Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots
Sunday was a day of glorious celebration at Chimwemwe Presbyterian Church. The women’s fellowship from a church in Lusaka was up for a visit, a marching band and majorettes were present, and the former head pastor was preaching. The church was packed, noisy, and Spirit-filled! With four different choirs, the band and majorettes, and a long-winded preacher, it seemed as though the celebration would never end. When the Spirit is moving, though, who wants the celebration to end?!
One of the most beautiful aspects of this service was the coming together of several different expressions of Presbyterianism. The reasons for different Presbyterian denominations in Zambia are very different from those in the U.S., but they are still distinctive, and one could say ‘divided’, churches.
The congregation itself is of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). This denomination got its start in South Africa and is the continued result of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (White British settler Presbyterians) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (Black African Presbyterians) coming together. It has since spread northward to Zimbabwe and Zambia.
There were also representatives from the Kwacha Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). The CCAP got its start in Malawi and then spread westward into Zambia. Within Zambia is therefore strongest in the Eastern Province, along the border with Malawi. The CCAP is generally thought of as being a bit more conservative than the UPCSA, but they see themselves as part of the same family.
The marching band was visiting from Mindolo United Church of Zambia (UCZ) right here on the MEF campus. The UCZ is a union of various missionary organizations and churches that were in Zambia before independence. These include the Church of Barotseland (French Presbyterians), the United Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland, the London Missionary Society (Anglican and Presbyterian), and the Free Churches on the Copperbelt. It is now a distinctively Zambian church that has beautifully integrated these different traditions. Presbyterianism, though, is definitely there at its roots.
And finally there was I, representing the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).
In this day and age a lot of the ecumenical work we have to do is within our own families. Given modern divisions and fragmentations, some of our bitterest relationships are with fellow Presbyterians. This is because it hurts more when there is fighting and separation between people who have worshiped together, grown together, and loved together. The wounds are deeper and rawer. I certainly have opinions about issues surrounding the cost of unity versus the cost of division and which is worth more, but that is not the point of this post. And the situation is of course different between Zambian Presbyterian churches and U.S. American Presbyterian churches, including the reasons for the existence of separate churches within each context. The point IS, though, that Presbyterians can come together and celebrate together to the booming of a marching brass band and the dancing of majorettes.