The Effects of Missionaries on Christian Worship and Music in My Congregation

by Chesirri Mouma Emmanuella

The effects of missionaries on Christian worship and music in my congregation are enormous. However, these effects are both positive and negative. The positive effects are outlined below.

The coming of the missionaries has helped the church to move ancestral and idol worship to the worship of God Almighty and discouraged the use of indigenous songs in worship. Therefore, the missionaries suspended existing forms of worship and musical practices by reorienting the people to new music forms.

The missionaries contributed in choral training and development. Through the missionaries, the choir acquired musical aptitude, composed their own songs, created other music groups in the church and led their own choir. Also, there is increased musical independence and musical competences, while worshippers get involved in worship intimately.

The missionaries have made it possible to convey the gospel in languages and forms that are familiar to the people and worshippers. Translation and recording of gospel stories recorded in textual forms that people could read, sing, and recite in prayers. This aspect is of great help especially to children. 

The missionaries have led my congregation to Incorporate Christianity into the funeral rituals. The Gospel message preached during burials and Christian songs sung as well.

However, the coming of the missionaries has negative effects on Christian worship and music in my congregation. First, my congregation wants to worship like the missionaries. That is the order of liturgy is copied from the missionaries and there is little or no flexibility. Songs used in worship are mostly western songs with little use and no promotion of locally composed songs. Hymns are sung exactly with the tunes and dynamics of the western composer and western instrumentation. There is no adaptability of the hymns to local rhythms and instrumentation.  Second, there is too much dependence on western cultures of music and creates a very lazy attitude on the part of the worshippers. There is no drive to listen to Holy Spirit on how worship and music should be done so as to effectively reach out to the people. 

Third, some good indigenous practices and songs that should be incorporated in worship are discouraged in favor of western practices.  Choir robes are western, Lord Supper materials are western, musical instruments are western, intonation is becoming western, compositions are following western styles of composition, dancing styles are western. All these are indications that they missionaries came and promoted their own culture and practices to the detriment of local identities and practices.

This is not to condemn the work of the missionaries but to highlight some aspects that affected Christian worship and music in my congregation in Africa. Sincerely, I appreciate their coming if not we would have still been in darkness or under the bondage of African Traditional Religion. Again, many write ups on indigenization, contextualization, and localization has and will continue to help the African congregations to adapt everything learned from the missionaries to the own context, culture, and environment.