Why did the chicken cross the road?...er, Why did David go to Ethiopia?
Answer...I am doing research on a large indigenous Pentecostal group called the Apostolic Church of Ethiopia. It is the largest group in the world representing the tradition in which I specialize--over 3 million. I visited Ethiopia last spring, interviewed the national bishop and collected some material. But I wanted to meet the founding leader, Bishop Teklemariam Gezahagne.
Second, I wanted to experience an unusual phenomenon of this group, even for Africa--an annual 3-day gathering in the southern region attended by a half million followers! This gathering began in 1992 and continues to grow each year. The church owns the property and a massive outdoor worship space sheltered by thousands of large canvasses. I was told that there were 400 thousand under the canvas (worship space) and another 100,000 in the surrounding tents that service the crowd--food, gift shops, etc.
The three days are spent in worship, singing and preaching. It all takes a lot of time. But the "presentations" are always dynamic and physical...singing filled with dancing and preaching "on the move" as the preachers walk or run around the central pulpit which itself is in the round. There are always interpreters, for up to 4 languages at a time. So the translators themselves have to be good preachers to communicate the message equally dynamically in each dialect...as well as keep up with the main preacher. I fared well as I had my own interpreter traveling with me, and other leaders on the platform assisted from time to time.
I was privileged to be invited to sit with the church leaders on the central covered platform. This gave me greater access to much of what was going on.
Praying: Throughout the worship, people would spontaneously turn to prayer; the posture is very mideastern and identical to the Muslim prayer posture.