Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Verily, verily, Heaven help us all

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

I am afraid I have to return to the religious theme this week because of developments in the world. Over in America President Reagan has won a land-slide second term in the Presidential elections which in itself does not worry me except that he is reputed to be a strong believer in the Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) which he is forever emphasising that "its sooner than you think" and that Soviet Union is the "beast" which must be destroyed. If this is not a valid reason for any human being to quake in his shoes and look up into the Heavens for help then I do not know what else is.

Paradoxically, if statistics are to be relied upon to show us how people are reacting to these terrifying scenarios, then over here in the United Kingdom, it looks as if the British have all about given up going to church. According to the Church of England only 1,600,000 people bothered to attend their churches on Sundays in 1968. By 1982 the figure had dropped to 1,200,000 - a drop of nearly half million people.

Now if you think this is a serious indication of the loss of faith in the church you should wait for the latest statistics on church attendance. Try as hard as I could, I have not been able to convince anybody at the Church of England headquarters to release the figures. Not surprising, considering what a mole in the church's top hierarchy revealed to me. The figure has dropped to an alarming 800,000 worshippers.

Many questions immediately come to mind: Have people lost faith in the Church of England? Is the clergy not delivering the spiritual goods which, as a result, has led to a mass exodus to the pubs, shopping and recreation grounds on Sundays instead of observing the Sabbath as laid down in the great book?

An enquiry I commissioned recently came out with really startling results. Here are a few for your consideration. It has been obvious for so many years that the church had been isolated from its flock for too long. Time it was when the parish priest was in touch with the local members, visited them individual- ly to discuss their social and spiritual problems and generally provided the solace that is surely needed in this turbulent world.

Now, the politicians would not even grant the clergy God's representatives on earth the chance to comment on a topical and soul rending issue like the protracted miners' strike, an industrial action which has caused such untold hardships in the mining communities for nearly 40 weeks.

The last time the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham publicly expressed an opinion about this a number of scatological remarks flew about in the press including one which implied that the Reverend Minister had dared thrown their cassocks and supplices into issues they didn't understand. Now if a priest with a real calling does not appreciate the mental and physical suffering of his flock, then who would seeing that Jesus himself experienced the worst on the cross?

Which situation really does not help matters much especially when the Bishop of Durham's outspoken remarks challenging the very basis of christian beliefs nearly caused a revolution in the church a few months ago.

He was appointed and enthroned in the summer, you may recall, amid controversy over his views on the Virgin Birth and Christ's physical resurrection from the dead and ever since there has not been any let up in the campaign against him in and outside the church.

Try as he may, the vexing issue would not go away. The Bishop of Durham last weekend told the Diocesan Synod that he had been trying to make clear that questions about the literary truth of the story of the Virgin Birth and about the precise physical happenings associated with the Resurrection were separate from and secondary to his fundamental belief that God raised up Jesus and that Jesus Christ is to be received and worshipped as God become man and the man who is God."

Do not ask me what that means because I do not know. But one thing I know for sure is that when it comes to practical demonstration of belief in what the Bible tells us, then Reverend Norman Davis and his congregation of Grundisburgh village have the Midas touch as far as the Parable of the Talent goes. He gave 100 of his villagers a £1 coin each and they returned six months later with 13 times that amount - considerably more than the most enterprising servants in the parable. None of the villagers buried his 'talent' even the laziest of them gambled with the money in a fruit- machine and doubled it.

Back in Africa the practicality of the above is demonstrated in the proliferation of what is called spiritual churches where self-styled priests go out and get involved - sometimes too involved - in the affairs of their congregations.

But the general impression one gathers on Sundays when the churches are filled to capacity is that the message of the gospel has been accepted. While the orthodox churches are largely still stuck with the ancient rituals, the Revivalists are loudly preaching that it is better to cast one's bread upon the waters. The message is always heeded hence the affluence of the spiritual leaders of these churches who respond by casting evil spirits, restoring fertility to barren women, conjuring success for church members in business etc etc.

I recently asked an African priest of that religious persuasion why in Africa, particularly in Ghana, no priests challenge the Bible and are often accused of always fleecing their flock.

"To the first question I'd say that we in Africa believe implicitly in the Bible because without that the church wouldn't survive all the terrible political and social upheavals. To the second question I'd quote Jesus when he asked the people to give to Caesar what is his and to God what's Gods.'

"That's right except that it is alleged that the offertory and other forms of moneys collected are often tainted", I pointed out.

"That may be true but remember the church traditionally doesn't look gift horses in the mouth." "I wonder what's the relationship between the two."

"The horse and the church?"

"No, between God and the donors."

"Not much as far as I can see from this side of the pulpit. That's why we always pray over these gifts and ask God to make it wholesome for use in His holy work," he intoned.

"So you sincerely believe the donors of such tainted gifts would enter the Kingdom of God?"

"Not until Ronald Reagan gets there first!"

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