We were privileged to have the chance to experience a very meaningful worship experience. Sidwell is a volunteer pastor at Sunnyside Methodist Church. This church is located within the Sunnyside area of Johannesburg. This is on the side nearest to Pretoria.
The story of this amazing experience begins on Saturday.
On Saturday, Sidwell invited many of his colleagues from his church to his house. He hosted them by making food and facilitating a chance to get to know his colleagues. One of his colleagues,
Rev. Dr. Steve Hendricks, talked to us about how our part in the worship service started to play in.
We quickly realized that he was planning the worship service. When he realized that I could play the organ, he invited me to play. He was not very clear at first but at about the middle of the conversation, that he was asking me to play the whole service. He was trying to pick hymns that were familiar to me. This was a little bit overwhelming because I usually know exactly what I’m going to know far earlier then Saturday night! Steve said that the organist’s husband had recently died and they needed someone to play because she would not be at the service.
I did not at first realized what this meant for me succeeding morning.
Sunday, June 3
In the morning, we departed for Sunnyside. We arrived to an empty sanctuary that was lovely and decorated with the stained-glass windows and the pipe-organ.
Certain amounts of nervousness was surging through me. I could hear all of my organ and piano mentors and friends saying things like, “Remember to set good stops.” “Play the hymns in the way for the congregation is most suitable.” This helped but was not great especially because I had never seen the organ, congregation, choir, music! It would be a very interesting morning.
We went to the organ and discovered it locked. This worried me more because this would give me less time to set stops and get used to it. Someone would be coming with the key.
So he showed me the hymnal which incidentally it was bigger then literally, 3 encyclopedias combined and was printed in half notes and whole notes. This did not help.
I began practicing the hymns on the piano and tried to learn all of this music. They had a different setting of the Lord’s Prayer music and different doxology and communion and choir pieces. This was not going to be easy. Throughout all of this anxiety, I found excitement for getting to play again. This was going to be great, no matter how many mistakes are made.
About 15 minutes later, Steve came in and said, slightly exasperated, “Pam is here and she can play.” This was a relief and a bit of a let down. He than said, “She wants you to accompany on the hymns and play a solo for the anthem on the piano.” This felt really good. There was no more stress but simplicity. This was a good situation.
The service began at 9:30. It was a lot like a regular service at Concord but a little less alive. Most of the white people in the church come to this service. This was the traditional Methodist service. The service began and the choir did an introit and the senior pastor did an introduction.
The service was fairly straight forward and the people were pretty much like statues sitting, looking up front. When the hymns were played they were played traditionally as fast as it takes a snail to go five feet. This was traditional but extremely simple and American worship like.
During this service Mom and I were asked to do something together as a duet. We were given five minutes to figure this out. Luckily we found the Upper Room Worship Book in another style but to our dismay, this version did not have the pieces that we wanted. We finally found the song “Walk with Me” and we used it. At the first service this was received with enthusiasm.
After the service there was a break in between. We visited with the congregation and had tea.
The second service was much more exciting because this was a service of the community. It is commonly known in a worship setting to sit and to listen to the pastor and musicians and sing the hymns. In Africa this is not tolerated. People feel that a worship service is a work of the community. The community leads the worship and sings and prays and acts with everyone as leaders, everyone as participants. This style of worship changes the life and soul of the worship enormously.
The first few minutes was singing. They sing the songs beginning with a person singing a few notes and then everyone stands up and sings. There are djembe drums and leaders of the song and there’s everyone else. They all sing in at least 16-part harmonies. This was most exciting and most moving. They all decide when to stop. It is amazing!
There was then intercessory prayer which consisted of everyone praying at once at out loud in there most comfortable language. This was strange yet almost a pentecostal moment.
Mom preached the sermon. She preached a biblical storytelling sermon that comprised of a dramatic telling of Mark 2. She told the story as if she were a character and added in details to make sure that the story made sense. This was very well received.
The last highlight of this amazing service was our duet. Mom decided that she would teach them the refrain and they would sing after each verse she sung. This was a tremendous idea because after about the 2nd verse they got out of the pews and started dancing around the sanctuary and they sang and harmonized. This created quite an amazing song! It went well with the sermon and the congregation loved it. This was my highlight!
So as you have read, this service truly was amazing. It has changed my life forever!