It happened just as the ushers reached the front of the church with the offering plates. The choir had finished a powerful song called "Peace on Me," and the minister, a maestro of good timing, waited a beat and then another while stillness reclaimed the sanctuary.
He stepped to the microphone, opened his mouth to bless the offering – and a voice called out from the balcony. A man’s voice, measured, somewhat muffled, but forceful and commanding.
The minister bowed his head. The ushers, choir and congregation bowed their heads. The voice continued in a sing-song cadence, biting off the word endings, not one word of it comprehensible, and from the back and to one side of the sprawling sanctuary I think the same thing I think every time I hear it: Navajo.
But it’s not Navajo. It’s glossolalia – speaking in tongues – and this Mt. Paran Church of God in suburban Atlanta, a place where speaking in tongues is regarded with the same reverence as a good altar call and a heartfelt sermon. It’s the fourth time I’ve heard it in my sporadic attendance here, and the next step is the translation by someone in the congregation.