Going to Church

I woke up this morning and went to meet Donald at the Lutheran Church, which I had promised to do the night before.  I had planned to meet him there at 8:30 am, but not thinking about gasy time I arrived there at 8 and waited till he showed up shortly before 9.  As I stood outside the church during the interim time, I greeted the people I knew that were also showing up to the church early.  The church itself is of a relatively large size; standing at approximately 30’X 60’.  The building is a grey cinder block building with a corrugated metal roof; mostly rectangular in shape except for an outcrop of 5’ on each side of the rear of the building.  Each of these outcrops has doors leading into small rooms which each have doors leading onto the stage at the rear of the building. 
There is also a door on each side wall of the church about half the distance, as well as a front door.  In front of the main entryway is a porch topped with a bell tower with a single bell which has a chain that hangs down into the walkway.  From the outside the building is a dull unpainted grey color, but the inside is painted white except for a 4” border of faded lime green along the lower part of the wall.  Upon entering the church there is a walkway leading to the stage with wooden benches lining each side.  Along the left there are three cinder block pillars showing the renovation and extinction of that side of the church.  At the rear of the church is a stage, lined on the left and back with a bench.  At the front left of the stage is a small wooden podium topped with a white cloth. Center front there is a small table covered in a white cloth and topped with a white cloth covered basket.  Right front there is a walled in raised podium.  In the center of the stage is low U shaped wall facing the rear of the building bordered on the floor with a padded knee rest.  Within the wall is a raised platform with a painted picture of Jesus holding a lamb with sheep around his feet. 
When Donald arrived at the church the two of us entered and walked to the stage to take our seats on the bench on the left wall.  This was slightly uncomfortable for me since I was going to be on the stage for the entirety of the service with everyone watching me.  When asked, Donald explained that he always sits there cause he usually plays the piano at that church and until Easter Sunday the piano was located in that location.  He also informed me that the building itself is an old building dating back before colonization, which I have yet to verify.  While waiting for the service to start, we discussed religion in the States and how it was the same and/or differed from that in Madagascar.  During this time the preacher also handed Donald a pamphlet for a church service coming up in May, during the week of Ascension, at a church near here.  I was informed that the place is also a hospital for mentally unstable people, if you have problems with your wife you can go there to get help, and the person who is there supposedly can help with any problem, can speak many languages that he has never learned, and has made numerous prophesies that have come true.  I hope, in May, to accompany Donald when he goes to visit. 
When the church service started, the choir, made up of Lycee students dressed in red shirts of the church, stood and began to sing.  Once they were done one of them stood and read a passage from the bible, then turned to the picture of Jesus and read a prayer while everyone else also stood in prayer.  When he had finished, the congregation sang two songs; the numbers of the songs to be sang were written on a board on the rear wall of the church.  There are no Bibles or song books provided on the pews like you might see in the States.  Instead everyone brings their own, mine being a Bible/song book combo (given to me by my host mom), although people know most of the songs by heart.  After these songs were finished a man came to the podium and read two passages out of the bible.  This was followed by everyone giving their tithe.  This is done differently here; instead of a plate being passed down the rows of benches, everyone walks in a line up to the stage, placing money in a white cloth basket, and walks back to their seat.  When everyone had made their way back to their seat we all sang two more songs.  Once this was complete a women mounted the raised podium, read a passage from the bible, and then began to preach.  Unable to understand what she was saying (she spoke very fast), Donald translated it for me.  The subject of the sermon was about being good Christians, good role modals, and following Christ.  Once the sermon had finished there was a prayer said in unison by the whole congregation as they stood.  Afterwards, the preacher (not the women who preached) came to the small podium and welcomed me to the church and asked me to continue coming; which was followed by laughter and clapping by the congregation.  He then made announcements of a number of different things that were going on in and around Vondrozo.  This was followed by Donald standing and giving a speech, as well as two students of the gasy boy scouts.  After all of the announcements had been made the choir sang two more song and everyone made their way to the stage again to give another tithe.  With this tithe there were three baskets to receive money.  It was explained to me afterwards that these were each for kids, adults, and the building respectively.  After the tithe there was one more song sang by the congregation followed by a prayer by one of the Lycee students, again in front of the picture of Jesus.  This was followed by the ringing for the bell twice three times in a row announcing the end of the service. 

This picture was not taken during this service but later during Ascension.

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