December 10, 2004
A Season of New Birth
I wrote recently about the fact that there is no celebration of Advent in Malawi. That is not to say that this is not a season of new birth in the CCAP-Blantyre Synod. Last Sunday and again this Sunday Blantyre Synod has giving birth to new Presbyteries. Blantyre started December 2004 with 14 Presbyteries and will end December 2004 with 16 Presbyteries. The Presbyteries in Blantyre Synod are: Blantyre City, Blantyre North, Chingale, Chiradzulu, Chiuta, Domasi, Livilidzi, Mangochi, Migowi, Mulanje, Shire Valley, Thuchila, Thyolo, Zomba and our two newest Presbyteries Khulubvi and Ntcheu.
Let me share with you about the birth of Khulubvi Presbytery which took place on Sunday, December 5th. Khulubvi Presbytery is east of Zomba (for those who know their Malawi geography) and was actually a part of Zomba Presbytery. Zomba Presbytery had grown to the point that it was no longer manageable. It was almost impossible for people to travel up to 75 kilometers to a meeting, since most people have to walk.The thinking in Blantyre Synod is that smaller is better when it comes to Presbyteries. In smaller Presbyteries, pastors know each other better, lay people attend meetings more often, and the sense of support and encouragement is greater.
I left home at 6:30 a.m. last Sunday to begin picking up the people who would be traveling with me for the Celebration of Worship. I picked up the General Treasurer, Mr. Longwe; the Estates Manager, Mr. Mwagala; the Synod Moderator, Rev. Kadawati and his son, as well as one of the Assistant Session Clerks (most churches have three) from St. Columba CCAP Church and started off for Khulubvi. It is a beautiful drive through farmland and rolling hills up to Zomba. But then we turned off the tarmac road. We spent the next few hours bouncing along a poorly maintained dirt road, picking up Church members as we went. When we finally arrived at the church, there were 15 singing, happy members of Blantyre Synod packed into my truck…we were a sight.
The worship started about 9:30 a.m. and although I did not do an official count…I estimate there were at least 1,500 people in attendance…half inside and half outside. I was the only non-Malawian in attendance. The Celebration of Worship was just that…a Celebration! Eleven (11) choirs sang during the course of the worship, a fiery sermon was preached in Chichewa (never once mentioning Advent), new officers were elected and installed and gifts were brought forth.
Every Presbytery in Blantyre Synod was represented and gave a monetary gift to the new Presbytery so that a simple Presbytery office could be built. In a Synod that has 151 ministers…42 were in attendance at this new birth…talk about conventionalism!!!
At 1:00 p.m. I was asked to bring greetings on behalf of Pittsburgh Presbytery and Blantyre Synod and started off with some simple Chichewa greetings and the congregation erupted with joy. I spoke about the Season of Advent and new birth and what a healthy sign it is that Blantyre Synod continues to grow and has a need for new Presbyteries. I used my typical interactive style and the congregation jumped in with both feet…it was a priceless moment for me.
The Celebration of Worship finally wound down about 2:15 p.m., although the choirs continued to sing. A meal of chicken stew, rice, nsima, and greens was served to everyone in attendance (over 1500 people) by the Mvano (Women’s Guild). The ministers and Synod officials were offered chairs to sit in, but I declined, I had sat long enough, and chose to mingle with folks as I ate my meal with my fingers.
The choirs were still singing as we packed the truck with 14 people, one less person, but an additional 6 live chickens and two 100-pound sacks of maize for the ride home. Needless to say the ride home was slow, but we made it safely and after delivering everyone to there home. I arrived home at 5:30 p.m. What a joyous day it was. Giving birth to a new Presbytery was certainly a cause for celebration, and just think, I get to do it all over again this coming Sunday in Ntcheu.
Advent is a season of new birth!