As vain as it sounds - a worship leader's highlight being the worship – I was truly honoured to be swept along with a tide of some of the most exuberant, expressive and heart felt corporate worship that I have ever encountered. It was most certainly ticking the all boxes of loving and praising God with ‘heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 12)’.
One of my concerns going on this trip was that I would not have any time to exercise. However, little did we realise that corporate sung worship in Uganda involves more than just moving one’s jaw bone.
It’s Pastor Paul’s church and as his honoured guests we have been given pride of place at the front with our very own table decorated with flowers (I was hoping to sneak in the back unnoticed).
Just before we prepare to sit at the table, I am cornered (metaphorically) by Pastor Paul and kindly requested to return to the van to get my guitar and I graciously walk back to the van to carry said instrument back into the church (no time for band rehearsals here!).
We join with the rest of the congregation and are led by the worship group in singing and praise and adoration. I’m also intrigued by the ‘tag-team’ worship that’s going on… the musicians are to the left of the stage, the ‘worship-leaders’ are all female singers, beautifully dressed along the centre of the stage. I stress the fact that there were ‘worship-leaders’ because they would take it in turns to lead a few songs each and then pass the baton (the ‘microphone’) and continue in seamless worship. No music, no sheets, no projectors and yet 100% participation!
The songs we sing are beautifully simple and meaningfully repetitive, in part because it’s much easier to remember the words that way, but also I think they speak straight from the heart. One song comes to mind ‘Things (are) already better when the Lord is on the throne…’. I get a sense as we sing these simple words that people are reminding themselves that they are a part of God’s salvation story and growing in the living hope that they have in their personal faith with Jesus. ‘Things (are) already better…’ , Jesus is making a difference to these people in their everyday lives and they are joining together on a Sunday to say thank you. I sense their warm welcome, I already feel a connection with these people, I want to call them my brothers and sisters. There is a strong feeling of deep fellowship here. I sense I’m in the midst of an ‘Acts 2’ community whose members depend on each other for physical, emotional and spiritual health. I feel moved by God’s love in the room and suddenly I look down and my feet are moving to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Blame it on the boogie’ (I just can’t control my feet…). I don’t want this to end.
The moment comes and I’m asked to come and lead the church in a few songs. No time to tune up. A member of the congregation comes up and acts as my mic-stand. My mind is racing to remember the few Luganda songs (their native dialect) that I learned from a CD given to me by Pastor Paul previously. Quick silent prayer. I glance at the exits of the church in case I’m mobbed by angry parishioners. I mouth over to the musicians (looking at me in a kind and sympathetic way) that I’m playing in the key of ‘G’.
Off we go!
I’ve never led worship in another language. First line of first verse over and I see the expressions of the congregations faces light up – ‘jackpot’! - the place erupts and I’m feeling so glad that I drove my wife half-mad by listening to these Luganda songs over and over in our kitchen. I start to appreciate the benefits of having a moving mic-stand (I think his name was Andrew) as I’m able to dance and feel a little like King David dancing before the Lord (although more modestly dressed than a single linen ephod). We all enjoy a taste of the royal banquet that is yet to come. More of that back home Lord!