World Federation President Alison Judd writes:
In August 2017, at the invitation of Rev Dr Jimmy Dube, the General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe, I was given the enormous privilege of representing the Methodist Church in Britain at the celebrations of 40 years of Autonomy and the annual conference of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. I was accompanied by my husband Les. Our programme included several opportunities to meet with members of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women. We were given an enthusiastic welcome by ululating women at Harare Airport, and shown warm and generous hospitality and care, in particular by Rev Cleopas Sibanda (MCZ UK Fellowship chaplain) and his wife Susan, Mrs Sipiwe Chisvo (World Federation Area President for Southern and East Africa), the Manyano/ Ruwadzano of MCZ, Jane and Ezekiel Chitsunge, (members at Borrowdale MC, Harare) and Julie and Bruce Caddick of Bulawayo.
On our first day we were able to visit three different MCZ churches and share in their harvest worship. The next day, 500 women had travelled from across the country to meet at Trinity Methodist Church, Harare where worshippers were enthralled by an address by Rev J Dube on the topic of Gender Justice. The newly appointed MCZ Gender Justice Officer, Ms Lillian Chikara, was present to hear discussion touching on treatment of widows, gender-based discrimination, the effects of adultery and HIV/AIDS on family relationships and the need to speak up on behalf of other women seeking to reach their potential, both within the church and beyond.
We were invited by Rev Cleopas Sibanda to participate in the 90th Birthday celebrations of his mother, at their family home in rural Zimbabwe – a very special interlude from the formal programme and one we shall always recall with great joy.
Back in Harare, we joined with 40,000 Methodists for a four day event to celebrate 40 years of Autonomous Mission by the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe, under the theme of ‘Warmed Hearts’, with singing, dancing, worship, preaching, processions, performances by choirs of all ages and greetings from special guests and representatives from the Diaspora in Canada, South Africa, and the UK. The celebrations [which took place in the National Sports Stadium in Harare, pictured at the top of the article] also included recognition of 40 years of women’s ordination in MCZ. The first woman to be ordained, Rev Margaret James, was awarded several medals for outstanding service and spoke of the need to include women in the leadership roles of the church including as Bishops.
Rev Margaret James, the first woman to be
ordained in the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe
Annual Conference took place in the Flamboyant Hotel, Masvingo District, with Presiding Bishop Revd Dr Solomon Zwana, and the Lay President was Mr Brown Sanyauke. I again brought greetings from the MCB, and on behalf of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, and affirmed how their church has grown in strength, numbers and in impact over the last 40 years. I assured them of our desire to continue in partnership with them through the World Church Office and spoke of how we appreciate the contributions made to the life of MCB by the MCZ UK Fellowship. I paid tribute to their initiatives that empower women, care for orphaned children, encourage men in the faith, ensure Christian education and outreach, and for taking seriously the issue of gender justice.
We visited the Matthew Rusike Children’s Home at Epworth outside Harare and saw the new floor tiles provided for each of the houses. It was a delight to be shown around the home by the Director, Rev Margaret Mawire. We also had the chance to meet with women in Harare and Bulawayo who are benefitting from classes in creative skills like needlework, embroidery, vegetable production and even breeding rabbits that enable income generation; and a two year course of leadership training, health and IT education for lay women in the Bulawayo area.
Before our return home, we were glad to have a few days of being tourists, our host arranging a visit to the grave of Cecil Rhodes, and a two day trip to Victoria Falls culminating in an afternoon in a nature reserve bordering the Zambezi river. Our only sadness was to see how this land, which used to be the bread basket of Africa, now suffers so badly from political and economic challenges, how people have to queue for hours to withdraw their money from the bank, only to be told they could take out no more than $20. And yet our lasting impression of the Methodist people in Zimbabwe is that their faith is strong and resilient; they demonstrate a joy and trust in God that is an example to follow. It warmed our hearts to be with them as they celebrated 40 years of doing God’s mission the Zimbabwean way.