Given my decidedly abysmal attendance at church this year, it is somewhat out of character that I arrive early enough to catch the beginning of the opening hymn, the incredibly mellifluous All Things Bright and Beautiful. It is one hymn, in all its variants of tune and stanza, which I have come to associate with growing up all those many years ago on a University campus in Nigeria. For all of ten years, it was a perennial favourite amongst the teachers and prefects who led morning assemblies, and along with my well worn copy of Songs of Praise remains stuck in my head as markers from that phase of life.
The children have the floor today and as I make my way into the church building a scrawny teenager – clearly filling the role of an usher for the first time – motions for me to approach the front of the building. In the few seconds it takes for me to decide – in general I avoid sitting in the front of buildings – I catch the eye of my friend O, and I sidle up to him, plonking into the empty seat beside him. I smile apologetically at the kid, hopefully there are no hard feelings there.
As children are wont to do, the various events that have been arranged for our worshipping pleasure are performed with much enthusiasm, albeit with a lot of unruliness. There are three year olds crying for their mothers, six year olds waving to their parents in the crowd and more than a few missed beats amidst the songs. My God-daughter Gracie has a starring role in a rendition of the main song. Seated in the crowds seeing her sing the words without missing any of them fills me with some pride.
After its all done and dusted, the one thing that can’t be faulted is the children’s sincerity; in the end the focus is them, and not the performance, the nostalgia that remains with me is a good, if unintended consequence.