So here I am in Ghana, one full day after arrival. I’m going to try to convey some deeper impressions than the photos I took yesterday.
This morning, I got up and went down to the Anglican Church of Ghana parish, St. Timothy’s, about 250 meters from the hostel where I am staying. I had noticed yesterday that their second Eucharistic service was at 9:00, so I showed up about 8:45 with the intention of getting a seat under the ceiling fans as I do at St. Camille in Ouaga. Instead, the previous service was still going on; indeed, it was still the sermon (relatively early in an Anglican or Catholic mass). So, I sat down outside to wait. But of course, that wouldn’t do, and so someone ceremonially showed me in and sat me down in a spot – in front of a fan – where I witnessed the remainder of the first service, a “low” mass, as the priest referred to it. Then, the second service began, and I saw the difference between a “low” and a “high” mass in the African Anglican tradition.
The basic elements of the Anglican Rite liturgy were there. In the Episcopal Church of the US, what they did would be called “Rite 1”, with all the thees and thous and the wonderful Prayer of Humble Access before the communion rite that begins “We do not presume to come to this thy table, Lord, trusting in our own righteousness…” But interspersed in half an hour or so of Anglican liturgy was a solid two and a half hours of spirit-raising and hymn singing and call-and-response preaching. The priest, Fr. Maness (?) is a very lively and energetic preacher. He preached on the readings, especially from the book of James, about prayer and what it is and isn’t. But his congregation was with him every step of the way, with “amens” and “hallelujah” and a good deal of back and forth in general. It reminded me of the scene in Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood visit the home church.
As you can see, even Father is boogying, a little bit. Only the little kid is distracted by the white guy getting out his camera.
One thing that made it take longer was that the basic liturgy was in English, but the sermon and scripture readings and a good deal of other bits were interpreted into at least two local languages. I’ve been to Catholic services where this happened, usually in Spanish, and it does tend to bog things down but it didn’t get in Father’s way at all.
On the way up to the church, I took a couple of pictures.
This one was on the wall around a school compound. There were quite a few in the same vein but I thought this the most impressive. I hope that the students were paying attention. One thing about this place is that education seems to be a priority. There are schools all over the place, they seem to be in session, and educated people seem to be everywhere. Both of the employees of the hotel I have met are well-educated. A local businessman wanted to talk about history when he saw me reading Middle Passages: African-American Journeys to Africa 1787-2010. Quite an interesting book, by the way. One of my old buddies, Howard French, who I first met as a young reporter covering the Haitian elections in 1987, is profiled for his coverage of the Rwandan genocide.
This one is above the roundabout next to the church. It was news to me that Ghana has an “occupy” movement, much less one that can afford a big billboard. But apparently, there is a very strong tradition of citizen-led democratic initiatives here. The various military strongmen and corrupt civilian governments they have had have not beaten the desire out of Ghanaians to be free and democratic and well-governed. I don’t think the Occupy Portland people would have used the slogan “occupy for God and Country”, though.
Their government has achieved some pretty impressive things over the last 30 years, since the last time I was here. In 1986, Ghana was a poorhouse and Ghanaians had to leave if they wanted to get ahead at all. Now, people from other countries are coming here because this is a land of opportunity, compared to the neighboring countries. Togo has gone through a lot of disorder since I was there in the 80s, and has a lot of catching up to do. Burkina has hope but still a long way to go. And Cote d’Ivoire, once the wealthiest nation in West Africa, fell apart after the death of long-time populist strongman Houphouet Boigny and is beginning to put things back together again, but also has a long way to go. Ghana, on the other hand, has a flourishing economy, reasonable democracy, and some very serious people.
After church, which got out at 12:30, I went to lunch at the Paloma, which is a hotel near here that has a restaurant. They were serving a buffet lunch with African specialties, so Jean and I gave it a shot. OK, not great was our verdict. Then, I came back to the hotel to work with the fantastic wonderful Internet.
The air conditioner wasn’t working in our room but I was happy to sweat as much as necessary to get this job done. So far, I’m about two weeks ahead of the class.
I went out for dinner to a neighborhood called Osu, which is supposed to have nice restaurants. I found a Lebanese place that was OK, not cheap. There is a KFC, of all things, looked totally legit. My cab driver recommended it first as a place an American would want to go, but I assured him that I had not come 8000 kilometers through revolution and all in order to eat at a restaurant I haven’t visited in at least 15 years back home. So I had Kafta kebab and hummus. Plenty of it, too.