Credit: (Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

Ethiopian Evangelical Church
Shepherd Park

Senior Pastor: The Rev. Hanfere Aligaz

Attendance: About 700

Service Length: 2 hours

Sample Worshipper Dress: Brown jacket, brown pants, white Oxford shirt

Language: Amharic

Translation Headset Functionality: Low

Congregational Fervor

By the time the 11:30 a.m. service began, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church was strictly standing-room-only. A keyboard-and-sax-heavy band performed hymns possibly inspired by the Twin Peaks soundtrack while congregation members showed their enthusiasm through raised arms, traditional shouts, and seizurelike trance states.

Food for the Soul

Though Aligaz delivered his sermon in Amharic, the pastor stressed that the best language to use when speaking to the Lord is one of your own invention. “Ninety percent of my prayers are in tongues,” he said. “You’re talking to God himself when you are speaking in tongues. If you don’t speak [in tongues], you’re still going to heaven, but you’re missing something.…It’s for your own benefit.”

Food for the Body

No food or drink was provided after the late morning service. At other services, coffee and a traditional Ethiopian bread is available.

Overall Worship Power

Aligaz talked up the healthy size of his flock: “Go down 16th Street. How many churches do you drive by that have only 12 members?” he asked roughly 700 churchgoers. “I went into one, I talked to the janitor, and he said that there was a time when it was overflowing. The Holy Spirit had left.”