Church here in SA is quite a different experience than church in America. While the service at the church my family attends follows more or less the same format as any given church in America, it is still a very different experience.
First of all, before the service some of the women gather to sweep out the church, which is necessary because it has sat through the week with wind blowing dirt through the cracks. Dirt and sand gathers here quicker than you could imagine!
As the women finish up, the congregation begins to gather.
The service is completely, 100% in Setswana, besides the singing on the Lord’s Prayer, which is in English. So I pretty much sit there for over an hour, trying to pick out words, being entertained by kids staring at me, or daydreaming. There are no hymnals, so I cannot even sing along with the songs. It’s not very soul-satisfying, so I’m trying to find a source of sermons that I can download through my BlackBerry to listen to, but thus far no such luck.
At the end of the service everyone sings a song and we all shake each other’s hands. By this I mean that we all line up and I literally shake the hand of every person in the church. There are probably 30-50 people, so it’s not too big or too long of a process.
The church building itself is just a cement-block building with a tin roof. It has a stage area built out of cement, a podium and table up front, and plastic pew-like seats that fill the room, though less than half of them are usually used. There are no instruments, books, Bibles, and I’m not even sure there is electricity. And the bathroom is a few pit latrines outside. Simple, but functional. And they can fill the room up with some beautiful singing.
As far as I know, any given village church in SA requires women to cover their heads, and pants for women are not allowed. Many of the older women at this church show up in fancy, extravagant hats and dressed to the nines-a stark difference to their everyday housewife attire. And the children all sport clothes that you know are only ever worn to church. Dressing up for church is a huge deal here. All the men are dressed in suit jackets and dress pants, and the women are all in skirts with their heads covered. The children have a bit more leeway, but girls still cannot wear pants and many have their head covered, in anything from baseball caps to traditional scarves.