Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dedication of the new church at Mabumbu

We were invited this Sunday to attend and take part in the Dedication Service for the new church at Mabumbu. I suppose we should be careful in using the word ‘new’. Mabumbu Congregation is a long-established church from Paris Mission times. Infact, Mabumbu meaning ‘the groves’, is named after an older Mabumbu to be found nearer Mongu.

Mabumbu is about 30 minutes from Mwandi. The road is still easily passable, though sandy and dusty. The daytime temperatures are fierce, around 40C, at the moment, as we await the frontal rains from Congo. There have been the odd few spits and drops but that has been convectional. The trees have shot new green leaves in expectation of the coming rains and most people have prepared their fields for sowing. A few courageous individuals have even sown a ‘lima’ or two, gambling on the arrival of the rains in the next week or so. Mubita’s Aunt last week came to say good-bye to us as she was leaving the cattle and fishing camp at the river and returning home to Kakulwani to prepare her fields.

After leaving the tarred road the first major settlement is the village of Namango. It is a typical rural village with daub and wattle houses, thatched roofs and reed-fenced lapas and is situated in a sandy clearing, scattered with baobabs, local palms and other indigenous, deciduous trees that provide wild fruit and shade. Traditionally Namango was the village where our Senior Chief had his fields. At this time of year the Palace moved to Namango for the sowing and the fields were tended by his wife. In the middle of the village we passed the ‘lutaitai’ the special thatch shelter built for the Senior Chief to sit in on arrival and hear submissions from local people needing his help. The Chief stays in Namango at his Kwandu (residence) for a week during the sowing, but his wife will stay longer if required. At Namongo there is also a full Kuta (Court) with its own Indunas.

The party from Mwandi arrived at Mabumbu to a warm welcome from the excited congregation. A beautiful and well-built daub and wattle sanctuary and vestry had been constructed and roofed by 70 zinc corrugated sheets. It had been completed in September taking about 12 months to build; the rafters costing K1.6m and the roofing sheets K4.2m (around GBP800/US$1200). The PC(USA) Church in Albemarle helped with the purchase of the sheets, and were thanked and remembered in prayer. The former thatched Church is being retained as a Church Hall. Future plans include the purchase of a new Communion Table and more congregational benches.

The Convenor, Lewis Banda, is supported by an Eldership of 8 men and women drawn from 3 Alume (MCF) and 15 Anamoyo (WCF). This lively and growing 215 member congregation is divided into 4 Sections and all live within a 10km of the Church. The Church is a focal point of the community and has a Sunday School attendance of around 48 most weeks and its Jericho Choir a membership of 18+.

There was a certain familiarity to the Dedication Service as it followed the Scottish Common Order to a great extent with the Opening of the Doors and ‘Ye Gates’ from Psalm 24 to begin with, then the Offering of the Keys. The prayers and readings were shared out amongst the eldership and Consistory visitors including us.

After the Dedication of the Church and its furnishings we moved on to the Proclamation, Scripture Reading and the Sermon based on Matthew 21:12-17, concerning the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. Rev Manda said while it was important to keep the Church building clean, sweeping out the dirt and re-arranging the furniture was not enough, God’s House is to be a House of Prayer for all, not a den of thieves, we were not in Church to be in business for ourselves. Our bodies as Temples of the Holy Spirit needed to be kept clean too, so that all who entered the new building would be blessed. In other words our business as a Church is outreach to others.

After the Restoration of a Backslider we moved into Holy Communion, served in the French way in a horse-shoe formation round the Table. This was followed by the closing hymn and Benediction.

The Congregation gathered on reed mats under the trees in the Church yard to cook a bring-and-share lunch. The Rev and Mrs Manda, other Consistory visitors, the Uniting Church of Australia visitors and ourselves were served in the vestry. We enjoyed fried chicken, fish, gravy and buhobe. Outside the congregation cooked in their sections mainly reconstituted dried fish stew and mangambwa (pumpkin leaves cooked as greens). At the moment there is little grazing available so there was no mabisi (thick sour milk), only a small amount of fresh milk was available. Maheu from a plastic bucket was the drink on offer. Commercially-produced maheu and mabisi can be bought now in town for those urban Lozis pining for the rural food of their childhood. Maheu is made from left-over porridge to which water and flour is added and left overnight to make a refreshingly tart drink. Sugar can be stirred into it for those with a sweeter tooth.

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