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Priscilla Garcia

Fieldwork in Brazil

Pastor Elizete prays for a believer at one of ADVEC's church services (Priscilla Garcia, 2017)My field research began investigating the current involvement of a Pentecostal mega-church in Brazil with national politics, asking how through this political engagement Christians imagine, perform, and relate to ethical discourse and practice. Throughout my fieldwork I learnt from my informants that what makes one a good Christian is how much he or she engages with the "obra" (the work of the Kingdom of God, which is to be implemented on Earth). Good Christians are those who receive and improve the gifts and talents God bestowed them with to change the world around them. Such change occurs first inside the church; a church that is active, that strives - through people's work in it and for it - to mingle with society by influencing it politically, socially, and culturally. Being a Christian, for these believers, is about working. Working to receive, improve, and use the gifts and talents one has received from God (be it to sing, cook, preach, organise events, be a politician, and so on) to bear fruits, which are the expansion of the Kingdom of God on Earth, the cure of oneself from sin, and the improvement of the world around them through the salvation of souls. The photos selected here depict three situations in which the believers' gifts and talents are associated with ethical thought and practice through Christian work and are aimed to change one’s self and influence society.

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In this photograph, Pastor Elizete prays for a believer at one of ADVEC's church services. The pastor speaks in tongues and vehemently cries out to Jesus to baptize the believer she is praying for with the Holy Spirit. The performance depicted here is part of a church wide campaign that happens every year during the month of May. At every Tuesday night church service, the church reserves the last 30 minutes to "levantar um clamor" (to "raise" a clamour) for those church members who have not yet been baptized with the Holy Spirit. The baptized-to-be members go to the front of the pulpit to receive prayers from the pastors and the congregation. For these Pentecostal believers, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, mostly evident in the ability to speak in tongues, is understood to be a seal of one's intimacy with God. This seal works as a public evidence of the gifts of power and authority that comes directly from God to those who constantly seek God and his will. Being a baptized member, as my informants often say, gives authority and strength to the Christian to do the "obra". According to them, "how could one speak about God's power if they have not experienced it for themselves?"For those already baptized, this is yet another work of God they are able to engage with by deliberately choosing to mobilize on behalf of fellow church members and the Kingdom.

Pastor Elizete along with Solange and sister Jussara praying for the 2016 elections in Brazil(Priscilla Garcia, 2017)The picture depicts Pastor Elizete (in the centre), along with Solange (on the left) and sister Jussara (on the right) praying for the 2016 elections in Brazil at the women's monthly church service. Pastor Elizete called sister Jussara to lead the prayers for the country, as she is the leader of the prayer department at ADVEC church. Solange - the main deaconess - brings the Brazilian flag and offers to hold it with the pastor, as they pray along with the church. ADVEC believers understand that gifts and talents are personal and unique. Elizete has the gift of being a pastor, of preaching; Solange, of being a deaconess by serving the church and its pastors; and sister Jussara of prayer. Each of them, as Christians, if united and committed to do God's work through their calling, can change the world around them. They can "make a difference", as they say. In this photo, they do so by using each of their unique callings (of being a pastor, a church servant, and of being a “woman of prayer”) to unite in a single Christian cause: to pray for the fate of Brazil in the elections.

Solange separates a medal to offer to one of the athletes who participated in the marathon promoted by the church on May Day (Priscilla Garcia, 2017)Solange separates a medal to offer to one of the athletes who participated in the marathon promoted by the church on May Day. The marathon was open to all church members and to the public “regardless of religious beliefs”. The goal of the marathon was to promote heathy habits among church members and to provide an opportunity for Christian believers to mingle with “non-believers”. By doing the marathon, my informants said, members of the public would see that believers are normal people who like sports and live a normal life. It was a chance to say to society that people at the church are happy, healthy, and engaged with worldly things such as a marathon. Solange who serves as a church deaconess sees that she needed to serve as a staff member in the marathon because it is her duty to support and serve at the projects of ADVEC and to take part in this mingling with non-Christian believers because, as she puts it, “Christians need to make a difference beyond church walls”.