Uyai mose, tinamate Mwari!
(Come all you people, come and praise God)
– Shona chorus by Alexander Gondo
One of the distinctive features of Walworth Methodist Church, and one of the reasons for its growth, is the number of fellowships within the church community. Some of these cater for particular sectors within the congregation – men, women, young adults and so forth – and will be familiar to many churches. More unusual is the presence of four ‘national fellowships’ which are based on four of the largest ethnic/national communities within the church – Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. These meet at least monthly after the main church service, partly to offer informal worship, prayer and singing in various languages, but in particular to offer pastoral support to their members and raise funds to support projects ‘back home’. They are affiliated to the national fellowship bodies and serve as local branches of the same. No doubt in future blog posts I’ll say more about what the fellowships get up to.
Each fellowship has an annual anniversary thanksgiving which is an opportunity to celebrate its own culture. On Sunday it was the turn of the Zimbabwe Fellowship to hold its anniversary. The Zimbabwe Fellowship is the smallest and most recently created of our national fellowships. In fact it began as a gathering of Zimbabwean Methodists from around London and as we were told at the service Walworth is therefore regarded as the mother church for the MCZF-UK (Methodist Church in Zimbabwe Fellowship UK). Over the years various local branches were formed, some spun off from Walworth – there are now thirty around the UK – and the Walworth Zimbabweans, now a fairly small group, reconstituted as a local fellowship and branch of the MCZF-UK. In fact there seems to be some confusion as to how many years we were celebrating. In the worship service 11 years was mentioned, and on the programme we were told that it was the 7th anniversary service!
The fellowship had not held anniversary services for the past couple of years, and the original plan was for the service to be in February, but it was postponed. With a little encouragement from me and a lot of support from members of other branches, the anniversary was held yesterday and was really successful. We had an excellent visiting preacher in Annah Mwadiwa, who preached on the topic of ‘New Beginnings’ and were treated to some powerful chorus in Shona by the MCZF-UK choir, accompanied of course by dancing. Beautiful prayers of intercession were led by one of the brothers from the choir – I heard one or two church members speaking to him afterwards about his prayers, and realised that it is not often that we thank those who lead us in prayer. There was great food afterwards, and Nancy the secretary of the fellowship explained to us the significance of some of the food, such as the beans that were served (“This is what poor people eat. When you are going to school or work in the morning and there is nothing else, this is what you eat for breakfast.”)
It was a great occasion, and I hope a real encouragement for our Zimbabwe Fellowship – perhaps even a New Beginning.