Our group consisting of Rev Lubasi, the Mwandi Interim Moderator and Mrs Lubasi, Keith, Ida, Mubita and Dorothy Katenekwa set off for Mongu at 0800h from Mwandi on Saturday 9th October and arrived 10 hours later somewhat stoorie and shoogled at Lileleyo UCZ to a warm welcome and supper.
Mongu has a chronic water shortage, as does the accommodation at the Church, so we were booked into the Sir Mwanawina III Motel, an aging complex run by Mongu District Council where running water is available for cold showering and flushing toilets most of the time. With a growing demand for electricity and other utilities, a constant supply is a problem in urban areas, so you can expect a power-cut for several hours in the evening at least twice a week. This is called ‘Load- Shedding” and we had our quota in Mongu last week.
On Sunday we attended the Opening Service for Western Presbytery. Western Presbytery is the area historically covered by the Paris Evangelical Mission Society which later became the Church of Barotseland before entering the United Church of Zambia in 1965. It is all of Barotseland, now called Western Province, with Livingstone and the Zambezi Valley from East of Sesheke added.
The first business on Monday morning was the Financial Committee, with all too familiar items of business coming up: Church Worker Stipend Scales, Remittances, Manse maintenance and renovations, Youth Hall Roofing project and the like. So many needs to be met with straitened resources. Full Presbytery Council met after lunch and dealt with matters from Synod and the JAAR project at Kalabo which is in need of some organizational development with Church oversight. There are 25 widows and retirees from Church Ministries who are cared for as well.
A new General Secretary has been appointed by the United Church of Zambia, the Rev Peggy Kabonde. Rev Kabonde is the second woman to have held the post. She was also the Church’s first woman theology graduate, and was formerly Chaplain to the University of Zambia. She was an executive member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and was working for her doctorate on Female Ordination, until called to fill this important and challenging position. Rev Kabonde will be inducted at All Saints, Kabwe, on 14 November
It was also agreed to form an Estate Board to oversee the management of Church Property which had been inherited from the former Mission Society. These assets and property need to be properly documented as most land was given to the Church by local Chiefs in the customary manner with no title deeds. Properties and land are not being exploited fully enough as income generating opportunities.
The following day was taken up with Consistory (Parish) Reports. With the exception of Mongu and Livingstone the other 18 Consistories in the Presbytery are rural. There are a few towns with peri-urban areas like Kaoma, Mwandi, Sesheke Senanga Limulunga and Kalabo. The rest are predominantly rural and remote and have difficulties attracting and retaining Ministers. As in Scotland, the spiritual gifts to be found amongst the congregations are being increasingly used to good effect. Many of these consistories have the services of an Evangelist who is a lay person but a Church Worker with some theological training and tasked with Church planting and the care of souls out there. They receive a small allowance from the Church but have a secular occupation, usually subsistence farming, to keep themselves and their families. Nevertheless, it was a moving and encouraging time hearing about life, work and activities being carried out by congregations as they take the gospel and witness to our Lord in their respective communities. This is often done at great personal effort, sacrifice and cost, as true Servants of the Lord.
Other matters included the employment of a Presbytery Youth Worker, enhancing computer literacy for Church staff and workers, reports from the CEVAA Council in Togo, the Girls Brigade World Conference in Malaysia and Deaconess Training in South Africa. Keith was invited to report on the opening of the UCZ Mwandi High School
The main business next day was the election of the Bishop, Presbytery Secretary and Treasurer. The incumbent Bishop Rev LM Sipalo was re-elected for a second four year term and Rev S Banda of Sefula was returned as Secretary. The Treasurer was Mr M Lubinda, a Mongu Accountant. The electoral process was conducted and scrutinized by the Bishops of Lusaka and Central Presbyteries. For each post there has to be 3 nominations and there were 46 voting delegates. Rev Sipalo will be inducted in Mongu on 19 December.
On Wednesday Council came to a close with the Bishop’s Report and a Session of the Stationing and Appointment Committee. This deals with stationing of Church Workers, their transfers and requests from them and Consistories. Some transfers are at the request of Synod, one of our Reverends was transferred to cover a Church in Kabwe following a tragic RTA in which the Kabwe Reverend and Central Province Bishop were killed. It was at this meeting that a new Minister for Mwandi was supposed to be appointed. Despite several applications there was no clear sense of calling yet from any particular individual whose cases were presented to us, so that decision will be made at a later date when all the calls have been tested. However, there were 5 other recommendations that went through ‘on the nod’.
With a final devotion, some closing remarks and a prayer the Council closed and went for supper. Incidentally, Rev Chikwanda from Kaoma, was the chaplain appointed for these sessions and he delivered a wonderful and inspiring series of devotions before each session on Servant Leadership and building up the Church
Although there was much business to get through and much of it serious, there were times of good fellowship, laughter and fun as well. Enjoying yourself and having fun at Presbytery? Whatever next!