Roman Catholic Worship Ugandan Style

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

The St. Peter Choir of St. Augustine Church, Makerere University, processes towards the altar carrying gifts of Thanksgiving

The St. Peter Choir of St. Augustine Church, Makerere University, processes towards the altar carrying gifts of Thanksgiving

It’s been an interesting but great weekend. I woke up on Saturday morning with some definite plans in mind. I had to wash some clothes and wanted to do that first thing so I could get them out on the line. My thought was if I can get them out early, hopefully they would dry before the daily rains come. I also had a Pharmaceutical Care Skills lab class to write for Monday and I wanted to walk down to the Tuskey’s shopping center to get some groceries in preparation for my husband’s arrival in Uganda late on Saturday night. Yes, my husband, Jeff, was coming to Uganda for the first time and I was really excited to show him my home away from home where I’ve been doing challenging work that is very fulfilling with people I’ve come to love. So the first item on my “to-do” list went well- I washed and hung out my clothes and low and behold it didn’t rain at all on Saturday and the clothes completely dried outside. In the past few weeks, most of the time the clothes would partially dry but then need to be hung in my room on a line for another day or two. While I was diligently working on the 2nd item, my class preparation, I got a disturbing phone call from the US Embassy. They were advising all Americans in Kampala to “shelter-in-place” due to an active operations by the Ugandan military against a suspected terrorist cell right here in Kampala. I was told to stay at home and not go for groceries. I asked about picking my husband up at the airport in the evening and was told that hopefully it would be cleared and safe by then. By the way, the reason I got the phone call and several emails about this was because I had signed up with the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a service by the U.S. State Department where any foreign travel can be registered and if there are security risks, the travelers will be notified. I strongly advise all Americans traveling abroad, even in countries where you might not think there would be trouble, to register. It has been helpful several times for my students and me. Throughout the day I continued to receive updates and it turned out the action was regarding the discovery of an al-Shabaab terrorist cell in Kampala. There were no specific targets and the subjects were apprehended but because there were still heightened security checkpoints, the last message of the day said American should not go out on Saturday night. As already mentioned, though, my husband was flying into Entebbe airport and I couldn’t let him arrive without me to greet him. So, I discussed this with my regular trusted driver and decided to go anyway. Fortunately, aside from some really bad traffic jams, we got to and from the airport without incident and arrived safely back at Edge House by about 1:15am.

The first real Ugandan experience I wanted to share with Jeff was the St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church service I’d been to my first full weekend here.

The Choir sings a lively hymn in their bright colored traditional garments

The Choir sings a lively hymn in their bright colored traditional garments

It is on campus and only a quick walk from my house. The service turned out to be more lively and wonderful than the first time I’d been there. First of all it was a Feast Day- the celebration of the Holy Cross, but it was also the day that the choir was celebrating their Thanksgiving to the Church. Today they dressed in Traditional costumes which for the women are very colorful and cheerful, rather than their regular church clothes. The men wore long white gowns with black jackets over them. I’m not sure how they stood the heat today. When it doesn’t rain, it can get pretty hot. Everyone looked so spiffy. There was more music than usual and the choir, which is about 30-40 adults, sang a gorgeous anthem in harmony, accapella. When I looked at their music sheets, I was amazed to see that they only contained the words and not music. They had all memorized their harmonizing parts- amazing! The acoustics in the large church were great and their hymn was a traditional tune with the John 3:16 the basis of the lyrics.

The Choir Director was great!

The Choir Director was great!

At the time of the Offering, the choir left the sanctuary and soon came back in a large procession down the aisle carrying all of their gifts for the church, given in Thanksgiving to God. They carried food items and many household items like mops, brooms, etc. The entire alter was filled by the time they laid everything down. As they processed, they swayed back and forth to the music. The whole service today had an air of joyfulness and we were all swaying and clapping to the rhythm of the hymns- some sung in Luganda and some in English. Afterwards, we all (Monty, my housemate went to the service too) walked to the local Indian place on campus for lunch.

Monty (on left) and Jeff (on right) enjoying a  cold Ugandan brew after a 2 hour worship service at a delicious, and reasonably priced, Indian Restaurant on campus

Monty (on left) and Jeff (on right) enjoying a cold Ugandan brew after a 2 hour worship service at a delicious, and reasonably priced, Indian Restaurant on campus


About kbohan

Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice Binghamton University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Binghamton, NY USA
This entry was posted in Fulbright Specialist Project, My Safari (My Journey/Adventure) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Roman Catholic Worship Ugandan Style

  1. Nanstiel, Barbara says:


    Glad to hear that the danger seems to be past and that you were able to pick up Jeff without incident. Hope your time together continues to be enjoyable.

    Several years ago a local African American church was celebrating their 100th anniversary and they invited members from other local churches to join with them in a mass choir concert. Their leader was a very gifted man (taught music at Bloomsburg U) who arranged much of the music himself. We sang everything from Bach to spirituals to gospel to more traditional music. I found it scarey that he changed things from week to week (and even the day of the concert!) as I am very much a “reader” of music, But the folks from the home church had no problems when he would say things like, “OK, the tenors will do this” and simply play their notes! They were able to remember what he played and sing it without problem. Needless to say, I was so happy to be a soprano because we generally had the melody and that didn’t change too much.

    As always, enjoying your posts.


    On Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 11:40 AM, Out of the Pharmacy Classroom and Into


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