Zambia Link : The Parish of Lugwalo
The Diocese of Bath & Wells has strong links with Dioceses in Zambia. In 2008 the Benefice linked with the Parish of Lugwalo in southern Zambia a group of thirteen churches in a very rural area. That link continues with prayer and financial support.
John Prince and Rev John Angle from the Benefice visited in August 2009 and in 2010 Martin Cavender from Axbridge ran a “Rooted in Jesus” course in the area and many of the Lugwalo lay leaders attended. The Benefice financially supported this programme for them.
The Benefice has also purchased Bibles and other literature and bicycles for members of the parishes. In September 2011 the Benefice gave money towards the running of a youth camp. Father Robert Sihubwa, "Father Bob", the Diocesan Youth Officer, reported that 190 young people from the Lugwalo Parishes attended – it was a time of great spiritual blessing as young people committed their lives to Christ, to follow and serve Him.
On Sunday 29th June 2014 Jenny Humphreys, Diocese of Bath & Wells World Mission Adviser, came to Axbridge for our Patronal Festival to talk about the link with the Anglican Church in Zambia. This is the text of her sermon:
29 June 2014. John the Baptist. Isaiah 40 1-11. Luke 1 57-66 & 80
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your Patronal Festival where we are focussing on John the Baptist. We hear about the arrival of the baby cousin of Jesus which Luke describes as being of special significance – especially as he grew up to be an adult whose lifestyle, actions and words show him to be a new prophet, one who has revived the tradition of Isaiah and all the others who spoke out against the injustice of their day and called for repentance. His ministry begins with those words of comfort from Isaiah to those who have been exiled in Babylon – words of promise of a return to their lands, a new Exodus from and through the desert. What is the Promised Land for us? What is it for our friends in Zambia? The desert symbolises divine punishment and desolation, yet it is also the place where people often discover or return to God. Africans are themselves often literally or metaphorically on the edge of the desert – and can show us what it means to develop a stronger intimacy with and dependence on God. Luke and all the other Gospel writers see John the Baptist as a highly significant figure who prepares the way for Jesus Christ. Paul too in his words in the synagogue in Antioch in modern day Turkey sees John as the forerunner who prepares the way - not only for the people of Israel but for his own message to the Gentiles, and eventually to every one of us here today – what is our Promised Land?
How do we work out in our own context what it is to bring people out of what enslaves them and bring them through the desert to the Promised Land? I wrote to our friend Fr Robert Sihubwa last week to ask him what was happening in your link parish, and in his diocese, and the national church. He wrote back with his greetings to you all, and with some news from all of these perspectives.
First, from the parish of Lugwalo. Fr Bob tells me that Fr Christopher Mbao was transferred to Kanyama Parish in Lusaka and the Bishop is currently working on re-drawing the parish boundaries of Lugwalo, Monze and Mapanza. I will ask Bishop David more about this, and how it will affect your link. But it does show that we are not alone in having to look at how best to deploy our resources of personnel and finance around our communities. The Diocesan project in Lugwalo parish is making progress, with a caretaker’s house constructed on the land given by the Headman and a shelter for meetings. The next stage is to sink a borehole, and construct classrooms for a pre-school service to the villages and a centre for training and meetings. Further training in conservation farming is to take place for the young farmers in the area – one of whom I met in Livingstone in 2012 while he was attending the Commonwealth Agricultural Conference with backing through Bath & Wells. The local coordinator of the youth project now has a bicycle to help with communications around the area. Thank you for your recent donation which will be going to Lusaka Diocese next week to help with several of these projects.
Fr Bob tells me that there will be a Diocesan Conference in nearby Mapanza in August, which will see all church groups come together to discuss the theme of sustainable church growth. Another area that we have in common with our friends in Zambia – how do we not only maintain our existing churches but make new connections that will be lasting and fruitful? During this conference there will be opportunities for learning more about income-generating projects as well as choir competitions and displays from different groups, and the ordination of a new Deacon who will be based at St Peter’s in Lusaka, which is Fr Bob’s new parish – he moved from Kafue quite recently.
Fr Bob is not only Diocesan Youth Coordinator, he also has that role for the National Church, and for the Province of Central Africa. A new Church and Community Mobilization Process enables congregations to engage with their communities in identifying what resources they have locally that can help to transform their situations. A team of facilitators has been trained to put this into practice in parishes in every diocese, and now Fr Bob is working on the bible studies they use to make them accessible to young people – I wonder how we can learn from this and involve our own young people in making their own communities into better places?
He has also been involved in the programme of leadership development at national level, putting together a new curriculum to strengthen the leadership capacity of Anglicans throughout Zambia. Included is church governance, stewardship, discipleship, evangelism, the importance of bible study, family life, and the environment. Not aimed solely at clergy and readers, but the Mothers Union, Anglican Men’s Groups, St Veronica Young Women’s Groups, Youth Groups and Sunday Schools. I was in Zambia 2 years ago when the work first began on this new curriculum, and it was very interesting to be at the gathering of representatives from these groups from the 5 dioceses in Zambia. What can we learn from our Zambian friends about empowering our own laity of all ages with a better understanding of what it means to be a member of the Anglican Church?
Fr Bob has been organising training in each country of the Province of Central Africa (Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe) for those heading up youth leadership and Sunday School teaching. We have contributed to this by providing materials and funds towards raising awareness of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Our poster set is now being used all around Central Africa. Fr Bob hopes that by the end of this year those attending the training sessions will have taken the information out to every part of their own dioceses to train local youth leaders – if they have half of his enthusiasm and commitment then I am sure it will happen. Our Diocesan Youth Adviser Tony Cook attended a conference at the beginning of this programme, and was overwhelmed by everyone’s passion and desire to reach the young people of their countries with the love of Jesus – how do we encourage those with the same passion to work with such enthusiasm with our own young people?
My last bit of news from Zambia is to ask you to pray for the short visit tomorrow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was asked by Lambeth Palace to produce some briefing notes about our link for him in advance of his visit, and I have sent copies of what I said to Archbishop Albert Chama (Northern Zambia) and also to our new Bishop Peter, so that we can look to the future of our Companion Link together and find new ways of supporting each other in mission in our travels towards our Promised Land.
I finish where we started, with some reflections on the role of John the Baptist. What kind of man do his contemporaries think he is? Some think he is the Christ, the Messiah, but no, there is one more powerful to come, he says. But that one will submit to baptism by John before he begins his ministry. Strange – why does Jesus need to be baptised by someone else if he is the Son of God, and without sin? Why does he need to repent? Maybe it is about making a public statement of his understanding of ‘religion’. As we now know, Jesus didn’t join the Zealots, the freedom fighters, although some of them later joined him. He didn’t join the Essenes, the exclusive desert-sect. He didn’t join the mainstream, law-abiding Pharisees, he even called some of them hypocrites. Nor did he join the Sadducees, the priestly aristocrats with legal power and royal connections. No, he went to John, the last in the line of a tradition going way back to Isaiah and others – the ones who denounced empty ritual when it oppressed the ordinary people, the ones who stood for Jubilee and justice, and Shalom. A tradition which appealed very much to the ordinary people, the ones struggling to get by, the ones excluded by the powerful, the ones oppressed by debt and economic injustice. Jesus gave up his God-given authority that could have made him leader of the revolutionaries, or the powerful, or the fanatics or the prosperous law-abiding majority.
Well we know where this was to lead him – but we know too where it began, and that John the Baptist was a part of it, right from the very start. We give thanks for his ministry, and his inspiration to us in Bath & Wells and to our friends in Zambia to continue to work together so that all people will reach the Promised Land in the end. Amen.
Keep in touch with progress and news on the church notice boards.
You can find out more information about the Diocese Zambia link here.
The proceeds from the annual Axbridge Earth Hour Concert supports our link with Lugwalo. The 2014 concert included a compilation of pictures from Zambia:
Last Updated by AG 19 November 2015