The choir was asked to wait behind for a brief meeting after the service so I rushed to greet Bro David before he would begin addressing them. When I greeted him, he simply ignored me and proceeded to greet other brethren that were waiting for him. I was surprised but I decided to assume it was an oversight; I told myself he was probably very busy or his mind was on something else and he didn’t hear me. So I waited outside the hall while they had the meeting.
After about 15 minutes, they started trickling out of the hall in two’s and three’s. I said hi to most of them as I stood at the door waiting for his turn to step out but they replied coldly. Again, I wondered what had happened to the once friendly choristers. I stopped Sister Esther who used to be my sit mate in the alto group, she was the lead alto vocalist. She just said hi and begged to leave saying that she was rushing off to someplace; though I understood, it was quite unusual.
As the choristers dispersed gradually, some stopped to exchange pleasantries while others took selfies with their friends in front of the beautiful church building. Still, others sat at one corner of the hall to remove their high heeled shoes and change into a more comfortable flat slippers before heading home.
Bro David still wasn’t out, I guessed he was meeting some other people so I decided to go in and let him know I was waiting. I sighted him talking with Sister Tola, the choir treasurer. It was not unusual to see both of them together after service as the duo were good friends, though there were gossips here and there about the two but I thought it best not to assume things that I had no business with. He was holding her closely as they sat together at the far end of the hall, I tapped him gently.
“Good after noon sir. I’m sorry to interrupt; please can I see you briefly. I was greeting you earlier on, I guess you didn’t see me so I decided to wait for you and I have been waiting for some time now.”
“I didn’t see you.” He mumbled with a look that suggested otherwise. “But as you can see, I’m with someone and we are having an important discussion. Please wait or you can go if you are in a hurry, we can always see another time.”
“Ah ah, Bro David. That’s not fair, please let her see you.” Sister Tola protested. “I can wait, besides I think we are done with the major things about changing the signatories to the account, I can brief you on any other development over the phone or during the midweek service.”
Turning to me, she continued. “Sister Nnenna, please don’t mind him. I was about leaving before you came, so feel free” She stood up to take her leave.
“Tola wait” Bro David drew her back as he rose to his feet.
“No, Sister Tola don’t bother, it’s not urgent.” I cut in. “It can wait till next Sunday or I can send him a text. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Fine, Tola, please just give us five minutes, I’m sure it will be brief. I have some other important things to discuss with you and I would love to drop you off” He pleaded with her.
“It’s ok” Sister Tola replied. “Let me say hi to Aunty Peace before she goes.”
I pulled the sit beside me and sat down, and he joined me. I couldn’t talk for what seemed like ages. The hostility was palpable and all I could do was pray under my breath, I wondered how the once sweet and friendly Bro David had suddenly turned sour.
“Yea, you said you wanted to see me. Here am I.” He spoke first.
“Yes Sir. Actually I came to apologize for everything that happened. I am really sorry and I want you to know that I have forgiven you and I hold nothing against you. I was angry and bitter towards you, but God has changed my heart and I no longer hold anything against you. I believe we are Christians and we shouldn’t be bearing grudges against one another. I…”
“Hahahaha” he interrupted with an annoying laughter. “So you have been bearing grudges against me all this while? Hmmm…. Well, I didn’t know. Thank God your conscience started pricking you to speak up. As for me, I don’t bear grudges. I always maintain a clear conscience and a clean heart before God and man. Anyway, I have heard you. Is that all?”
“Yes, thank you sir. How have you been and how is the choir?” I asked dryly, a bit reluctant to continue the conversation.
“We are doing excellently well as you can see; everyone is in high spirits. Wait; is this an act you put up to get your way back into the choir?” He scorned
“No, not at all.” I was surprised. “I just wanted to make peace, that’s all.”
“Ok then, peace it is. Any other thing?”
“No, that’s all. thanks for listening.”
“Ok, Bye.” He stood up to leave.
I hurried out, a deep feeling of defeat and humiliation gripping me. I literarily felt like a fool but at the same time I was filled with overwhelming joy knowing that I had just obeyed God’s injunction to pursue peace at any cost.
As days rolled into weeks and weeks into months, I began to feel an unexplainable burden for the Church. This was triggered by some recent developments in my church that had become a source of worry to me.
Every week came with one trouble or the other. There was a lot of drama, gossip, disunity, hatred and bitterness in the church. Though the crowd grew bigger, there was an air of discrimination between the rich and the not-too-rich, the spiritual and the not-too-spiritual and many people came to church just to show-off and go through the motions. There was one bout of quarrelling after the other and these things bothered me a lot.
The other day, I heard that Engr. Patrick took Bro Silas; another church member to court for not repaying the money he lent him and the court issued an ultimatum for Bro Silas to pay up or face trial. Engr. Patrick had threatened to put him in jail and Bro Silas was selling some of his properties to raise the money. The court case raised a lot of dust and mouths were wagging already. Some condemned him for taking a brother to court while others saw nothing wrong with it stating that that was the only way he was sure of getting his money back.
There was also this other side talk about some members of the youth wing who were agitating for removal of the youth leader on grounds of mismanagement of funds. People said all manner of things and it was hard to know which was the truth.
Little disputes were springing up every day and many were being poorly handled. My heart was heavily disturbed every time I went to church. People were always seen in groups after service discussing the latest happenings, giving their opinions and arguing who was right and who wasn’t.
Recently, they began forming cliques, almost everyone belonged to one clique or the other and they looked down on anyone who wasn’t in their circle. What pained my heart the most was that the Pastor seemed oblivious to all that was happening, there was no mention of it or call for prayer about any of these matters or even a measure set in place to address them, rather what we focused on was the building project that the church had at hand.
Pastor Jerry had come one Sunday and announced that God was moving us to a new place to build a magnificent, state of the art, worship center in the heart of the town. He said God gave him a vision to build a 5,000 sitter capacity auditorium and he would do anything possible to make sure the land was purchased and the building completed as soon as possible. He also said that God instructed him to tell us to give all that we had until we were broke because He was about to rain down fresh showers of blessing on us and he needed our pockets to be “very empty” to be able to contain the incoming blessing.
That day, he encouraged people to give up their school fees, house rents, children’s school fees and all that they had because according to him “God is in need of your Isaac. You must lay him down so that the house of God can be built. This is what is called sacrificial giving and until it pains you deeply, you have not given to God.”
People made pledges, they gave all they had and some even went as far as pledging their next month salaries, he called this group “the dangerous sacrificial givers.” There were different categories; those that pledged their children’s school fees and house rents were called “the Faithful seed sowers.” All the different groups had special prayers made for them based on how much they could sacrifice and ‘lay on the altar’.
I didn’t want to make pledges since I wasn’t good at keeping them, so I joined the last group “the small-scale investors”, the group that gave whatever they had on them at the moment. We were just about five and no prayer was said for us, he simply asked us to drop our ‘widows mite’ into the offering box and return to our seats while he prayed for the other categories after they filled the slip that was given to them.
This led to another quagmire in the church; when we came to the church the next week, we heard a sad story. One of the deacons, Deacon Cosmos had a fight with his wife and he beat her so much she became unconscious and was rushed to the hospital. On that fateful day, she had requested for some money to buy food items and other things they needed in the house but he told her he didn’t have any money. When she pressed further, He told her he gave all their money to the church as a seed for the building project.
According to him, he expected her to understand that he was doing the work of God, but instead, she began nagging and complaining and said she wouldn’t cook any food. She was mad at him for not seeking her consent before giving out all their savings. This led to an altercation and he flared up and landed her some good blows. He called her names and said she was a devil that wanted to distract him from doing the work of God. She was still lying unconscious in the hospital when the news spread all over the church. That was when everyone was asked to pray for her quick recovery.
After this incidence, I didn’t know what else to do but pray. I also embarked on a personal study of the book of Acts of the Apostles. I decided to read through in order to know what church was like in the bible days. I was amazed at all the things that characterized the early church; the love, unity, oneness, power, miracles and even the persecutions. I wondered why things were so different in my own church, it was the exact opposite.
I started nurturing thoughts of leaving the church to a church that looked more like the one I read about in the book of Acts. I wondered if they still existed and if my church could ever become like the early church.
One morning, as I picked up my devotional to study, the topic was: The Triumphant Church
Scriptural reference: Ephesians 5: 27
…that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
When I saw this, I knew God was up to something!