By God, the entire congregation was caught in the spirit! The pastor screamed God’s praise into the mic. The instrumentalists closely matched his pitch as he moved in repetition of the song. The men spun, caught up in the arms of God. The women shook their buttocks from side to side, lifted their heads, only to dive back down with amazing speed and strength. The children rolled on the floor, bursting with the tongues of God. I sat there, bewitched and fascinated, feeling as though I were at God’s gate.
The pastor stopped. The women stood panting, men shivering, children lay still on the floor, their voices filling the building with the babbles of God. In a hoarse whisper, he said “Silence”. It was as though an angel had fallen upon us filling us with his holy presence. Then he screamed “OH LORD GOD MY FATHER”. The church shook as the congregation screamed after him “ALL MY ENEMIES THAT DON’T WANT ME TO SUCCEED”. Together, they all screamed “LET THEM DIE!!!!!”
“Silence”, he said. Quiet descended as we waited for the words of the holy man. “All these other churches where they believe in forgiveness. Hm! Dem never see anything yet. But me? Wetin I done see with my two korokoro eyes”, he dragged the bottom of each eyelid “I nor fit pray for forgiveness. You know why? Because there are witches and wizards in this world. If you let them go, they will come back. So they must die now now. And I tell you, if you are quiet in your prayer, God will not hear you. So, now, in a loud voice, we will ask God to consume them with his Holy Ghost fire, seven times!”
“Tell your neighbor ‘Give me chance, give me chance!’ Move far so you can really give them the fire”. The congregation moved as necessary. Legs widespread to balance him well, he no longer cared whether he spoke into the mic as he shouted “OH LORD GOD MY FATHER!! CONSUME THEM WITH YOUR HOLYYYYY GHOOOOOSSTT!!”. His left elbow shot back sharply. Then, like a catapult letting go, his arm straightened, quivering with the energy he imagined the Lord would produce “FIRE!!!!!!!”. A jolt of fear shot through me for their enemies. Truly, death must be their portion this very moment. 7 times, the congregation, as though they knew this routine, followed him action for action, word for word as they performed this ritual.
The pastor shouted “PRAISE THE LORD!!!”, and the congregation replied “HALLALUJAH!!!!”. The choir swiftly raised a song. As the people danced to their seats, he wiped his soaked face and gave his voice time to recover. He spoke “We have been released”, the volume of the music reduced “from the clutches of our enemies. I said! Our destinies have been released from the clutches of our enemies!” The congregation shouted “AMEN!!!”. He continued “They have released our blessings and God too has added even more to it. Oya, start to pack your blessings”. The choir swiftly rose the song “Count your blessings”.
As they danced, they bent at the waist, swinging one leg after the other back while their arms widened, then swooped down to pack as many blessings as possible, gathering them to their chests. The truly ambitious ones who needed those blessings moved forward to where they would be more potent- in front of the altar.
“PRAISE THE LORD!!!!”. He raised his mic free hand above his head. “HALLELUJAH!!!!”, the congregation replied, women slightly swaying as they waved their hands above their heads. “Let us take our seats”. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t have listened to the sermon. The unmasked display of the Nigerian spirit shining through the Christian religion had stunned me silly and stopped my ability to process thought.