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Pentecostalism in Nairobi Yvan Droz "         /    from the inside.1 Instead of the screen, there is a building site: a stage with walls under construction representing two towers, an arch, and the beginning of what will be a baptistery. This new structure is about 15 metres high and can hold more than 700 people. The feeling of being in the Middle Ages in a cathedral under construction transports the unwitting visitor to unlikely places. The walls of the theatre still bear traces of white and blue paint that         †      era. The architecture consists of elements that emphasise the impression of (re)construction: the bare walls, the old lamps shaped like stars and the ruins of the mock platform made of white and blue slabs; it is an architectural expression of a renewed charisma. The steps, which are made up of old cinema armchairs adorned with ashtrays, are quite out of place in a Pentecostal church. The only ‘appropriate’ piece of furniture in the new building is a pulpit decorated with a sober cross,     a gladiator, armed with a shield—sawn off in the remains of the wall-lining that once graced the theatre—and with a lance represented by a staff lightly trimmed with red cloth as well as a large cardboard sword. At its head is a simple sheet of paper stapled into a circle on which a severe expression has been drawn. It is easy to gain entry into the church, despite all the entrances and exits being watched over by members of the ‘brotherhood’. The faithful are approached by an usher who shows them to a seat in one of the rows of chairs. This is the only social act that has been retained in the various uses of the building. There are eight people kneeling at the foot of the chairs on the stage. Their backs are to the room and their heads are held between their hands. A newcomer restlessly walks about the stage and seems heavily preoccupied. At the start of the religious ceremony, there are only 80 people, but this number grows until there are almost 300 worshippers. The eight people kneeling in prayer (seven Africans and a European) are the associates of the pastor. He sometimes hands over the microphone to them so that they can take over the preaching. 1 A complete version of this chapter is available under the title ‘Retour au Mont des Oliviers; les formes du pentecôtisme kenyan’ in Séraphin, G. (dir.), L’effervescence religieuses en Afrique, Paris, Karthala, 2004, pp. 17–42. 290 NAIROBI TODAY At 10am the preacher, a Portuguese, starts the religious ceremony with hymns interspersed with preaching. The preaching is punctuated with an ‘Amen’ or ‘Jesus’. The pastor ensures that the entire room participates in the ceremonies, just like a show-biz star. He enunciates, in a low but audible voice, sentences from his sermon, and then continues in a loud voice followed by  Q{     Q  Q     a voice full of compassion. Sometimes, his speed of speech is so fast that that his words can barely be understood, but the congregation knows them %       orator asks questions and the room responds “Yes”, “No”, or “Jesus”. At other times, he asks the audience to participate with gestures. They must then clap their hands, wave an arm as an acknowledgement, raise both arms up to the heavens to receive the blessing of Christ, put their hands on their heads to feel the exhilaration of the Holy Spirit entering, make a show of throwing off their sins with vigorous gestures, or stamp their feet in a fury to crush down evil. The congregation then steadily follows the preacher’s orders— they rise up and sit down, transforming the religious service into a physical exercise. The whole ceremony is full of movement and somewhat deafening but thankfully the public address system is of excellent quality. The sermon often resembles a rap session or the rock and pop music of the 1960s, which have the same rhythm and the same play on the intonation of the voice. Then a similarity with Latin-American sports commentators springs up and one feels one is experiencing a football match at the moment where a team goes for goal; the tone rises and vibrates as if its freedom—or the goal—is in sight. Gradually, his voice rises and moves to the rhythm of the music. The congregation holds its collective breath to hear the end of the /    Q the preachers in the service...


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