The place is Cameroon in East Central Africa. Seven hundred people have gathered to attend the weekly Sunday Mass outdoors. There is no church building, only an open shed nearby, to protect the altar in case of rain. And distinctively African qualities permeate the ritual. For example, Ong compares the effect of oyenga, a drawn-out, piercing shriek voiced several times during Mass by a woman in the choir, to that of the bells formerly used in Western services under the "older Roman liturgy."
The ceremony takes advantage of Ewondo's "tonal language," rather than "deforming" it with Western music, Ong observes. The overall result is a "thinking through of the mystery of faith in an African context" and a manifestation of fidelity to both traditions and roots. (For a contrast to his admiration of this meshing of a religion and a culture, see Ong's criticism of Eurocentric Christendom in his article "Do We Live in a Post-Christian Age?")
University of Dayton