Written by Peter Mmangisa Chonga-Author
Sometime in the fall of 2019, I had the privilege of participating in a fundraising drive with a couple I made acquaintance with in August of the same year. I have grown fond of this couple since I came to know them. They are a beautiful people with a beautiful soul and a heart so mahoosive it could embrace and warm up an entire generation. Their story is one of the most of heartwarming of stories out there, but that’s an entry for another day. The objective of this fundraising initiative was to raise tuition for over 30 high school going kids the couple has been supporting through a not-for-making outfit they have run throughout the years.
They take advantage of a festival organized by one of the local churches in their vicinity. The church organizes this festival annually to celebrate harvest. The event is staged right in the basement of the church building. Folks show case diverse homemade recipes, pastries, art, and many other things. In other words, It’s a small-scale business galore.
So many things were happening on this day, the premise was bustling, there were colorful and beautiful displays, so many people made their rounds through all different displays, however, what caught my undivided attention was what happened a few hours from the time I arrived behind our display table. I was on a table that was selling curios made in Malawi, we had elephants curved out of black mahogany, Malawian wrappers and other wood carvings. Next to our table, to the right side was who appeared to be the organizers of the event. These were the church folk. There was one guy who seemed to yield overall authority among the five individuals in the group. I deduced he was a church elder or a deacon.
A gentle man in his 70s came with a girl in her mid-thirties whom she introduced as her daughter. It was quite apparent that she was in distress due to some undisclosed medical condition. Behind the display tables were a few unused chairs. The father noticed that and politely requested for one of the chairs to have her daughter sit because she needed to rest for a few minutes before proceeding with their rounds. The elder quickly said no, his argument was that the Chair could easily get lost if taken from behind the display tables to where the rest of the people were. Sensing a medical emergency, I remember pretending like I did not hear what he said, I quickly pulled a chair and gave it to the young lady and she quickly sat down. The father was so grateful, they hanged out with my friend and I for not more than five minutes, the relief on the young ladies face was unmistakable, she squeezed in a smile as she got back to her feet making her way back to continuing sampling the displays.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff going on in these places of worship, ironically stories like these are also quite a common place. I have been in organized religion my entire life. Born and raised in it. Some of the things I have witnessed are just bone chilling and outright from the pit of hell.
Well, I sat there thinking, I looked at the plastic chair, the property of the church. Then I asked myself a question. Is this chair so precious to the church than the people who are meant to use it? Many are times church folk forget that the church building and all its possessions are there to serve the congregants. I am not saying these possessions should not be given good care. But where a church building and its possessions take precedence over the folk who are supposed to be served by these things then we have a serious problem.
People are meant to be loved and possessions to be used. These possessions are meant to aide us to show love to humankind. One poet by the name of Joe Flach writes that it would be great if human beings were great at being human. What we are witnessing today in our midst is the opposite of Joe’s reflection. We have leaders who are so bad at leadership, parents who are terrible at parenthood, governments that are terrible at governance, service providers that are so bad at providing services and organized religion that’s disorganized and terrible at religiosity.
I think organized religion ought to set the right tone and example, organized religion needs to understand that a place of worship is not a trophy for winners but ought to be a place of refuge for the entire humankind including the sinners. If today’s organized religion was to re-write the scriptures. I would not be surprised to see stories of folks as toxic as Peter, Paul and or Zacchaeus not appearing anywhere.
Today, organized religion despises the lost and keep a tight circle of the supposedly enlightened. They congregate in shinny buildings with marble decor. In the western world, some places make people pay to attend their special services. The mark of salvation is represented by peoples monetary support to organized religion. One of my sisters in Christ recently told me a story of a Pastor who could not confront a man who swindled a poor lady parishioner in the same congregation because he paid tithe. Now if this is not derailment from purpose of existence then I don’t know what is. Organized religion needs to get back to the word of God, unadulterated. The message of Christ is rooted in love, love of people and not things. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 13:13.
Peter Mmangisa Chonga-Author