Thursday we made our way to Kirundo for a confirmation. The trip there started on the main highway, as yesterday's voyage, but we turned off to travel westward to our destination. Kirundo is a significant town, and a central parish in the area. The pastor, Evariste, is also the Archdeacon for the region.
When we arrived for the service we were bowled over. The drive from the road was blocked by people who were singing a joyful song of welcome. They parted just enough to let our vehicle in and surrounded the car. As we stepped out, they made a path to the Archdeacon's house beside the church, where we were able to put on our vestments for the service. In all there were seven or eight clergy vested and a few others who arrived later and participated in the service. While we were getting ready, we could hear the crowd outside singing constantly.
Finally, it was time for us to make our way to the church. The choir led the way and then parted to make a path to the door. Along the path to the church the people had placed banana stalks, a sign of welcome to dignitaries. As we entered the church we could see that it was packed and everyone was singing joyfully.
When we got to the front and found our seats, Archdeacon Evariste welcomed us and called on Bishop Sixbert to introduce the party from Edmonton. Then Bishop Jane said some words of greeting, and it was time for the choirs to begin singing and dancing. Two choirs presented songs accompanied by a keyboard and a huge drum. By the time we sat down for the readings 40 minutes had already flown by.
The service proceeded with the readings and sermon. At one point a late-arriving children's choir presented two songs, singing and dancing their hearts out with an amazing exuberance.
And then the confirmation! We had thought there would be about 70 to be confirmed, but there must have been at least 170. They just kept coming in waves as Bishops Sixbert and Jane took turns confirming them by groups. They were obviously eager to be confirmed, as they surged forward. It truly stirred the heart.
|Bishop Jane Confirming|
All the while during the confirmation the choirs and the people kept on singing and drumming. It was almost like a party, this joyful festival of faith.
|Bishop Jane Confirming|
Eventually everyone was confirmed and it was time for communion. Bishop Jane and I were invited to distribute communion. I think people were more interested in receiving communion from Bishop Jane than from me. Some even switched lines so they could receive the sacrament from the visiting bishop from Canada, who was also the first woman bishop they had ever seen. Again the faithful surged forward eagerly to participate in the sacrament, the newly confirmed for the first time.
|Members of the Congregation Singing|
After communion there was more singing and dancing and finally the blessing, and the procession out. I checked my watch and was amazed to see that we had been in the church for over three hours.
The service ended, we were treated to a splendid lunch of chicken, beef, peas, beans, rice, bananas and fried potatoes. The house was full, with all the clergy and the lay leaders of the parish joining in the lunch.
|Clergy at the end of the service|
After lunch, and some speeches, we said our goodbyes and then got on the road for home. It was a memorable service that will live long in our memories.
|Women of the Parish present Bishop Jane with a basket|
Blessings to the newly confirmed!