On a warm Saturday evening, Martha arrived at the church for the choir rehearsal in preparation for the yearly carol service.
She was dressed in a flowery patterned yellow gown, which ran down to a little below her knee.
Because she was almost late, she hurried without noticing two middle-aged women; Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Williams, who were on a bench close to the church entrance.
They sat close, talking and whispering to each other, keen on everyone entering the church, especially the youths. They were like school prefects waiting to catch late comers. They watched, they commented and sneered.
It was the call of her name that jolted Martha, and she quickly curtsied in greeting to the two Deaconesses.
“Eku irole ma,” she said.
“I thought we are two small for you to greet,” Mrs. Johnson replied.
“I’m sorry,” she pleaded. I’m in a hurry to get to choir practice.”
“That’s okay,” Mrs. Williams replied and asked after her parents.
“They are fine ma,” Martha responded.
Moving close, Mrs. Johnson held her cloth at the neckline, and tried pulling it up.
“This neckline is too low. It’s almost showing your cleavage,” She said.
“Mummy!” Martha frowned and removed her hand.“That’s the reason why I have an inner wear under.”
“Must you wear this kind of cloth? It’s too showy,” Mrs. Johnson insisted. “See the flowers on it. Also, your head is not properly covered. A child of God must be dressed appropriately, with no strand of hair showing. Look at your gown, don’t you see that it’s too short?
“It’s below the knee, Martha replied.”
“Didn’t your mother see you before you left the house? Mrs. Johnson asked. “I trust my daughter Kike. She will never dress like this.”
Martha refused replying, but checked her wrist watch.
“You are even checking your watch,” Mrs. Johnson continued, telling me that I’m wasting your time.”
“No ma, it’s just that I don’t agree that my dressing is out of place.”
“I’m telling you that this dress is not modest. I have the mind to send you back home, and as a Deaconess of this church, I have the right to do so. Because of God, I will allow you to go in for what you came for. But next time,” she emphasized by pulling her right ear. “Remember your gown must be down to your ankle, your hair must be properly covered and your ear ring must not dangle.”
“I wonder if those are new laws,” Martha grumbled, with tears welling up in her eyes.
“You have guts,” Mrs. Williams exclaimed. “Is that how you talk to your Mum at home?”
“I’m sorry ma,” Martha replied, looking sideways.
“With this kind of character, there’s no way you won’t pollute well trained children in the church.”
“With due respect ma, I am a saved child of God.”
“I can’t pollute anyone because I’m not polluted. I don’t know why you are always picking on me.”
“Jesus!” Mrs. Johnson screamed. You have over stepped your boundary. Now! Go back home,” she said, pointing towards the gate. “Go and tell your mother that I disallowed you from entering the church. Let her give you the home training you lack.”
“I wish you will be more concerned with the spiritual life of the people in the church and not just their outward appearance,” Martha said. “God knows you are picking on me unjustly. My dressing is as good as anybody’s.”
Martha was in tears as she left the church compound.
Turning to each other, the two Deaconesses gave a knowing smile, as Mrs. Williams mouthed, “What audacity?”
“Leave her, she’s growing wings,” Mrs. Johnson replied. “It is because everyone is calling her good girl, as if our own children are not good. She is always at the fore front of every one of them.”
“That will soon stop.”
“What do you mean?” Mrs. Johnson asked, moving closer to her.
“Didn’t you notice something?”
“Are you not a woman?”
Mrs. Williams whispered into her ear.
“Oti o, it’s not possible. Pre.gnant?”
“I can detect a day old pregnancy in a matured woman, talk less of a girl that is 3 months gone.”
“Tell me another story,” Mrs. Johnson said eagerly.
“Didn’t you see that her breasts are bigger, and her waist line is thicker?”
Mrs. Johnson re-tied her wrapper and clapped her hands before speaking again. Scornfully, she said, “and she wants to continue climbing the altar to defile it. The pastor must hear this.”
Hastening towards the pastor’s office, her friend trailed after her.
“Where are you going?” she asked, panting.
“To intimate the pastor,” Mrs. Johnson replied.
“But we have not verified.”
“Are you not sure of what you saw?”
“Wonders shall never end.”
They rushed to the pastor, beaming as if they had the most important news of the year.
The pastor was dumbfounded when he heard what they had to say.
“Are you sure? Has she been tested?” He asked. “The bible says we should find out all things, and hold on to the truth.”
“I’m very sure of what I saw sir,” Mrs. Williams responded. “I can recognize a day old pre.gnancy in a snail.”
“Let’s put the snail part aside,” the pastor said, sinking into a chair. “If it turns out to be true, it would be a very bad news.”
“On the contrary sir, it is good news that we are able to discover in time, before she does something funny to it,” Mrs. Johnson chipped in.
“But, It’s bad that our children are going wayward, and doing contrary to what we taught them from the cradle,” the pastor insisted.
“Is it the problem of the church? or negligence from the parents? Where are we getting it wrong? I’m pricked to the heart,” he lamented.
“We should continue to discipline them, so that others will learn when they see them being disgraced and humiliated.” Mrs. Johnson suggested.
“But it’s not working. We’ve had to discipline 4 members in the space of a year. Immorality is rife in the church, despite all the teachings we are giving.” The pastor cried.
“In my opinion,” Mrs. Johnson said, “the punishment being meted out is mild, that’s why our kids keep on sleeping around. Then, the parents too are to blame. I don’t see how a girl will be under my roof, be sleeping with a man, up to the extent of getting pregnant for months, and I will not know. It’s bad, and the parents as well should face the music.”
“You have a point there madam,” the pastor said, and asked, “What do we do about the case?”
“We have to confront her.”
“Let her tell us what happened, and the person responsible.
“Let’s take it easy and thread softly,” the pastor cautioned. “So that we don’t accuse her wrongly. I still have some misgivings about the issue, that girl is decent, and I have a witness in me that she is a child of God.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to defend whatever she might have done. If really she is pregnant, she would face the wrath of the church.”
“The church is delegating the two of you to do a thorough investigation. If possible, go to her parent, interview the girl, and come back with facts. I give you two days to get back to me.”
“Yes sir,” Mrs. Johnson answered.
© Bosede Fagbemi