Last Sunday found me in Lekki, a tiny peninsula that harbors a collection of beaches and leisure centers in Southern Nigeria. I was checking out a church a friend of mine had recommended. The Present House or TPH as it is popularly called is a funky place of worship located a couple of kilometers from the affluent Victoria Island, in Lagos.
The first impression I get as soon I set foot in TPH is the magnificent car collection in the parking yard, about 15 meters from the church’s periphery. It looks like a meeting point for the island’s bourgeoisies. One is almost tempted to imagine natural selection determines who congregates here.
Inside the church proper, pristinely-suited ushers direct me to areas with available pews. Every seat bears a white envelope with clear inscriptions on what it’s to be used for – the day’s offertory. The inscription also suggests the envelopes are not to be sealed.
The worship style is your typical Pentecostal style a la Watoto. TPH does two services, I am told. I had gone for the 10 am service, the second of the day. At the dais, TPH choir leads the praise session. They take us though rounds of exuberant performances reminiscent of an ebullient Kanda Bongo Man during his Kwasa Kwasa days.
The song lyrics vary; from the mainstream pop, through to fast-paced native compositions laced with lots of Igbo jargon. They are relayed onto the numerous screens that grace this air-conditioned edifice.
We sing along. We raise our hands and smile to strangers. We then slow down to worship before the female pastor takes to the dais. She makes a funky intro and the whole place goes dark. The projector screens go bright and neat images start to play. It’s time for the day’s announcements.
These don’t last long, and a full-blown sermon soon gets underway. I can’t help but notice the architectural set-up. One would imagine all Pentecostal churches use the same architect for their design.
Two hours after I had made that skeptical entrance into TPH, the service draws to a close. It is one of those special Sundays. There is pizza and other stuff outside, and they are not going to eat themselves. I saunter to the serving place and help myself to the sumptuous serving.
A number of tents are erected at this end of the Church lawn. There is one for first-time visitors, too; and many others. A hired DJ animatedly does his thing; accidentally (or otherwise) slotting Jennifer Lopez’s If you had my love in the mix before fast forwarding to The Winans’ It’s Alright (Send Me). The sun is scorching hot, and I have to make the short journey back to my hotel.