Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams has expressed uneasiness about how Ghanaians “worship, celebrate and value” the dead more than the living, to the extent that some families neglect their relatives in times of need, even when faced by life-threatening situations such as sickness, but are suddenly eager to sponsor the funerals of those same relatives once they die.
At his second service on Sunday, 4 November 2018, the founder of Action Chapel International (ACI) said he found it amazing that some Christians get so excited about issues regarding the dead and funerals and make so much ceremony out of it.
“If you see what believers do today, the kinds of places we go. For instance, people go to the graveyard to unveil the tombs [of their dead relatives]”, he told the congregation at Spintex Road, adding: “When it was my mother’s one-year [death anniversary], I had all kinds of calls: ‘Are we going to the cemetery to unveil the tomb?’ I said: ‘What tomb?’ And I said: ‘You people can go, but I am not going anywhere. I have no covenant with the dead’.
“The Bible says: ‘Absent in the flesh, present with the Lord’. And I know some of you will say: ‘Well, but Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint His [Jesus’] body’. That was the belief of the Jews; it’s not a biblical doctrine of the New Testament”, he pointed out.
Archbishop Duncan-Williams warned Christians thus: “You got to be careful when it comes to the dead; how we worship the dead, and how we engage the dead”.
“You know”, he recalled, “Bishop Dag [Heward-Mills] said something and I thought about it and it’s very true. He said: ‘If you want people to paint your house, pretend that you are dead’. And it’s true. I’ve seen people.
“One of my distant family [members] is dead and her granddaughter is in the church here, a nice beautiful lady, and the amount of money she has spent to perform the One-Week [ceremony] and everything! … She was here to see me and she was crying, I gave her comfort and I said: ‘Don’t cry girl’. But the amount of money we spent!
“And I was told of a true story of a man that was sick somewhere in a region in Ghana, I won’t mention the name, and after many months, nobody cared about him. And he was well and the doctor said: ‘I have to discharge you now that you are well’. He said: ‘Call my family and tell them to come pay the bill’. And when he [Doctor] called them [family] to pay the bill, they insulted the doctor. They said: ‘You’re sick. We should come and pay that kind of money. Let him find the money and pay now that he’s well’.
“So, he said to the doctor: ‘Don’t worry, wait for a few weeks and call them and tell them that: ‘Your family member is dead’’. And when after a few weeks he called them and said: ‘Your ‘So so and so’ is dead’”, the family immediately exclaimed: ‘Oh, we have a funeral’.
“So, they called everybody to contribute and bring money. And he [Doctor] said: ‘Triple the amount, add more to it’. So, they brought the money, cash. They paid, he [Doctor] gave them a receipt, and he said: ‘Let me take you to the mortuary’. He carried them to the room where the man was. When they got there, he [the sick man] was seated on the bed with powder all over [him]. Then they [family members] screamed: ‘Ghost!’ Then they said: ‘Doctor, give us back our money, we’ll beat you’. The doctor said: ‘It’s too late’.
“The way we celebrate the dead in this country, if the money we spend on the dead, we spend it on people when they are alive, they’ll live long and they won’t die. We have value for the dead. And I hear people say: ‘I’m going to pay my last respects’, then they come and stand by the casket [and bow]’. You’re lying; hypocrite, liar. You are laughing when you go and stand there”, he said.