The sound of intsimbi echoes through the church building as amadodana intercede and prepare the space for the people who are to fill it up, each carrying the load of their problems, hoping to lay them down at the foot of the cross that stands at the altar. It is early on a Sunday morning and as omama Bo manyano dressed in their black and white uniforms make their way to the church, carrying water bottles and face cloths in one hand while obliging their unwilling children to walk faster with the other. It is a Sunday ritual that they can't escape, the day starts early in the morning with the voice of ntate Thuso Motaung and moruti Maine viciously waking the young souls from their slumber with their spirited radio sermons.
Breakfast is a hastily made peanut butter sandwich with rooibos tea, it is had while umama runs around packing her hymn books and bible into her bag while she makes mental notes of all the items she needs for the service. Utata used to leave earlier to join amadodana in their morning prayers, but now his Sunday's start late, after everyone has left he plays his jazz records while slowly sipping his whiskey with the assurance that his name shall be called in umama's prayers. The children wait reluctantly for umama so that they can start the walk to the church, where they will meet other members of other denominations who are also making their way to church. Each one shall be acknowledged with a slight nod, as if to say 'The Christ in me greets the Christ in you'.
As umama walks in, the children hurry into the Sunday school chapel where they will spend hours bantering, pretending to listen, laughing joking and often hoping not to get scolded by 'ugogo we Sunday school' for their innocent mischievousness. Umama joins the other mothers, all dressed in black and white each with the problems of her household etched carefully into the wrinkles on her face. For two hours at least she hopes to forget it all and she will be lost in the hopeful rhetoric echoed by the hymns that shall be sung in unison. As they sing 'Unabantu bakho Thixo ngamaxhesha onke, ubagcina ubancede endaweni zonke' moving slowly from side to side with the rhythm of the bell and drum dictating their tempo. As they sing, some confess in penitence, their sins and discretions for the week, some remember their worries and those who create them.
People like umama find solace in these moments, remembering how unfamiliar utata looked when he threatened to beat her in yet another one of his drunken quarrels. She remembered how even when the rent was due he felt no remorse when confessing that his wages were finished at the local watering hole, where he regularly went after a long day's work, she remembered how she had prayed to God for his deliverance and yet still, five years later, he was still unchanged.
Nostalgia tends to creep in during these moments, while she quietly puts her last coins into the offering tray umama remembers how not so long ago utata would be found amongst the few men in their black jackets and purple waist coats, the ones whose footsteps cause the ground to vibrate, the ones beating on leather pillows to create a transcending sound that has potential to shake up the heavens, the ones leading in song, amadodana wokuvuma. She remembers how it was he, who stood proudly at the end of service giving out notices and reporting back on the church's progress under his leadership as ugosa. She remembers him proudly leading the charges, singing 'Mandithwale iziqhamo ezomoya oyincwele' and how his loyalty eventually became his downfall.
Many like umama see the church as a hospital for people with broken souls like her, a place for solace. In the racket and clamour of the bells, drums and voices singing loudly she finds a serene sense of bliss. The passion in the sermon, the humid air filled with vigorous expression, and the shouts of 'halleluiah' and 'ewe mzalwalane' remind her that she is not alone, that all of them, congregants of this holy communion are victims of circumstance and this, their weekly Sunday ritual is where they lay it all down. It is here where their faith, the evidence of things unseen will give them hope for a better life, even though after all of it, they will return back to their homes, their struggles and their frustrations until they meet again to partake in the sacred practice, ye nkonzo ne mvuselelo.