Facebook Twitter Flickr Instagram YouTube Newsletter

Ugandan worship melds European and African characteristics

Listen to Audio: 


Excerpts from a crowded weeknight Eucharistic adoration at St. Charles Lwanga church in Jinja Karoli.

Ugandan worship comprises a range of styles, incorporating more solemn and traditionally European Catholic, more celebratory and traditionally African, and Pentecostal characteristics. Often one can see all of these in a single liturgy. Some differences are notable as one moves from city center to countryside. Liturgy at central Kampala’s Christ the King Church tends to be surprisingly quiet and formal. Liturgy elsewhere mixes styles. The priest’s role is often more solemn and traditionally European, while the choir and congregation bring more movement and celebration to the liturgy. A crowded weeknight Eucharistic adoration at St. Charles Lwanga church in Jinja Karoli makes clear the contrast: The form of the service is very traditional and European, but the music and movement very African. In village areas, one more readily sees dancing incorporated into the liturgy, whereas in cities, to the degree movement is in place, it is limited to movement in place — clapping, swaying — and to small processions. 

One thing that surely stands out for a visitor to a Ugandan liturgy is the Ugandan habit of clapping at the consecration, even at the more staid central Kampala parish. Several reasons were suggested to explain the tradition, but one laywoman offered the most direct and unhesitating explanation. “We clap as a sign of welcome when an important guest has arrived at a banquet. So we do it at Mass.” 

Choir members wear uniforms, and people often dress in Sunday best, and Masses are often full outside the doors, with some people waiting outside during one Mass for seats at the next.

Learn More: