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

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Hi, my name is Mariam Shittu and I live in Lagos, Nigeria. I write about my travels, living in Lagos, lifestyle, health and fitness, things that inspire me and poetry. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with the world and nurturing the human mind. Thanks for stopping by!

15 thoughts on “Religious Tolerance: I Went For a Midweek Service in a Church

  1. Okay okay..! Lol this is great. I just got some confidence haha. Thanks Mariam. I’m a curious Muslim too and have been to not one but quite a lot of services too. I have cousins and friends that are Christians too. I love them irrespective of their religion. I don’t criticize.

    I’ve been wanting to share the experience but was skeptical about how people will react to it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post ! I grew up in not practicing any religion until I became a teenager. I remember my first relationship, the guy I was with would attend regularly the Catholic Church. I will accompany him at times but I never felt comfortable. However the older I got I found this need to really get to know who I am and thought religion was part of that empty feeling I felt. At 25 I tried a Christian church and it was love at first sight. I automatically felt like I belonged. Although I didn’t grow up with any of it, I understood everything that was happening. It was a wonderful experience. I think it’s very important to respect and coexist with different religions because in the end of the day we are all humans trying to find a inner peace while living in this world! Awesome post !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad your experience was positive! As a person who is a regular church-goer, I have to admit that the songs at the beginning are overwhelming for me, too (maybe it is for everyone?), because I can’t sing, I’m really uncomfortable around people singing, and as much as I feel embarrassed and awkward to walk in late, I’m happy to miss that portion of the service sometimes. 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting as expected… i would love to visit a mosque. I try to read a little and ask questions about the Muslim religion but never really thought about visiting a mosque. After this read, i will def make ut happen

    Like

  5. Wow where do i start from that was really daring!
    First this is an interesting read as usual. Never could’ve imagined what my response would be to such an invite.

    However, a fun fact about Islam was that in the early days of the Prophet (S.A.W) when he was unsettled by the Meccans a very famous Christian leader accommodated Him and his followers and saved them from further persecution.

    Interestingly also, was the fact that Prophet (S.A.W) met with some Christians and he invited them to do their worship in the mosque.

    Both religions have demonstrated huge respect towards the other. However, the followers personal interpretation and opinions is often the cause of the intolerance.

    Lastly, as muslims, non- muslims have rights over us. There are clear hadiths about the Prophet (S.A.W) saying “he’s not amongst my followers anyone whose neighbour is not safe from him”
    Also about ensuring we provide safety to as many as forty houses to your right and left. He also mentioned wishing good for your neighbour what you wish for yourself.
    These sayings are deliberately referring to treatment of non-Muslim. You can go ahead and do more researches for more hadiths on tolerance in Islam. The religion is very clear about its position on humanity.

    You could invite her (if she’s open to it) for a session in the Mosque or an Islamic program to get her perception of your religion as well.

    Interesting piece once again.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been waiting for this post. This was a great read! I’m really glad you went. It’s okay to not know the worship songs as many places now show the lyrics on the screen. But I get it, baby steps. I want to go to a mosque for a service, just out of curiosity. I’ve only ever been to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi and I’m not going to lie I was so uncomfortable at first, especially because we coincidentally went during prayer time. We went for tourism reasons but being on such holy ground was a bit overwhelming. It’s so beautiful in person.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes I have been to a church before to honour my friend’s event. Like you said we should be able to coexist with people regardless of their religion, race, or color.
    It didn’t change my choice of religion but I learnt every religion preaches love and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t lie, I rushed to read this piece and I wasn’t disappointed. I am glad no shades were thrown at your religion because sometimes it happens and it can be jarring. I have experienced that. And “Yes” to peaceful coexistence any day.

        Welldone, Mariam.

        Liked by 1 person

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