Rocking in Freetown

Imagine a circular building with a stage in the middle. Open all the doors and windows. Give all the women fans. Have a balcony encircle the entire building. The place is packed. Women in print dresses and matching hats–big floppy ones. Men in white shirts and ties. Everyone dressed for a wedding—but it’s only Sunday.

Behind the stage is a band, complete with drums, electric guitars, horns. Beside this is a choir—flowing gowns in purple and black. Smiling faces.

Now, get everyone moving. Not moving like at a U2 or Madonna concert, I
mean really moving. I’m the only white guy–not even a tan. My hips start to move, bumping the woman beside me—she smiles. Understanding.

When Kenawa asked if I wanted to join him at church, I imagined something a little more restrained. I’d never been to an

evangelical service, but why not? I was here for the color. I’m writing a novel after all, and I was curious.

We arrived an hour in. Kenawa said we’d miss the first hour because it was ‘just the warm’-up’. We squeezed into the balcony. The people were singing so loud, with such passion and with so much fervour I had tears in my eyes before the first hymn was finished.

What followed was a 90 minute sermon about curses. I wondered if the preacher knew I was in the audience—it seemed like he was speaking to me. In one sitting he gave me an entire chapter. I learned that the United States is cursed because of the ‘destruction of the red Indians’ and for this a president will be assassinated every 20 years. It’s all in the Bible, the minister said. Usually, I lose attention after 15 minutes, but not today.

I learned about water curses afflicting women (due to adultery). I missed the part about curses on men due to adultery—maybe that’s another sermon. I learned about curses afflicting those who bring the masks or carvings of the secret societies into their homes. This hit close to, well, home. We have masks everywhere—Poro masks, Bundu/Sandei masks, Haida and Salish masks.

At the end of the service a committee sat me down and offered to sign me up. I said I live in Canada. “This is not a problem” a man with a badge said, “we accept everyone.”

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