Mass in Kiswahili…magic even without subtitles

Mass in Kiswahili…magic even without subtitles
Oct 20

Joyful, joyful we adore you.  Joy is the first word that comes to mind when attending a Swahili mass. The fourth mass of the day at Sacred Heart due to begin at 10:30 was 10 minutes late.  It is yet another example of TFT (Tanzanian Flexible Time) but when it comes to worship, the Tanzanians are not in a hurry.  Our service lasted two hours.

The celebrant Fr. Amani Nyoni OSB is the chaplain of the Iringa universities.  He knows how to work a crowd.   The entire mass was in Swahili and we understood none of it. However, he was so animated and engaging we were as captivated as those who could understand his words.

What was unique about this congregation?  They were dressed to the nines, even the children, and they plentiful and so well behaved.  No one seemed fazed by the length of the service and of course, all were very curious about these strange white people in the front row of their church.  We were treated as guests of honor and at the end of the celebration, we were brought to the altar and introduced to the congregation by Dr. Mosha, chairman of the parish council. Such welcoming applause! They are truly excited about the partnership and its possibilities. But we are getting ahead of ourselves for the choir was incredible.

It was a 30-member choir singing in 30-part harmony.  Clapping, movement and the occasional ululation added richness to the musical experience.  Oh how we wish the parishioners of St. Thomas More could have shared the experience.

After a brief get together with the concelebrants and key members of the parish council, we were treated to a celebration of the partnership with about thirty representatives of the parish. There was even a champagne toast. The meal consisted of chicken, pilau (a rice dish), curry beef, salad, peas in coconut sauce, bananas and watermelon.

At the conclusion of the meal, a cake was presented in traditional Hehe  (hay hay) style.  The Hehes are one of the local tribes and most of Iringa’s original inhabitants were of that tribe.  The cake was presented to Fr. Chatilla and Stan Mussel, representing the two parishes. However, it was not a simple presentation. Hehe dancers stomped and chanted their way to the front of the group bearing the cake as a prize. It was a sight to behold.

As a gesture of good faith, we were each presented with three CDs of African music including one by the choir we had just heard.  It was a surprise to realize these were people we had only met one day ago and already we were like family, family they liked.  What gracious hosts.

Speaking of hosts…to round out the day, we were invited to the home of our Swahili teacher, Maraji Vanginothi.  Can you believe, we ate again?  We met many of Stan’s adopted Tanzanian family and again were treated as if we belonged. The Tanzanian people are wonderfully warm.

One last experience we should mention.  Before we went to Miraji’s we went downtown to the market place for some shopping. Have you ever been to Marakesh or seen Indiana Jones chase a robber through the market place?  That’s exactly what it’s like.  Maryline took us in one door and out a backdoor out onto yet another street.  If she had abandoned us, we would never have been found!

Another amazing day in Iringa!   Lala salama (sleep well.)