I once read in a book that if you needed to know the place of worship that was right for you, one had to think of them like your pairs of shoes. I was only sixteen at the time but let me enlighten you further. The book said churches were like shoes. They all had the same primary purpose; to protect the feet. So some churches were like high heels. They were pretty, sexy, exciting, but they hurt a bit and sometimes left you with blisters. But like you know , what’s a little pain for a world of glamour? Then there are those that are like pumps. Orthodox, routine, dated, not so glamorous and just plain boring. I was more the pumps kind of girl. I like the stained glass in the church, the hymns, candles, frankincense, hommili and the solemnity of it all. The ritual has always been a part of my spirituality. Until i moved back to Nigeria and realised that in a bid to lure back its dwindling congregation, my orthodox church had started adopting a new design of pumps to market and rebrand itself. The first few times I attended mass, I couldn’t help but notice the priests had become more fiery and ferocious when delivering the sermon. At random moments, he would quote passages of scripture that weren’t included in the misille already assembled in Rome. He sometimes even without subtlety condemned the congregation. I always knew them to have very interesting senses of humour with a lot of metaphor and satire when it came to condemnation. At times they were poetic too, even parental using a lots of analogy and allegory to re-iterate their message. Last week the Reverend father yelled at us he said “what have you sacrificed for the lord this year..common fasting till 2pm you cannot do..Later you will ask God please do this and that for me.” He was one of those heavily accented charismatic priests from the East of Nigeria. A bit hardcore for me. We seemed like the belligerent children being seriously reprimanded by a Father. I later asked my mother what this was all about. She said most people were now moving to Pentecostal churches because they said the catholic church was becoming repetitive and boring. I had a friend once tell me she had to change churches because the world was evolving. In her words “we are fighting fire for fire”. But you see, marketing and rebranding the church wasn’t just a Catholic or Anglican thing. As part of my numerous private practices, I got a job to write and voice the advert for a new church somewhere on the Lekki highway. I found myself writing about the church like it was a new business club everyone needed to be a part of. I recently heard of a church event where both gospel and circular musicians were all paid to perform. Not saying that there is anything wrong with circular artists performing at a church, even rapper DMX recently organised a church concert. I was curious as to how lyrics like “what the f*&k do want from a Nigga” would go down with an American negro spiritualist congregation. It all sounded a bit paradoxical to me. Well, Jesus did die for all our sins and didn’t come to save the already saved, so who am I to chastise. I realised it had become much more than faith, worship, spirituality or just general hypocrisy Sunday worship. Churches needed to keep the numbers up. In order to do that re-branding was necessary. For those that built schools and orphanages, the figures needed to add up to maintain that. For those that bought private jets or were intending to, the figures needed to add up too. It seems i just have to get used to the fact that my pumps have morphed just a little. They now have some kitten heels attached and have become slightly pointed; Further more a little uncomfortable too. Need I say, I also have to contend with a two hour Sunday Mass. Maybe it is time for me to move on. Goodbye to meditation and solemnity, hello to a shattered eardrum.
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