Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Remembering Lusaka

Remembering our baptism
It has been pointed out to me that I haven't blogged in a long time. These days I mostly share my adventures via Facebook. That said, not everyone regularly reads FB newsfeeds and not every story can be summed up with a status update or a captioned photo album. So, perhaps I'll start again and begin by telling some of my favorite stories from where I left off.

Not long after my last blog post I discovered that Stuart and I would soon become parents. I had a rather rough first trimester, but we wanted to hold-off on announcing the pregnancy, so I tried to mask my illness and continued with my church work in Lusaka. In fact, when the pastor of the main United Methodist congregation in the district said he could no longer handle his commute due to the heavy rains and bad roads, I was appointed as senior pastor at Matero with the deal that when the roads finally dried I could leave town for my commitments in Indiana and Congo.

No longer itinerating around the district allowed me to journey through all of Lent and into Easter with the same congregation. The experience had its challenges (like marching all morning on a hot day in a heavy robe in an ecumenical Palm Sunday parade while battling morning sickness), but it overall it was wonderful. Together we explored how to enrich our Lenten journey and made plans to make Easter extra special.

My husband and I have a tradition of inviting embassy friends to our house for a Maundy Thursday dinner followed by a contemplative Taize service and Passion reading. When I arrived at church (visualize a rented classroom in a poor part of town) the next morning to lead the Good Friday services, the Taize hymn “Jesus, Remember Me” was still floating through my head, so I decided to introduce it to the congregation. The result was powerful. I had never experienced Taize like this; it brought tears to my eyes as the song swelled pentecostally and morphed into what it was intended to be—an intense communal plea for Christ to not abandon us. The service and song became one; spoken reflections on the Passion and scripture readings served as short rests between its refrains. It is moments like this that make me feel incredibly blessed to work in a setting where contexts collide and enhance each other.

Our beautiful Easter morning sanctuary
Blessing a marriage on Easter Sunday
On Easter morning I arrived with decorations from home (wedding crystal, silk flowers and tablecloths) and was delighted to find our normally shabby classroom had already been transformed by the women of the church. Pink toilet paper, salvaged balloons, curtains from their homes—everything they could gather had been used. I was honored that morning to officiate the baptism of ten children, ritually bless a common-law marriage and welcome three new members. What a day! The members were still talking about it with pride and enthusiasm when interviewed by a visiting American pastor months later.

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