Rhapsody and blessings plus a CD for R50

Sibongile Mashaba and Tebogo Monama

Sibongile Mashaba and Tebogo Monama

It was business as usual yesterday at the Christ Embassy Church in Randburg, Johannesburg, the seat of power of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome.

Hordes of well-dressed people, arriving in luxury cars, were to be seen around the church.

Something else that caught the eye were men and women standing at the gate, selling booklets titled Rhapsody of Realities to congregants entering the premises.

Rhapsody of Realities is a glossy daily devotional book with messages from Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his wife Pastor Anita. It costs R15.

At 8am it's time for praise and worship. The head of the Randburg church is Ose Oyakhilome, who is married to Pastor Chris' brother Kenneth.

The praise and worship is punctuated by a session to view a promotional video about the church's healing school.

The congregants are then asked to "partner" with the church to ensure that people around the world benefit from the school.

By "partnering" with the church, congregants "partake of the grace and blessings and anointing upon Pastor Chris", among other things.

Yesterday's sermon was delivered by a visiting pastor.

The church refused to release the pastor's name.

The priest did not alert his congregants to the article that appeared in Sowetan on Friday in any direct manner.

If he did, he used coded language like: "If you hear news from afar that shakes your heart, get in your room and pray.

"You must be violent with your faith."

At which the audience clapped their hands and screamed.

In the Sowetan article a man claimed that he was recruited and promised R10000 by one of the pastors at the church to pretend that he was wheelchair-bound.

The man would then be "healed" by Pastor Chris at the Night of Bliss held at Johannesburg Stadium two weeks ago.

The pastor preached about wealth and health. In his sermon he quoted Pastor Chris a few times.

"Remember the sermon that Pastor Chris gave us titled "We are different?" It is true, we are really different and not like the rest of society."

When it was time to give tithes he urged people not to give "small change" and also asked them to buy a CD for R50 at a "reduced price".

When the service ended, people flocked to the mini flea-market in the church. The tables sold Pastor Chris' CDs, books and DVDs.

As the congregants were filing out, hundreds of other people were standing outside to attend the 10.30am service.

Sowetan received a lot of correspondence after Friday's article.

A disabled Soweto man wanted to know: "Why is it that the people who are healed at these seminars are unknown to ordinary community members?"

Simphiwe Motloung of Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, said: "God spoke to Pastor Chris, that is why he came for us.

"People in South Africa are hungry for the word of God."