Monday, 19 December 2011

Article re 20th Anniversary of Mpwapwa Diocese

'You are now a Canon!'
                 ‘Come on and Celebrate'
                         and so they did - for seven days!!
During our visit to Mpwapwa Diocese, Tanzania, our team of five representing Rochester Diocese Overseas Links was invited by Bishop Jacob Chimeledya to attend the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the diocese.
In the U.K. we might stretch holding such an event over perhaps a weekend but in Africa if you have something to celebrate then it is in African time, which just goes on and on. What a wonderful experience it was for us all.
Although we were present for only five of the seven days - from 10.00am until dark we worshiped with song and dance performed by groups of the very young to the very old from around the diocese. The words of the songs were always very moving relating to text from the Bible, situations in their lives and always reinforcing their strength of faith and total trust in The Lord.
During the week the first and now retired Bishop of the diocese, Bishop Simon Chiwanga, gave an address on the history of the diocese and the facts were staggering as to how quickly it had grown in every respect, from number of Christians, churches, pastors, evangelists, catechists and of course annual budget which nevertheless remains insufficient to meet their growing needs.
Addresses were also given by various dignitaries within Tanzania and an evangelist named Daniel preached everyday for at least 1 ½ hours standing in the blazing sun. He hardly drew breath and there was never a memo to be seen. The congregation usually over 1500, plus children, would sit all day with only a short break for lunch, worshiping and showing their enthusiasm for everything that was going on and never looking at a watch or worrying when they were going to eat or have something to drink. An unusual occurrence during the celebration proceedings happened on the 6th day, Saturday, when over three hundred bras, which we  took out were lined up in the Cathedral to be distributed amongst the women. Bras are a luxury and the women were thrilled with their gift. During our subsequent visits around the diocese we had women run up to us and lift their top to show their new bras.
Each day included a time of offering and it was moving to see people who had very little, give and give and give whether is was a coin, some nuts, a piece of cloth, a chicken or from the wealthier a goat.  It brought to mind ‘The Widow’s Mite’.
The climax of the celebrations was on the Sunday when a huge congregation attended the service which lasted for 7 ½ hours including Holy Communion. It was a great privilege to be part of the administration of the sacraments and Linda from our team delivered the Gospel reading in Swahili.  It also came as a complete surprise when I was honoured to be made a Canon of All Saints Cathedral, Mpwapwa.
We returned to the U.K. two weeks later having travelled many miles around the diocese renewing friendship, reviewing projects and establishing new ones.  We are always received with such joy, generosity of spirit and love. A priceless gift to receive and shall never forget the 20th Anniversary of Mpwapwa Diocese.

‘There are hardships that nobody reckons,
There’s the valley, and plain, and the hill,
There’s a land, oh, it beckons and beckons
And I want to go back, and I will’
Simon E. Chiwanga

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