What a perfect day in mission.
Today, we visited Kakum National Park, walked the tree canopy, and went to the beach.
To some, this may not sound like mission work. We often think of mission work as a project or an act of service carried out locally or globally – mission as something we do for God and for God’s people.
Over the years, though, I’ve been challenged to recognize that mission does not start with us. It starts with God, who has been working from the beginning of creation to heal and restore all things. Our role is to share in God’s mission. Global mission work is about building relationships around the world to share in God’s mission of reconciliation. And pilgrimage is about seeing God at work everywhere we go.
So in that sense, today was a great day of mission and pilgrimage because I spent most of the day in conversation on the bus with Father Theo.
Father Theo (Theophilus) is our busy guide for the week. He was ordained just a few years ago. He serves two churches and assists the bishop. He has a lot on his plate.
We talked about our diocesan partnership and what both of our dioceses are doing to share in God’s mission. We talked about the challenges of ministry in our different contexts. We talked about how we celebrated Holy Week and Easter. I learned about Ghanaian funerals. He asked my impressions of Ghana and of African history. I asked for his impressions of Americans and the American Church.
We had a long conversation about our different cultures. His impression is that Americans are very individualistic, which I agreed is true. He has observed that teams from the US arrive in Ghana hardly knowing one another, even after spending several hours together en route. He said that people in Ghana are always reaching out to one another. As a case in point, in another conversation, I mentioned that we had seen some people at the hotel who appeared to be working with the WHO on malaria vaccinations. He said, “Did you talk to them and ask?” I had to laugh – we had not. He said an African would ask. I said Americans like to figure things out for ourselves, even if we are wrong. He gave me an assignment – to talk with the WHO people and find out why they are here. (I did. We were right. The two I met are from South Africa). He said he hoped the African pattern of reaching out to your neighbors and creating strong social connections would be a way African culture could influence Western culture.
Because we spent the whole day talking like this, I was finally able to ask the question that has bothered me since arriving. Worship in Ghana is very Anglican – very high church, more British than the British. But the British perpetuated the slave trade and colonized the country, so this pattern of worship (which I happen to love) is associated here with slavery and colonialism, which seems very sad to me. I asked him how he felt.
As it turns out, Theo actually wrote his thesis on this question. He studied churches that are growing in Ghana and in other African countries. Their worship is more indigenous. He is among many in his diocese who are urging more indigenous forms of worship – to keep the pattern of word and sacrament, but use African instruments and music and gifts so that worship can come from the work of the people. He thinks worship needs to reflect the community and the people. I happen to agree.
So, yes, this is mission work – sharing and learning about how to follow the way of Jesus in different parts of the world. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Thanks to the Diocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Cape Coast for this partnership.