This is an article whose topic will immediately grab the attention of many. Not just because like politics, fashion and sex – church is such a sensitive and sensational issue and many have different views and opinions of the church today.
I have been on both sides of “church” so I am well positioned to have a well balanced opinion on the topic. For many years, I didn’t attend church but now, I am Christian and a proud practicing member of the RCCG in London. I also minister in my church choir.
Many have though questioned how I can combine my lifestyle as a church “person” with that of a professional in the Events & Entertainment Industry – and my answer has always been – the same way a Medical Doctor or a Teacher can. I am passionate about my career and I love what I do. But as a Christian, I know my boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour; I know which lines to cross and I know how to let my colleagues know what I am able and unable to do without being judgmental or obnoxious.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myopic folks in the church who think if you work in the events, entertainment or even show business industry, you must be a devil. Many a times, I have invited folks from my church to events and they have looked at me like I am carrying a pot of burning coals on my head. Ironically, I work in an industry where over 85% of people I work or collaborate with are Christians and staunch church goers. I know many DJs that are Bible teachers and MCs or Venue Decorators who like me are either in their Church Choir or Prayer Band. While I may not be in a position to comment about anyone’s personal life behind closed doors, it also does not necessarily mean that those of us that spend all of our days in the church are living a total life of holiness and purity – although I still believe that the more time you spend in Church and the more of God’s word you hear, the more your life is changed and your faith grows. Suffice to say that what you are will, and should come out and be seen where ever you are and whatever you do.
In spite of any argument anyone might have in favour of or against Christianity and Church life anywhere or in this instance, in London, I know for a fact that being a church person could be what has saved the lives (not just the souls) of many folks living in this City.
I have said a few times in my previous articles that London can be a very lonely and cold place to live in. For people living in Lagos or Ijebu Ode, you will see people around you from the moment (or before – particularly if you are rich or owing money) you wake up till you go to sleep. The community spirit in Naija is all encompassing even to the point of encroaching. People will always drop in on you – invited or not. Those that need assistance, advice, gossip or debts settled will constantly call to visit you at any time of the day and without prior notice. Which means that you are never short of company at any time and whosoever you are or wherever you live, there will always be people around you and that includes neighbours, family, friends or even enemies!
But in London on the other hand, the only people you see at any time are your husband or wife – if you are married and your kids – if you have any. You go out to work with people you most likely do not like and don’t have much in common with and thankfully return home every evening to face the same old routine. Unless your kids are still very young, you’ll find out that your involvement with them diminishes the older they get and they mostly really communicate with you if they need something – or some money! Usually they return from school and install themselves in their rooms – complete with earpieces to drown out any noise including the sound of your voice shouting for them.
So with these situation 5 times a week, little wonder why many folks look forward with glee to Sunday!! Because that is the only guaranteed day that many people will get to dress up in fine clothes or see another human being from the same planet – Yoruba or Igbo speaking adult that you can discuss Eastenders, football, the latest aso ebi or beads style with; or talk to about the latest drama in your family or some other person’s family (gossip!) and my GOD! do church folks gossip?? Is the Pope Catholic?? From the Pastor’s wife’s latest outfit to which single brother or sister must be fornicating to the divorced sister that was seen photographed with some guys on facebook – the possibilities and topics for gossip in church are endless!! And it is a very rampant pastime for many church folks too.
Church is also a great market place – with some folks doing more business than Liverpool Street market. In an average Nigerian (or African) church – you will find many enterprising women – and men – selling ankara, shoes, insurance, Brazilian hair, Peruvian weave, Mary Kay, Avon, Maggi, ogi and Indomie from Nigeria, aso oke, cord lace, beads set, fashion jewellery….. the list is endless. My Pastor is constantly praying against the spirit of buying and selling because its possible that some folks came to church purposely to harass a sister that has been owing them payment for an item they bought six months ago!!! Or to show their latest collection of gold from Dubai to the sisters and hoping they will not miss them before they leave after service.
Yet in spite of all these, a recent study in America showed that a good percentage of folks that regularfly attend church live longer and healthier lives than folks who don’t…
That is possibly because of some fundamental factors that are embeded in the Church Doctrine that most Christians practice as a matter of lifestyle choice. A good example is smoking or alcohol drinking. While I wont say that there are no Christians or church folks that do not smoke or drink, the percentage of drink related diseases and accidents is very much lower among church folks than in the rest of the populace. (not including Muslims who also do not indulge in alcohol consumption)
It is also been reported that that the occurrences of neurological illnesses and cardiac diseases are much lower among regular church goers just as well as the occurrences of stress, depression and even suicide.
An observer once concluded that the Praise & Worship session in church has a soothing, calming and relaxing effect on people who regularly take part in the session and this is the same as with lay persons attending any church for the first time.
The hearing of the Word in church can be likened to a spiritual motivational or inspirational session where the audience is admonished, encouraged, instructed, uplifted, and reminded of the love and promises of God for their lives – which can have a directly calming effect on any one with issues – in some cases, MASSIVE issues.
And then, there is the place and effect of prayers said and offered in church. For anyone who believes in the efficacy and power of prayers, there also comes the assurance that things will be ok – no matter how dire or hopeless their situation might be. And this, can significantly keep stress levels down.
Unfortunately for some other folks, the thought of coming to church can seriously elevate their stress levels! That is if they have an overzealous funds raiser pastor who seems to constantly milk his congregation for items ranging from new paint on the walls to new curtains to new suits for the pastor because the old ones are 2 years old and some other ridiculous demands some pastors make on their already harassed congregation. There is a popular joke that a guy once noticed that his savings had increased since he stopped attending church……
So for anyone living in this fabulous, wonderful yet cold, lonely, terribly expensive, debt encouraging and often depressing city of London that many of us have chosen to live in, coming to church must be seen as the place where many have been saved from the obvious and ever so often seen result of London living. Many folks are struggling with massive debts of mortgages, credit cards, loans, council tax arrears, shop cards, car insurance, overdue MOT, overdue phone bills, gas, water and electricity etc etc etc!!! If you find yourself in trouble, which is often, you are mostly left with very little option of whom to turn to because everyone else you know is probably in the same situation – or worse. Most Monday morning’s commute to work are disrupted by someone that has jumped in front of a fast moving train due to the hopelessness of their situation.
Many men have shot themselves because their wife has left them – and some simply worked themselves to the grave just in order to make ends meet – and still keep up with the unending financial demands from folks back home. There is a huge number of folks under 40 suffering strokes and heart attacks – simply due to stress.
While I am not saying that church folks are whiter than white and purer than fresh snow, the fellowship and the family atmosphere many get from their weekly church experience is a panacea that is akin to having your blood family around you especially if you find yourself alone in this city.
Like your blood family, there will be times you wont like your family members very much – still you would rather have them in your life than not.
The church – as far as I am concerned is a great hospital, meeting place and family arena where many visit weekly and for those few hours, can also find great relief from stress and brief companionship which in a city like London, is like gold dust.
©Jummy Ariyo (BaronessJ)
(As published in City People Magazine 16 March 2015)