Religious Tolerance: I Went For a Midweek Service in a Church

I’m a Muslim by birth and practice and I had only ever been to a church for a wedding until recently when I went for a midweek service. Christianity and Islam are the two dominant and organized religions in Nigeria and in most cases, every Nigerian is identified by one of the two religions. Religion tolerance is something I have always found natural; I have friends that are Christians, I have friends that are a bit of both and I have also come across people that don’t believe in God and I have never judged. I say amen to all prayers and I even have siblings who aren’t Muslims but I never thought I was going to be brave enough to attend a Church service.

About a month ago, my friend asked me to accompany her for a midweek service at her church and I laughed it off. She pushed further and told me she appreciates my religion tolerance and thinks writing about my experience will make a good blog post. I didn’t even need to think about it after I heard that, I was sold.

It was easy to say yes but whenever a Wednesday came, I always had an excuse. It was either I had to work late or I made other plans because I forgot about going to church. Last week, she mentioned it again and I had run out of excuses. I decided to practice what I preach; saying no to procrastination, so I embraced my fears. The midweek service at House on The Rock Church holds every Wednesday at 6-8pm. I had so many questions:

  • How does it start?
  • Is there praise and worship?
  • Can I chew gum?
  • Do I need a scarf?
  • Will people recognize me as a new member?
  • Can I wear my work clothes, because my skirt is fitted?

She basically shut me up when I asked the next question with “just come” and ended the call. I set up a plan to skip praise and worship so I left work super late hoping to get to the church after all the singing along and dancing. I didn’t think I would have been able to survive a praise and worship session because I don’t know most of the songs and I didn’t want people to look at me weird. 

The moment of truth came when I arrived at the church at quarter to seven. The Rock Cathedral is a beautiful sight even in the night time, you could see a lot of time and attention was paid to its structure. I realized I wasn’t there to appreciate the architecture and the nerves kicked in. Every step I took only made them worse because this was the first time I was going into a church and it wasn’t for a wedding ceremony. I kept hoping someone that knows me wouldn’t see me. I felt like a fraud.

I met up with my friend who was waiting for me with a frown (because I was late lol) and we walked into the auditorium together right when the sermon was about to start. I was happy my plan worked but I couldn’t show my emotions when she led the way to the back reserved for people with children. Everywhere was quiet and the only sound was the voice of the Pastor preaching. I sat quietly and listened to the speech though my eyes were everywhere scanning the space.

 

The topic of the day was about reinvention. Pastor Goke quoted bible verses from Corinthians chapter two verses 11 to 14, Genesis chapter 1 verses 1 to 20 and a few verses from the book of John too. Everyone knows what the first words of genesis says, you don’t have to be Christian to know this. However, I didn’t know the translation of the light and darkness wasn’t literal until this day. 

The Pastor’s preaching was similar to the way American Pastors address their congregation in movies. There were highs and lows, it was interactive, enlightening, riveting and beautiful. There were moments people were called to the front to play parts and others where we had to say statements to ourselves or our neighbours. I started to relax after a few minutes because it felt like I was at a conference so I brought out my notepad and pen and made some notes. Here are some of them:

  • “Once light shines, darkness cannot comprehend it.”
  • “Whatever you are going through cannot stop God from visiting you.”
  • “What do you do when you say it and you don’t see it? you keep saying it.”
  • “When the solution to your problem comes, it may not come the way you expect it to.”
  • “People that do not understand the level of your breakthrough will criticize it.”
  • “There is nothing between your current level and the next level except that God is reinventing your life.”

I’m happy to say that my religion was not rebuked at any moment during the service and I left feeling fulfilled. Yes, there were some awkward moments like when someone was speaking in tongues during prayers but I did not feel outcasted. I know it’s a different ballgame on Sundays because the church is fuller and I can imagine that it will be super intense.

Our future depends on our ability to coexist peacefully with people that have different worldviews, beliefs, or faiths. I believe it’s okay to believe what you believe. I am still a Muslim, I’m just a curious one.

Have you ever been to another religion’s place of worship?
Are you brave enough to try it?

You can find me on Instagram @mariamshittu_ or Twitter @mariamshittu_

Mariam Shittu