The moment I stepped my feet in church, I knew something was wrong. It felt like everyone’s eyes were on me. Normally, in church, each class set occupied a single row but that day, nobody told me to sit with the junior students. Because the moment I made my way to the row where my mates were on, it was as though a deadly plague had come into the building and everybody immediately avoided it.
That day, I experienced the slowest mass ever held. Oh! I could not wait for it to be over because the more the Reverend Father preached, the more I wished the ground could open up and swallow me up. It was the worst day of my life.
And when the Father announced that it was time for communion, everyone’s heads immediately turned back towards me, most likely wondering if I was going to get up or not.
At this point, I got up and begin to walk, this time, not to the Father, but out of the church!
I mean, I knew what I had done was bad but treating me like shit was worse off. I walked really fast and then began to run. I just wanted to get out of their sight. When I got out of the dinning hall (where the mass held), I stopped, bent down, placing my hands on my knees and began to breathe in and out profusely. It felt like I had not had a deep breathe for hours.
I remained in this position for over 5 minutes, until I felt strong enough to walk again. When I left the dinning premises, everywhere felt deserted but I just kept on walking. I walked along the long pathway that led to the classroom blocks and before I knew it, there was a guy walking beside me.
I didn’t even know when I started running, until I saw him running towards me. He stretched his hand and grabbed me. Then said,
“Wait! I come in peace. I am almost sure we are both walking on this path, on this Sunday morning, for the same reason.”
“The same reason?” I stopped and looked at him ridiculously. “No!” I responded.
“So why are you here?”, he asked.
“Because I never want to be a Catholic again!” I replied matter-of-factly.
“You see? I was right. Same as me. So let’s visit the Pentecostal church and see what it is like.”
I looked at him as though needing an assurance of some sort and he nodded and I agreed. So we turned back and walked towards the multi purpose hall, where the Pentecostal service held.
“My name is Emmanuel, You?”
“I am in SS2, You?”
It was the look of fear that he met on my face.
“Relax, we are on the same journey, remember?”
“Okay,” I replied. “SS1”
“Perfect, I kind of feel like we will enjoy it in the Pentecostal church.”
I nodded and we walked on.
As soon as we stepped into the church, it felt so different. They were hyped up. It felt like a party in heaven per se. The hall was full of energy and life. They were singing praise songs to God and everyone danced so freely without the fear of being judged.
“Oh! This is amazing!”, I said. Then I heard Emmanuel say,
“I told you it would be, right? Any way, let’s find ourselves seats.”
So we walked to the last row that was yet to be occupied and sat down. Then Emmanuel looked at me and went,
“You won’t get up and dance?”
“I am not sure if I am to do that. I mean, I am not used to all these.”, I replied.
“There is nothing to get used, just get up and move your body. We are all singing to God.” He said.
“But my dancing is wack.”, I replied.
Then Emmanuel pointed to a guy seated adjacent us and went,
“Look at that guy. Do you think he cares about what we think of his dance step?” I shook my head and he continued, “So get up and dance. And I did just that.
Onye nne me mma, Imela Imela, Imela Imela, imela, Imela…
Agwu nne’chemba, Imela Imela, Imela Imela, imela, Imela…
Imela oooooooooooo, Imela ooooooooo
Imela oooooooooo, Eze ebube Imela ooooooooooooooo
And so we sang and danced and danced and danced. Until it was time for worship and I had an experience I had never had in my entire, in fact, I am not even sure I can vividly explain what was happening to me. But I will try.
The moment they started to worship, the whole church sang in one accord to God and the voices moved me in a way that was strange. Their voices were loud and beautiful and exalting. So I shut my eyes, to take it all in.
When I closed my eyes, I begin to see an image of a place, like a hall with no ceiling. In front of me was a very tall chair that someone really huge sat on and we all stood in front of him singing the songs to him. And as I stood in the midst of the crowd I was so overwhelmed by everything happening that I noticed that I began to cry.
I knew I was cry but I didn’t know why I was crying and could not even control it. I mean, I wanted to stop, Emmanuel was beside me but as the songs kept on flowing and voices so melodious, I just could not control myself.
Then sudden, I could not imagine standing before this huge person on the very tall chair, more like a throne and so I noticed myself kneeling down and crying some more, until the songs stopped; then, I felt a hand tap me on my shoulder.
He said, “We are done now Dorathy, you can sit.”
I didn’t know how to. I did not come to church with tissue, I was embarrassed but Emmanuel helped me up and offered me his handkerchief. I took it from him as I sat down and cleaned my face.
As the preaching went on, I began to cook up lies as to why I was crying in case he asked and truthfully, I barely heard a word that was preached because I kept on waiting for the Emmanuel to ask me the question.
To my greatest surprise, he didn’t. And I sat amazed until the services ended. And Emmanuel did the most surprising but yet, also the most implicating thing ever.