This past weekend I visited the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission, and Culture in Akropong, Ghana. This was the final part of the orientation for the semester in Ghana that I am participating in. It was refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Accra and spend some time preparing for the upcoming semester spiritually, physically, and socially.
While we were at the Institute we had the special privilege of hearing lectures from various faculty members of ACI informing us about issues of gospel and culture, language challenges with gospel and culture, encountering primal religions and finally, world Christianity. It was fascinating to hear from scholars in Theology who have been steeped in African culture for most of their lives.
One idea I will takeaway from this experience is the connectedness between the spiritual and the material here in Africa and the dichotomy between spiritual and material back in the United States, and more broadly the West. A theme that seemed to be a common thread through all of the lectures was the importance of ancestry for most people here in Africa. Ancestry is not only the goal of life it is the motivation to live a ‘good’ life. Many people here are very conscious about being in community with their family members who have past away.
This awareness and commitment to community with the deceased, leads to a couple interesting spiritual practices and disciplines when it comes to Christian worship and Christian living. First, people here tend to pray a lot more than people in the global West. The idea of the Holy Spirit of God walking beside you, living in you, and leading you through life is not strange and haunting but natural and fits seamlessly into the psychological culture of most people here. Second, because the spiritual and material overlap with such congruence, physical movement, or dancing, is not only accepted during times of worship but is a form of worship in and of itself. Third, charismatic aspects to worship such as healings, speaking in tongues, and visions are openly practiced here. It seems natural for a place where the spiritual and material overlap to dwell heavily in the spiritual gifts.
This relationship with the spiritual world is not something I am familiar with or even comfortable with at this point. It is definitely very different from the church I grew up in. I usually feel a bit of skepticism when experiencing a prayer meeting or worship service here in Ghana. This style of worship with ‘healings’ or ‘deliverances’ seems to be quite meaningful to most people here. However it hasn’t grabbed me yet. I am wrestling with the idea, the practice, and the theology of this religious paradigm. It will be interesting to continue to reflect on this topic throughout my time here.