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RE: A Midnight Service Helps African Immigrants Combat Demons (NY TIMES)

Already two different friends have called my attention to an article in
today's NY TIMES. 

One friend asked:

"You have travelled in sub-Saharan Africa, is it fair to say that this news
item reflects a widespread cultural and religious milieu also common to the
popular religion in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. of the Anglican
provinces there?

"No wonder they tried to exorcise a gay man at Lambeth a decade ago!"

I have pasted my answer to my friend below, after an extract from the 
TIMES article.

Louie, Newark deputy

An extract: 

December 18, 2007
A Midnight Service Helps African Immigrants Combat Demons

WASHINGTON -- At an hour when most people here are sleeping or sinning, the
worshipers of the Spiritual Warfare ministry gather in the cold sanctuary of
a neighborhood church to battle evil.

The students, taxicab drivers, homemakers and entrepreneurs, all Christians,
mostly from French-speaking Africa, attend a midnight service four nights a
week to seek deliverance from lust, anger, fear and sadness.

They sing. They pray fervently. Finally, they kick and shadowbox with what
they contend is the real force behind life~Rs problems: the witches and
devils whose curses they believe have ground down their families, towns,
entire nations in Africa and that have pursued them to a new country, making
it hard to find work, be healthy and survive.

"Some situations you need to address at night, because in the ministry of
spiritual warfare, demons, the spirits bewitching people, choose this time
to work," said Nicole Sangamay, 40, who came from Congo in 1998 to study and
is a co-pastor of the ministry. "And we pick this time to pray to nullify
what they are doing."


"But you know how to pray to God. Tell them, 'C'est fini!' I will not repeat
the story of my ancestors, of my past, of the devil."

The congregants shouted, "C'est fini!"

They listened, they moved the red chairs to the back of the hall, and then
they called on the Holy Spirit to fight the enemy. Following Mr. Shinga,
they said: "I rise now against every form of the devil! You want me under a
curse, but I renounce you in the name of Jesus."

With each prayer, young men and middle-age women punched, kicked or stood
and quaked. They pounded their fists. They reviled the devil in all his

They sliced their arms through the air to cut the chains of evil binding
them. They pretended to tie up Satan. A toddler happily stamped the floor
like the grown-ups. Mr. Shinga ran out of breath as he urged on the
worshipers. The prayers ended. They did all that they could.

See the full article at


I have no idea how widespread this kind of service is.  I have nothing but
anecdotal evidence.  I have seen passionate worship when I have visited all
over Africa, but I see passionate worship of a more familiar kind at my own
parish every week.  Our incantations, incense, processions, ancient
clothing, ancient music, not to mention the shape of our building as an
upside down ship, might prompt in an "objective" reporter from far away some
interesting speculations about how we might be trying to control this god
with three names, this god that is a son and a father at the same time, this
god who is yet not a person but a spirit.....

I suspect that if I entered the church in Washington as a total stranger by
myself and wearing a t-shirt saying "gay Christian,' they might think that
the devil had arrived and react accordingly.  On the other hand, if I met
one of the members in the park in which my home sits, chatted at length
about Africa and the USA, and then expressed an interest in his faith, my
new friend would be glad to take me to his worship space as a friend,
knowing that I respected him even though his form of worship might not be my
cup of tea any more than mine his.

Am I naive?  Most likely.  How could I be other?  I suspect we are all naive
and and are all liable to grave mistakes of interpretation, when we watch
any religious fervor as outsiders and strangers to it.

I am reminded of my visit to Harare, Zimbabwe in December 1998 to attend the
8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches.  I close with a snippet from
my diary at that time:

==begin diary snippet

The security guard with whom I talked yesterday asked many questions about
the worship activities of the conference and noted that he was distressed by
various groups in Zimbabwe that mask the devil's agenda with the appearance
of offering god's power. He spoke of a particular satanist group that
publishes testimonies of persons who joined and then got jobs. He complained
that the group lures persons with false claims.

  How would you test the validity of the claims of one religion over
another, I asked. What changes in the person who joined would impress you?

  He would not turn to wicked ways, the young man replied.

  Such as? I asked.

  Homosexuality, he replied.

  Do you have much homosexuality in Zimbabwe, I asked.

  Very much, he replied. Just recently a false prophet by the name of
Bonface Muponda, who claimed to be a healer and was raising money to build a
clinic, was arrested for homosexuality, he said.

  Do you know any homosexuals? I asked.

  Yes, one went to school with me.

  Was he evil? I asked.

  He was homosexual, he said.

  Was he mean? Did he abuse people? Did he beat up people? Was he a bully?

  No, he was rather sweet and gentle actually, he said, seeming puzzled by
his own answer. But Jesus said that homosexuality is wrong.

  Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, I noted.......

  There is a homosexual professor here on campus, but he is a foreigner. All
the other security guards know who he is. He has no female friends. Only
males ever visit him, and he lives in a very large house.


  When I told my friend that I work in a ministry with lesbigay persons, he
seemed fascinated.

  I have run out of the 20 minutes allowed at the computers. I can't edit
this. I have so much more to say. It's very frustrating.

  (My full WCC diary appears at  This segment comes from
"December 4th"

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