Church name/type: True Witness Apostolic Faith Church, belongs to a denomination called TCAF (True Church Apostolic Faith), a group with Pentecostal origins
Pastor: Evangelist Euthia Benson
Style of worship:Umm…shouty. Very shouty. Loose format otherwise.
Overall Impression:Wow, this church defies description. I’ll try anyway!
So, where to start? They don’t keep careful track of time at this place. When I arrived at the advertised time of 2:45pm something was already happening. In fact I believe I caught the end if their afternoon bible study spilling into the actual service. Advertised ending time was supposed to be 4pm, but I was there until 5:30. The church building was the same one used by the ELCA church I attended some months ago, which is why they hold service in the afternoon. There were exactly seven people there including the pastor. All of them were black. I think this was related to the preaching/worship style, which is a type I had never experienced before in person.
Since the preaching was almost the whole show here, I’ll try to describe it. I get the feeling that biblical memorization has a huge presence with this church and perhaps denomination as well. The way the speaker was rattling off lines and passages from the bible made it clear she knew it all pretty well. The style of preaching was very unusual to my experience. For one thing, much of it was simply reiteration of parts of the biblical narrative. We heard about God’s creation of Adam and his disobedient nature, all the way up to Abraham and the near-sacrifice of Isaac. Then in terms of New Testament we got a synopsis of Jesus, Mary’s divine conception and her interacting with her cousin Elizabeth, up through Jesus as an adult. We heard how he was baptized followed by the dove/spirit falling on him, and his subsequent temptation by Satan. All this is pretty standard knowledge. The weirdest part, however was the volume and tone of delivery. The church leader started off talking and then slowly began to raise her voice as if in great excitement. Actually now I think about it, it was more like she thought she was being pushed backwards away from us and had to keep getting louder so we could hear her. I called it ‘shouting’ but the term ‘hollering’ might be more appropriate. It was nearly melodic at times, like a loud chant. And she rose to such a fevered pitch at one point I actually feared her ability to go on. Seriously, I wrote in my notes ‘Is this woman about to hyperventilate?’ She was panting hard and I really wanted to just get her a glass of water and tell her to take a break already. I honestly have never seen anything quite like it among all the churches I’ve ever been to ever. This woman preached for a whole hour, maintaining high volume for at least 30 minutes of that. Frankly, I am astonished that she manages this once a week every week.
There were several interesting bits I scribbled down which my phone has now lost. From memory: 1) Our speaker mentioned it never rained at all on earth until God brought the flood rains down on Noah. 2) Heavy emphasis on our ‘burial’ during baptism and how the Adam nature stays buried so we can rise up again in Christ leaving it behind 3) I’ve been reading about the evolution of Christology in the first couple centuries and how they reconciled Jesus as both God and man, and so found this bit particularly interesting -she said Christ was born a man and upon the descent of that dovelike spirit was filled with God. 4) I asked the preacher about who lied to Eve. Remember how I maintain the God lied when he said Adam and Eve would die upon eating the forbidden fruit? I was told their death was a metaphorical one in which they lost access to God. Convenient that.
During the break between the bible lesson the the actual service I talked with the Pastor. The most annoying thing about this conversation was the lack of normal English; I’m talking about heavy Christianese. When she first came up to me she said something about whether I knew about the rebirth in water and the spirit. I said, “Um, you mean being a Christian??” Seriously, if you suspect someone doesn’t know about Jesus, what a weird way to ask if they’ve heard. Trying to be polite, I just let her mostly ramble. She got talking about familiar spirits and the Ten Commandments and whatever. I still don’t really know if she had a point for me. I did get another interesting bit out of her though. I mentioned the small number of congregants and asked if it was usual. She replied that it was the normal amount and that this was because many will be called but very few will stay. I guess this is like a vague reference to a chosen few who make it into God’s kingdom in the end? If that’s what she meant, she was saying the church is supposed to be small and that’s how they know they are getting it right. I didn’t stay very long after the service because it was already so late. One woman asked me if I might come back again. Not wanting to lie, I said, “Probably not.” She seemed concerned about this, but I didn’t change my answer. This stuff is really not my style, and the project beckons.
Website?: None that I can find. And it’s ridiculous trying to search the web for good information on TCAF as a denomination. Pentecostal groups in general seem to be extremely fractured and reunited, making their twists and turns hard to follow. This church needs to move into the future already. All I can find is one other church using the acronym. They refer to a wider group called PCAF (Pentecostal Church Apostolic Faith). The PCAF website is rather more informative, and mentions in their history the church springing from a group called PAW (Pentecostal Assemblies of the World). So at least I now know the basic evolution of the denomination. PAW -> PCAF -> TCAF