Tanzania: Dispatch Three

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November in Tanzania

 

The organizational details of church have been worked through and decided. The Gospel Catholic Church has joined the Missionary Society of St. John/Anglican Province of America. That is a big step for them. We have new brothers and sisters, 78 parishes, over eighty clergy, a women’s group, three orphanages, and a school of theology.

 

The people here had talked for several weeks at the parish and deanery level. Then the discussions continued at a diocesan gathering in Buigiri. Many questions were asked and much discussion happened. Finally, the Bishop and Fr. Francis left the meeting room for several hours and the people there, which included the majority of the clergy and representatives of most of the parishes talked and prayed and decided. The people of the church decided to accept Bishop Fick’s invitation to join the Missionary Society of St. John/Anglican Province of America. Bishop Chidawali also joined personally.

 

That being done, the focus switched to instruction.

 

On this blog there are statements of our plan of how we like to work and teach in Africa. Those plans are out the window already. It is good that the Holy Spirit remains.

 

No more small classes of eight to ten. Here we started with 104! Attendance never lessened over four days. Students include clergy, wives, parish leaders, children and infants. It was like teaching a village. The women were fully participative – asking questions and seeking to respond.

 

The students spoke two languages, Swahili and a tribal language. Very few of the people spoke or understood English so interpretation was required. The process was slow.

 

Who are these people? These people are Africa. They are multi-generational – at least four generations were present. They are multi-tribal – at least six tribes. The task of Africa is to combine different tribes into the amalgam of one nation – not always easy. Near by Rwanda is a testimony to its failure. Tanzania is a testimony to its success. Their first president, Julius Nyerere set an example that was accepted by the people.

Primary education is compulsory but not always available. When it is available, it is not always affordable, school fees being too expensive. The older generation of leaders was trained in German and British schools and show it, The younger leaders often have what we call a fifth or sixth grade education at best. The older generation is more liturgical, going back to their Anglican roots. The younger generation is more pentecostal, connecting with the move of the Holy Spirit sweeping Africa.

 

In America, we have learned that as we pray, so will we believe. Africa is different. In Africa, we have learned that as we sing, so will we believe.musicministry.jpg Music is the language of prayer in Africa. Everyone knows all the verses to all the songs. There is excitement in many of the songs. In the time of worship, each tribe took time to lead worship. That is part of coming together as one. The worship included dancing, singing, jumping, and drum playing. Such things were banned during colonial times because the beat grew to sensual and too militant. The contemporary African church has harnessed the music of the culture into a manner acceptable and suitable for worship. It is not something we would do in most places in America.

What is it like to teach these people? They are intensely interested, clamoring to respond to questions, seeking to ask questions for further development. Their eyes follow you around the room, up and down the aisles. They applaud their brothers and sisters who respond correctly and jeer the ones who goof off. The take many notes – asking for proper spelling.

Sometimes, there must be discussion to arrive at proper translation. There was no appropriate word in Swahili for Holy Chrism – the oil used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination. So forever more in Tanzania, the Holy Chrism will be called – The Oil of Christ (in Swahili of course).

With such limited tools, how do you call on the presbyterate of a diocese to abandon their former practice of priesthood being a job and move to a holier calling? The Holy Spirit provided John 10, the story of the Good Shepherd. The contrast between the Good Shepherd and the Hired Worker was taught. They loved it. They connected with it. They understood it. At the end, when the students were asked, “Who will be the Good Shepherd for their people?”, the priests kept popping up and crying out in Swahili, “I will be the Good Shepherd! I will be the Good Shepherd!”, over and over again and people cheered and sang and rejoiced. And then there was silence, in the presence of the Almighty God.

Teaching continues. Coming next is a five-day trip to three different villages, far away. We will stay overnight in three different villages. That will be a challenge. I am told that some students from the first class will follow us to these three villages in hope that new things will be taught.

In every place we go, we speak of the good people in America who prayed and gave money so that classes might be brought to the people of Africa. The African people are so grateful and offer their prayers for all of you. I try to tell them about you but have not yet got past explaining ice on the road.

Whatever good happens on these teaching trips happens because God does it and you support it. You are a party of these things! May God bless all of you.

 

 

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