only natural that we’ll have some incidents like this. I would think a church congregation can tolerate a few unhappy babies, and if they can’t something might be lacking in the message they receive on Sunday….just saying.

On a positive note, we now have female altar servers in Nigeria, I was so happy to see them. If I had that opportunity as a child, I would have been all over that, even if it was just to show those boys that a girl could do the job J

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  1. I love this piece on clergymen in Nigeria, personally I’ve stripped them of their powers over me and replaced it with mere respect.


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