The Musang congregation: voices of the lay-people are heard

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This is the only chapter comprising of empirical research and it revolves around members of the Musang congregation. The aim here is to assess member opinion, feeling and attitude towards the emerging healing ministry. The research took place between the months of February and March 2014. The participants included twenty members (11 females and 9 males) of PC Musang and six clergy (one female and five males). For the laity, two members of each of the seven choir groups and two members of each of the three “movements” were interviewed by the researcher. Eligibility (Frey & Oishi 1995:56) for the laity was based on the fact that they were top leaders (holding positions of greater service responsibility) in their groups, that is, the president and the secretary of each group were interviewed. Constitutionally, only members of good moral standing, (‘mature in the faith and active commitment’) can be elected to these top leadership positions. This is so because leadership in the church is “leading people to Christ” and this entails a lot of sacrifices (time, money, physical and manual and talents). Eligibility for the clergy was based on the fact that they are currently ministering in the Musang congregation or have ministered in this congregation since 2004. Two clergy who are presently ministering in this congregation were interviewed including four other clergy who have ministered in this congregation.
From December 16-18, 2013, I carried out a pre-field pilot interview schedules with five volunteers (all Christians of PC Musang) three of whom are teachers and are used to various survey methods. A pilot test (or pre-testing) aims at trying out, with the purpose of helping to produce a survey form and information that are usable in relation to the main objectives of that research (Fink & Kosecoff 1998:5, 35-36). The volunteers were very helpful to me, their constructive criticism (feedbacks) helped in the way I actually conducted myself, communicated with the respondents and carried out the actual interview. Open-ended, semi-structured interview schedules, comprising of eleven questions for the laity and five questions for the clergy, were presented to each of the twenty-six participants through a one-on-one interview schedule.
The insights of Floyd (2002:76-82), Foddy (1993 especially 181-192) and Fink and Kosecoff (1998:3-6), are of great importance in designing the questions and asking them during the interview. The entire interview lasted for a period of nine days and the duration of interview per participant ranged between forty to sixty minutes. There were also some probes up questions to enable the researcher to get as much information as possible from the participants. In the following paragraph, I will explain how the research was conducted.

How the empirical research process unfolded

This part of the research requires considerable coordination and attention to details. The process began with the sample selection and ended with the interview and the taking down of notes of the 26 participant. This research process can be summarised in three main stages: respondents’ preparation, the researcher’s self-preparation, and the collection of data through open-ended semi-structured interview. I agree with Swinton and Mowat (2006: 63-64) who states that:
Interviews are concentrated human encounters that take place between the researcher who is seeking knowledge and the research participant who is willing to share their experience and knowledge. Such encounters are designed to enable the researcher to access and understand the unique meanings, interpretations and perspectives that the participant places on the chosen subject.
In addition, the entire probe up questions, together with observations throughout the interview further provided the researcher with more and valuable raw data. I need to add here that knowledge gained in my counselling diploma studies especially in the behavioural module enabled me to really gather more information about their experiences and emotions through their non-verbal actions.
Through the one-on-one interview, participants recounted their stories, the realities of their life experiences (and even those of others) and the impact of such lived-realities in their lives. The researcher will then use these data to reflect, analyse, structure, order, reconstruct and recount how these Christians are feeling, interpreting, benefiting, and understanding the emerging healing ministry. I agree again with Swinton and Mowat (2006: 38, 41-60) that narrative knowledge is perceived to be a legitimate, rigorous and valid form of knowledge that informs us about the world in ways which are publicly significant. One importance of this method is that it takes into account the significance and influence of the sociocultural context of the eyewitness account or the account of one’s life experiences; the individual integrity as distinct living human beings and their values, norms and belief systems. Such a method and first-hand information can enable the researcher to gain a deeper insight and knowledge including the impact or effect that the healing ministry is having on the daily lives of members of the PCC. Such knowledge can then help the researcher to attempt answers to some of the questions raised in this project. This leads us to propose some measures that can help to meet the goals and objectives of the research and that of the mission of PCC which draws its inspiration from Luke 4:18-19. This further gives a significance publicly and an eventual generalisations of these realities to other people and context, and have a further validity of the research method.

The respondents’ preparations

Firstly, all through this research project, I am aware of certain vital points and one of them is that, the majority of researchers hope for a very high response rate to enable them to collect sufficient data needed for their projects which will enable them to partly or fully achieve their aims of surveying. Secondly, a high response rate will also help to provide high quality data which may lend more credibility to the validity and reliability of their results (measurements) and eventually to the generalisations (the Swetnams 2009:23), of their observations, conclusions and recommendations (Frey & Oishi 1995:30-32). I am conscious that, to have a high respondents’ rate, I need to cooperate (motivate, encourage and word the questions correctly see in this regard especially Foddy (1993: 1-9) and Floyd (2002:76-81) with all the eligible participants and as such, I left nothing for chance. The response rate is the degree to which cooperation is obtained from all eligible respondents in a sample.
Response rate = completed interviews / numbers of eligible respondents
The response rate is the measure of effectiveness of data collection (Frey & Oishi 1995:30, Fink 1995:53-57 and Fink & Kosecoff 1998:5-6, 50). With this in mind, I did all I could leaving nothing for chance, in ensuring from stage after stage, that I obtained a high quality data including a high response rate from the respondents through a one-on-one in- person interview. A one-on-one in-person interview is a ‘purposeful conversation’ with a structure in which a researcher asks the same set of prepared questions in a consistent way to all selected respondents with the aim of gathering information on a focused content (Frey & Oishi 1995:1, Swetnam 2009:65. Such data can either stand, or analyse on its own, or be used as part of a research project.
The two clergy who were currently ministering in the Musang congregation and the volunteers, I got the names and contact details of the eligible participants in the Musang congregation and the clergy who have ministered in this congregation since 2004 and immediately I started communicating with them. From our initial phone conversations, I found out that the research topic was of interest to the participants and that the two clergy currently ministering in this congregation were very willing to assist me to obtain the best results that I needed.
The letter of introduction and consent form for participation in the project were sent to each participant through the volunteers. I made phone calls two weeks afterwards again to all the participants to be sure that they have all received both letters and understood their contents and were ready for the interview on the suggested week and days. Before this time, I had already informed all the eligible clergy through phone calls that I will interview them at their various parishes and we individually agreed on the date. The eligible clergy had no worries with the consent and the letter of introduction. Some of lay persons were unwilling to participate in anything that can reveal their identity. I had to do everything I could to reassure the participants through phone calls of absolute confidentiality, anonymity without identification (Fink & Kosecoff 1998:36). They were assured information such as names and phone numbers will not be revealed to anyone but that I will only record their responses in my note book.
Furthermore, I reassured them that I will not be judgemental or biased to any of their opinions or responses to any of the already prepared questions during and after the interview. Again, I informed them that I needed an honest response from them and assured them that the final copy of the project will be in our Seminary library in Kumba for anyone to read if they wished to do so.
A reminder text message was sent to the participants two days to the one-on-one interview date, and a text message also that their transport expenses incurred participating in the interview will be refunded. I wish to make this note here; the majority of the participants after the interview refused to take any transport expenses. They told me that they are interested in the research and want me to succeed as much as possible which was such an additional commendable effort from them. I was equally cautious about the environment where the interview was performed. So, I did everything possible to reduce any limitations. The interview for the 20 (11 females and 9 males) participants took place either in the Musang congregation (18 members) or around Musang neighbourhood (office, 2 members).
The youngest participant was aged 26 and the oldest 78 years. Before we proceed on how the day of the interview was, I need to say something about myself preparation toward the one-on-one interview.

Self preparation

Swinton and Mowat (2006:58) have observed that the key to good qualitative research does not lie in technical knowledge alone. Good research requires a certain approach which is dependent on the researcher’s self-awareness. Our focus here is this researcher’s continuous self-awareness, self-reflexivity, sensitivity and self-preparation towards the one-on-one interview after reaching a conclusion on structuring the questionnaire, selecting, motivating and encouraging the sample to be interviewed. Swinton and Mowat (2006:58-61) defined reflexivity “… as a process of self-reflection carried out by the researcher throughout the research process that enables her to monitor and respond to her contribution to the entire proceedings.” They are right in holding that sensitivity and reflexivity are closely intertwined. More information about sensitivity and self-reflection will be developed later. I already mentioned above about the field pre-testing of the interview schedules with five volunteers in December 2013 and January 2014, in the Musang congregation. I must admit here that the feedback I got from the volunteers contributed in preparing me better towards the actual interview, the writing down of the data, the transcription and the eventual analyses and interpretation of the raw data.
There was constantly ‘this voice in my mind’ (especially after the feedback from the field pretesting exercise), reminding me about my personality during the one-on-one interview and that the interview is a key data collection tool to use to get as much information as possible from the respondents yet remaining formal, friendly and focused. This also kept reminding me that I am ‘the primary key tool’ and how effective I am in listening, recording and my general sensitivity and reflexivity toward the entire research will actually produce effective measures (Swetnam 2009: 64-69). There are various methods of interpreting and analysing data just as there are in collecting data. Data analyses and discussions are the processes of critical reflection whereby the researcher assigns meanings to the data collected during the entire research process. I ensured a cordial relationship was already existing between the researcher and the participants (and the congregation both the clergy and laity) before the date of interview: firstly, because of our initial conversations and secondly, because I had ministered in this congregation where I initiated the monthly healing services and started the two Sunday services; I built the present clergy’s house and was one of the founding members of the NGO among other activities, events and projects. I conducted the entire interview myself and on each interview day, I often arrived at least thirty minutes before the scheduled time. I checked the table and placed the two chairs at each end of the table in one corner of the church, placed my note book and my pen on my seat and waited for the respondent to arrive.
On his or her arrival, I tried to make the interviewee feel comfortable and relax as much as possible. For instance, a smile and at the same time we greeted and wished each other a happy day, followed by a hand shake, general conversation for 2-3 minutes about the interviewee’s family and job. Furthermore I assured him or her again of strict confidentiality, non-bias or judgemental, the purpose of the research and the importance of the participant’s contributions to the research and that the interviewee is not forced to answer any question and can call off the interview at any time. After putting off our cell phones, the respondent’s permission form was read and signed and we proceeded to the actual interview (questions 1-11).


Data collection through the one-on-one interview.

I have already indicated above, that there are various types of data collection methods. I need to add here that after pondering over and over again through the research problem, the research objectives, the interview schedule and the sample frame, I finally chose the one-on-one interview method. Schaeffer insights are important here (2004: 369-377). This method had three main advantages over and against the other methods at my disposal.
Firstly, it was the best method that can enable me to get to the root of the research problem. Secondly and more importantly, this method provides some answers to the research questions and thus to a deeper understanding of the experience that motivated the research. This leads eventually to the improvement to that experience that necessitated the research in the first place. The aim of the one-on-one interview thus was to get a grip of the congregants’ and clergy’s feelings, attitudes, opinions and experiences concerning the emerging healing ministry in the congregation including the practice of anointing and exorcism in such healing services. Thirdly, such a method also enables the researcher to realise some of the objectives of this project and further motivated the researcher to carry out further research (Swinton & Mowat 2006:55-56, Frey & Oishi 1995:1-6) after the completion of this present one.
I used one pre-prepared questionnaire comprising 11 (eleven) questions for the laity and 5 (five) for the clergy throughout each interview. These questions were ‘simple and modest’ and were asked in a similar style that was consistent to all the participants starting with the first question and ending with the last question as written on my questionnaire’ sheet. During the entire interview period, I also explored what we call in professional counselling, ‘active listening and keen observations,’ which enabled me not only to take down written text, but also to understand through the participants’ body actions and movements (gestures and postures) some of the feelings and emotions of some of their life experiences as they responded to the questions. In most cases I read each (4-11) question twice and slowly for a better understanding of the question.
The interviewee’s response (yes or no) to question 4 was the determining factor to proceed with the interview or to terminate it at question 5. All the 20 (laity) interviewees answered YES to question 4, which enabled me to continue with the interview. None of the 20 participants terminated the interview at any stage; all the participants answered all the 11 questions and some probe up questions. Some of the probe up questions came through observations of the respondent’s voice and tone, facial expressions, body movement among others while others came to further get a grip of the respondent’s feelings, attitude and better understanding of their responses. All the 20 participants were interviewed individually and were interviewed in the English language.
Six (one female and five males) clergy also participated in the research project, two are presently ministering in the congregation and were interviewed at Musang; four who had ministered in the congregation, were interviewed in their offices at their present parishes of work at the time of the interview. On the agreed date of the interview, the interviewee and I started with some general conversations as already said above and followed by the signing off the respondent permission form then proceeding to the actual research questions (1-5). All the clergy answered all the 5 questions. There were several probes up questions from the researcher to better get the theological and practical experiences of the clergy.
I am very aware that ‘the telling of their stories,’ the accurate recordings of these told-stories and the eventual transcriptions, formed the heart of this research. No change is therefore given for errors. With such an understanding, I coded all the questions in my personal note book and developed a type of shorthand writing during the entire interview in order to take as much information as possible and to be as accurate as possible with the daily written information. In some cases I pleaded with the participants to speak slowly or to repeat themselves so that I could copy word verbatim, that is, taken down all their words, phrases and sentences in particular responses. I need to say here that more than half of the written document per participant, was word verbatim. In this way, I was able to write down as much original information as possible. All their responses are written down in my ‘note books.’ Before I went to bed each day, I developed the shorthand writings of that day of each participant into a clear written document or transcript and each participant had a file containing all their responses including notes of their various visual observations during the entire interview period and on the various probe up questions.

 General observations

There was really a high degree of cooperation between the researcher and the participants. Three probe up questions that were consistent to all the 26 participants had to do with the causes of illnesses, the impact of traditional healing and healers and their understanding of the words health, sickness and healing. I need to make this point here that additional topics or chapters are added from the ones presented with the research proposal in order to do justice to the research results and the research objectives. I needed to say more about the research by first assigning some meaning to the findings of the laity and then we will move to that of the clergy. By doing this, we are partly analysing and interpreting the written documents of the interview. And the best method is by using a narrative research.

The Musang congregation: voices of the lay-people are heard

The Musang congregation is found in the Mezam presbytery of the north-west region of Cameroon. This is one of the fast growing congregations in the Mezam presbytery. It has a Christian population of above 3000 (three thausands) and Sunday school children above 1500. (one thousand five hundred). The congregation operates a dual Sunday service system because of the population. The Musang scenario is already familiar to me for several reasons but I tried as much as possible to distant myself mentally during this research from that familiar scenario and looked at the whole scenario through theory (Depoy & Giflin 2005: 15-17). I did so because of my understanding that theoretical perspective will enable me to gain further insight and understanding to the participants’ life as they lived (what actually happened) and experienced it (their feelings, emotions, thoughts, meaning known to the one who lived the experienced) within our socio-cultural context. This congregation has six choir groups and three movements: Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF), Christian Women Fellowship (CWF), and Christian Men Fellowship (CMF). Two members from each of the choir groups and two members from each of the movements and two members from members of the congregation who do not belong to any choir group or movement participated in the research.

1.1 The context of this research project
1.2 General comments
1.3 Literature review
1.4 The research problem
1.5 Additional motivations
1.6 Explanation of some words, terms or phrases
1.7 Reflections on the research project
1.8 The Research methodology
1.9 Objectives and contributions to knowledge
1.10 Limitations
1. 11 Outline of the thesis
2.1 Introduction
2.2 A brief explanation of Theological reflections
2.3. A literary overview of Calvin’s thoughts on the healing ministry
2.4 A brief Reformed view of the Church
2.5 “The ministry to the sick and the dying”
2.6 The liturgy for the institution and induction of a Parish Pastor (BODS Volume 11 1982: 85)
2.7 A general critique of the typical Reformed responses to people who are ill.
2.8 A new approach is of utmost importance
3.2 How the empirical research process unfolded
3.3 The Musang congregation: voices of the lay-people are heard
4.2 An overview of the term ‘worldview’
4.3. Some main theological and practical issues raised in the results
4.4. The impact of traditional healers
4.5. The worth of the African worldview
5.2 The Reformed tradition did not get everything right
5.3. The decline of the healing ministry
5.4. The significance of the main research methods
5.5. The significance of the empirical research findings
6.2. A reflection on God’s on-going compassionate love
6.3. The significance of Jesus’ healing ministry for the church today
6.4.1 “Filled with compassion…”
6.5 A reflection on the healing mission of the disciples
6. 6 Healing in the New Testament
6.7 Spiritual gifts
6.8 Evangelist.
6.9. The Great Commission
7.2 ‘The church and spiritual healing’
7.3 A brief summary of the structure, nature and programme of the healing service in the Musang congregation.
7.4 A reflection on the understanding of healing
7.5 The significance of the healing service in the Musang congregation

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