By Rev. Marie Jerge, bishop
In August 2003, I was privileged along with several others from the Upstate New York Synod to represent the ELCA at the 100th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ.) It was my first visit to our companion synod and changed my life. To kick-off the celebration, the ELCZ dedicated a brand new church building in Shurugwi. It was there that I met Gracious Moyo. He was a Deacon who had been sent to Shurugwi to build up the congregation and complete the building project. It was understood that as soon as this was accomplished, he would head off to seminary for his official training to become a pastor of the church.
In July 2014 – eleven years later – I was delighted to again spend time with Pastor Gracious Moyo, this time in Rochester, NY. Our joy at re-connecting was palpable. It is such a gift to be part of a church that nurtures such connections across cultures and continents. In the intervening years, he completed his seminary training, served a congregation in Harare and for the next two years he will pursue graduate studies at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. En route, he spent a month hosted by Rick and Beth Walker of Bethlehem, Fairport. Beth is the chair of our Global Mission Team. He attended Confirmation Camp at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Camp, Bible Study groups, and acclimated a bit to life in the US before heading west. Please hold him in your prayers, especially as he lives for 2 years apart from his wife and family. The Global Mission Team is hoping to bring him back to Upstate NY during the course of his sojourn in the US. For more information about Gracious and opportunities to learn more about our companion synods in Zimbabwe and Zambia – contact Beth Walker at email@example.com
By: Rev. Dan Hoffman, Trinity, East Amherst
Do you know that you have a sister congregation in Zimbabwe? Do you know who they are, where they are located, what their community life is like? Believe it or not they are longing to be in contact with their American brothers and sisters. Yes, most of the congregations in Zimbabwe have access to the internet, but the connectivity is unreliable. Emails can take a couple of days to get through and responses sometimes take time, too. Sometimes they get lost, but the communications are wonderful.
Trinity East Amherst recently sent a digital camera to our partner parish, the Musume Lutheran Parish. We exchange photographs and stories of our ministry activities. We send our parish newsletter. We pray for each other. We share struggles and ministry challenges. Our pre-school kids share notes and stories with the preschoolers in Africa. The cost for this connection is nominal but the fruits it bears are abundant.
Take the opportunity to connect with your sister congregation. If you don’t know who they are contact Beth Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Start with an internet search, find their location on the map, check out the region, the economy, the national news etc. Then plan to connect!
By: Rev. Philip J. Knutson, ELCA Global Mission
The Sunday worship and consecration service was held at the Highfield Parish church in Harare on January 5, 2014. Bishop Shava of the Central Diocese led the liturgy and bishop-elect Rev. Chemist Faindi (pronounced “Find”) preached the sermon based on Luke 11:29-36. The message focused on the call to repentance as Jonah had called the city of Nineveh to repent. The service was in the Shona language with some translation provided. Several choirs and the congregational singing were very inspirational.
After the worship service there was a procession back into the church by the bishops and deans for the consecration service. Outgoing Eastern Diocesan bishop J.S. Moyo gave a sermon based on Hebrews 5:1-5 saying that the position of bishop was a vocation and not based on an application by the candidate but on a call by God. Bishops in attendance were presiding bishop S. Dube, bishops J. Moyo, N. Shava, bishop emeritus JC Shiri, and bishop emeritus Torb Harlin from the Uppsala Diocese of the Church of Sweden (CoS).
After the consecration service greetings were delivered by Bishop Dube, Pastor Philip Knutson (ELCA), Bishop Harlin (CoS) and a contingent from the Zimbabwe military as Bishop Faindi has served for the past 20 years as a chaplain in the military.
It rained heavily during the service but people outside of the packed church were seated under large tent canopies. The program concluded with a banquet meal for the guests and all in attendance. In his closing remarks Bishop Faindi thanked everyone for coming and asked for their continuing prayers.
The Companion Synod Program is a concrete expression of the communion fellowship among the 140 member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). It’s also an exciting way to engage in global mission! The Upstate New York Synod has two companion synods: ELC-Zambia and ELC-Zimbabwe, each located in southern Africa. Companion Synod relationships embody the concept of accompaniment: walking together in service and celebration.
Our partnership with ELC-Zimbabwe matches congregations to parishes and the synod office to the national church. This relationship grows through mutual visits by lay and ordained leaders to and from Zimbabwe. Our congregations that are partnered with Zimbabwe parishes are encouraged to pray for one another and to share the gifts each has to offer. Sharing material gifts means a Zimbabwe parish can purchase altar cloths, communion supplies, choral music, or digital access to facilitate communication.
The relationship with the ELC-Zambia is newer, and is between the national church and Upstate New York congregations. In addition to prayers and communication, our congregations have collaborated to provide Kindles for pastors (pre-loaded with books for pastoral education, Martin Luther’s works, etc.) Congregations contributed to the purchase land and seed for sustainable rice farming and the building of a nursery school.