This past Saturday (6/11/11) I left Monrovia and took a long detour before heading off to the site where I will be located for the rest of my time here in Africa. I had the honor of seeing the Episcopal ordination of Reverend Anthony Fallah Borwah as the third Bishop of the Diocese of Gbarnga. This diocese has been without a bishop now for about two years, so it was quite a celebration. And appropriate timing, too, because when the diocese was created it was placed under the patronage of the Holy Spirit. The cathedral which I now found myself in was in turn dedicated to the Holy Spirit, and the Feast of Pentecost is the feast of the Cathedral and of the Diocese of Gbarnga.
As I said before, this was quite a celebration. The Mass went on for about four hours, easily being the longest Mass I have ever attended. And Fr. Gary (my new boss…more of his story will come later) said that it was the best enculturation in a liturgy that he had ever seen. They were able to mix the traditional liturgy with African culture in a way that was respectful and not scandalous.
Reverend Anthony Fallah Borwah is Liberian born, so many of the different local tribes were represented during the Mass. From the two choirs (one traditional and one African) to the offertory (which lasted about fifteen minutes because they brought up not only the bread and wine, but also a parade of other donations ranging from water to fruit to gasoline), I was able to get a true glimpse into the culture of the people. Even the presentation of the ring, miter, and staff were brought in by separate tribes with song and dance.
By the end of it all my mind was blown. As I was sitting there I wished that each one of you could have been there to experience it with me. Unfortunately, this entry is unable to give any justice to the beauty of this Mass. This is such a rich culture and I have only scratched the surface. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
Come Holy Spirit!
P.S. - I was also sitting about four pews from the Vice President of Liberia…