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A congregation of undue sorrows




SIR: I am learning to sleep with noise. That is the only way I can categorise the sound coming from my new neighbour. After midnight, they keep vigil. If they choose to sing, it should be soothing. Rather, they moan for hours on end shouting and lamenting of misery unimaginable to a soul seeking to sleep. I pray unceasingly that ours is a more civilised society so that I can invite the police to spare me from the agony of sleepless nights.

I was thankful to God for graciously answering my prayers. My sister in-law gave me the gossipy news that robbers broke into the prayer house and stole their loudspeakers. Considering also that they believe that there are many evil spirits from historical times dwelling in the area of their church, they started looking for another location. So far, they have replaced their loudspeakers.

I am not celebrating the hardship of my fellow man. I am undoubtedly convinced that a church wailing for the length of time this congregation does during worship must be possessed by menacing forces. God of peace will not allow anyone seeking His favour to suffer so much. On the other hand, it is their unkindness to their neighbours that worries me about their belief. The church is housed in a tiny one room of an uncompleted building. There is no reason that will necessitate the mounting of loudspeakers on the windows facing outside.

I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of worship. The only reservation I have is respect for the space of others. The contrast is staggering when I consider that there is a cathedral situated next to this tiny church and the sound of their services are like blessing even to a non-worshipper. The notion has flown through my mind that this spiritually afflicted church may be of the intention to overpower the congregation of the traditional church near them. They shout the messages of their preaching so high it blasts as if to pierce the concrete wall of the cathedral.

Worshippers appear tormented. They look wretched and dejected. The pastors during service fire messages in grueling tongues to cast out demons among members coming from marine spirits, witchcraft, occult people, family members holding down their progress and happiness and many other ills that may be attacking them. They never forget to drill into worshippers the sin of failing to pay tithe. I can always hear them explaining in the simplest terms that 10 per cent of these peasants’ income for the week must be offered as tithe. They are beat down and exhausted at the end of each service.

On judgment day, I think I will like to be a prosecutor. I will ask God to clarify the dogma of undue hardship. I believe the worshippers in this church are living in hell on earth. I believe a church is supposed to be a sanctuary where souls are relieved of their burden. These worshippers pray night and day and cannot find joy. God help me to sleep peacefully through the torturous vigils of my new neighbour. Please accept their souls in heaven for they have suffered enough on earth.

• Pius Okaneme,
Umuoji, Anambra State

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