Worshipers at Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

The Grand Finale. Although I've already visited many churches here in Ethiopia, visiting the Debre Birhan Selassie Church last during the celebration of Fasika, tops it all. It will be my last major visit to a church in Ethiopia, and I think it was the most special visit. I heard rumors that the main service was to begin around midnight and go until about three AM. So yesterday around noon I took a nap. In the evening after diner I went to find the church so I didn't have to swhack around at midnight trying to find it. But my fellow traveler Wayne was getting sick, so we B-lined back to the hotel. So at 11:30PM, not knowing exactly where I was going, I joined forces with a medical student doing his internship here from Germany. We headed out into the midnight streets of Gonder and asked a few people who directed us towards the Debre Birhan Selassie Church. At the gate a tout tried to pry some money out of us, but a priest saved us from him. 

Worshipers outside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

I stayed outside the church until I spotted the French filmmaker Vincent Moon, and then approached him. We didn't talk much but shared some of the same angles into the inside of the church. 

Worshipers inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Most of the service the Priests and Deacons were reading scripture. At one point the Deacons toured around the Holy Text allowing all who wanted to kiss the books. 

Deacons tour the Holy Text for worshipers to kiss, inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Deacons tour the Holy Text outside while worshipers sleep on the floor

Worshipers tithing, inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers getting sleepy, inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

After fasting for 24 hours with no water, at about three AM the worshipers started to get pretty tired looking. Many were passed out on the floor under blankets. 

Worshipers making music, inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Suddenly somewhere after 3AM the Deacons handed out noise makers and everyone started shaking the noise makers. Then a Deacon wearing black started bowing to the ground and more people crowded around. Was the end near? 

Deacon prostrating inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Then a man behind me started to speak to me in English. "That concludes the ceremony!" He said this with a lot of enthusiasm. I bet he was stoked to go home and eat some meat, as it's been 55 days since most Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia have eaten any meat products. There was some candle lighting to guide the path home for the worshipers. 

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Worshipers with beeswax candles leaving Debre Birhan Selassie Church on the night of Fasika

Overall I was pretty stoked to see the ceremony of Fasika, even if it involved a night with little sleep. The lighting conditions were super challenging. Using a flash during the most important religious ceremony of the year seemed like a bad idea. So far in Gonder there's been little hassles and this visit to the church was mellow. 
This is likely to be my last "assignment" for a while. Tomorrow I'll begin my two-day journey overland back to Addis. On Friday night I'm headed back to NYC to complete my second around-the-world journey. 

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