NEWS MID JULY 2016
There were more shoes than I’d seen for a long time outside the chapel 8pm that evening. The noise was also incredible. I hadn’t heard so many men singing quite so heartily for a long time. About 20 men and a few ladies were standing packed into the small room. Drawing closer, alongside the Egyptian cymbals, I also heard the African drum. Just a few days previously apparently, the African drum had been added to the mix to further boost this revitalised Coptic worship. This was just another reminder of the impact of the efforts made by my colleagues, and my Swahili students, into translating the ancient liturgy of the Coptic church into the local Swahili language. A minute or two later, myself now standing in the midst of the chanters, was an exhilarating experience. At risk of praising myself, perhaps I should add that the men leading these efforts at renewing the church are ardent readers of my books.
I might add that I am coming more and more to appreciate liturgical worship. Especially when it is as lively as above! Keeping to a good liturgy is a way of getting God’s truth into people ears and hearts day in day out over years and years. It does it in a way not dependent on expensive difficult to manage levels of outside-sourced theological education.
"You must feel more at home in Africa than in the UK these days" a number of people suggested when I was recently in the UK. "Yes that is true" I would respond, "I feel very much at home there in Africa. On the other hand" I would add, "I feel I understand people here in UK whereas I do not understand what African people are thinking". I think my listeners would then raise one eye in amazement; how can I have lived for 28 years in Africa, have learned 3 languages, and reared endless children etc but I do not understand Africans! Yet so it is. Indeed, back in the UK I can feel a little out of place, but I understand where people are coming from. Not so here.
What people do in churches, especially those churches who are free to engage with African culture, can be the hardest to understand. Particularly their notions of the origin of material things and financial and other prosperity! That is to say: people believe things that to us in the West seem absolutely incredible.
Living in a magical world is however a profoundly strange experience in many ways. From within a magical worldview (I mean truly magical, not trickery), what other people may consider to be non-magical is also magical. Yes, that includes science. Not only that – but the efforts of people from scientific worldviews seem so impossible and illogical as to require magic to have any hope of functioning. Indigenous magic works, whereas unfortunately the latter type of magic linked to science does not!
This ties in with a point that I try to make in a lot of my writing – that the way out of destructive magic is not science, but reference to the greatest ‘magician’: God himself. We need to realise though that finding God is not the sudden death-knell of magic; it is only the beginning sage of a journey that is likely to be long and even tortuous.
· I at times, in the UK, hear people ask; ‘what do you actually do’ in Africa? A new response has come to mind of late. This is something my pastor here in Kenya has said at times. He has described the foundation of his ministry as being ‘love God, love people’. I think I have learned things from him there: What do I ‘do’ here in Kenya? “I love God, and I love people.”
· One of the most enjoyable privileges about home life in my African village, is being able to watch the children perform dramas. They are amazingly gifted. I think watching kids perform drama’s, sometimes on the Bible, and sometimes on other themes, beats all the best that TV could ever offer. They are great fun!
Give thanks also for times spent providing orientation to new Beachy Mennonite missionaries. Give thanks that in my recent visit to Kima International School of Theology, I discovered that student numbers are well up, to 66 full time students. Give thanks for many valuable and deep conversations on issues concerning God’s word with local people. Give thanks for these recently published articles:
Evangelism or Social Justice: reconsidering the case in Africa. Harries, Jim, 2016, Anabaptist Witness, What is mission: evangelism, justice, and beyond, 3(1), April 2016, (accessed May 11, 2016). (5320 words).
In Witchbound Africa: In Witchbound Africa: an account of contemporary Western Christian scholarship on witchcraft. Harries, Jim, 2016, The Pneuma Review, June 12 2016, (4080 words).
The Necessity of the Use of African Languages in African Church and Society. Harries, Jim, 2016, in: Global Missiology Vol 4, No 13, (2016): July.
Does Faith in Secularism Undermine Mission and Development in Africa? Harries, Jim, 2016, 100-110 in Evangelical Review of Theology, Apr 2016, Vol 40, No 2. (5330 words) (Abstract, full version to be available April 2017).