Nana Dominic Adu Gyamfi dances to the collection basket at the front of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and drops in a few dollars. Following him are the rest of the Sunday born, followed by the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday-born dancing to Twi hymns sung by the choir.
“It reinforces in ourselves and in our children our traditional values that we grew up with,” said Gyamfi. Gyamfi, dressed in a traditional Ghanaian tunic shirt and black dress pants, is the president of the Washington D.C. area Ghanaian Catholic Community.
Child naming ceremonies accompany weddings and funerals here, said Gyamfi, an Akan chief and African cloth dealer. The preaching also draws on examples from Ghanaian values, he said.“Respect for elders is so strongly enforced in our system,” said Gyamfi.
The pastor of the Ghanaian Catholic Community, Father Henry Kwaku Dua, knows how easy it can be to lose part of his culture. After returning to Ghana after being in Chile for nine years he could not speak his language very well or find his old friends, who had moved to different parts of the country.
Father Henry, Order of the Divine Word, has been the pastor of the community for the last four years. He said he has seen the community grow from less than 30 people to over 200.
Back in the Episcopal Church, many women and men sway to the sounds of the choir.
Most women and men wear traditional Ghanaian clothing to Mass. On a recent Sunday, multiple women were swathed in bright patterned dresses and head wraps, while men sported tunics. The men and women also stick to different sides of the church, an African tradition and not uncommon in other societies.
The community takes the Vatican II edict to participate more fully in the Mass very seriously. The Mass takes at least two hours to complete, a recent Sunday threatened three hours, a stark contrast to a typical American Mass that races to finish in an hour.
“When you have twenty-four hours of sunshine, you don't have to be in rush for anything” said Gyamfi, stating the pace of life in the United States is one of the most difficult adjustments for Ghanaians.
The liturgy alternates between Twi and English.
Here's a glimpse of a Sunday liturgy from Holy Family Catholic Church in Accra, Ghana via You tube. You can glimpse a deacon on the right side preparing the altar but there is no explanation for the dancing of the women in front of the altar - whether this was for a special occasion or is a standard part of the Mass in Ghana.