Today I begin the sacred rite of church-hopping. This morning, we visited the Central Moravian Church. The Moravian church has a long history here on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. The people I spoke with after the service spoke proudly of the first missionaries who came, risking their lives and sometimes sacrificing them to bring the word of God to the region. They thoroughly identified with the missionaries in the story, it seemed, as opposed to the indigenous people they evangelized. In that conversation, "missionary" did not have a negative connotation at all. Missionaries formed an important part of their heritage and identity. Because there's so much religious diversity on the Coast, they didn't bat an eye when I told them I was a Baptist working with a Catholic service group and visiting their Moravian church.
The sermon had a fierce liberation theology to it. Because the Patria celebrations, or Nicaraguan Independence Day, starts tomorrow, the Scripture for the service was John 8:31-36, in which Jesus says that "The truth will set you free...all who sin are slaves to sin...if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free." Like the rest of the service, the sermon was a blend of Spanish and Miskito, so I only caught about half of it. The preacher didn't focus very much on the metaphorical connotations of the passage, but on the literal practice of slavery as an affront to God. There was a moment when he was talking in Miskito, and everyone in the audience laughed. The woman next to me leaned over and asked if I'd understood. When I told her no, she explained that he said something to the effect of, "Why is it that women take the men's names when they get married, but men don't take the women's names? What does that show about us?"
My favorite moment was when he said "Jesus knew the Jews weren't free. First of all, they weren't free because they were all subjugated to the foreign empire of Rome." Then he talked in Miskito for a while, and concluded in Spanish "And that's why I won't be shouting for joy on Nicaraguan Independence Day tomorrow!" I tried to find him after the service to ask him to go over why exactly he wouldn't be celebrating Independence Day, but I was unsuccessful.
One of the neat things about church here is that most churches have services at 10:00 am and 6:00 pm, which means that I can church-hop twice as efficiently as I can in the US AND I can pick two churches to attend on a weekly basis instead of just one. I'm hoping to hit the Baptist church tonight.