Rooted in Jesus was first introduced to the Diocese of Upper Shire in 2015, at the request of Bishop Brighton Malasa. The Rooted in Jesus team was led by Revd John Lee in partnership with Fr Kapomba Sekeleti and Canon Susan Chulu of the Diocese of Eastern Zambia, and 31 priests and 49 lay leaders attended the conference.
Groups began immediately, and Fr Edward Kawinga wrote a few weeks later: “Rooted in Jesus is a real eye opener! There is a lot l didn’t know about my parishioners! Group introductions alone reveal that our parishioners are dying in silence and I am very convinced that RinJ is the real Cure!”
The diocese hosts a follow-up conference
Since the initial conference Coordinators Fr Edward Kawinga and Fr Elliot Litereko have worked hard to support the group leaders. Bishop Brighton wrote:
I am happy to report that Rooted in Jesus has seen its roots indeed going deeper. The Reverend Father Edward Kawinga and the Reverend Father Elliot Litereko are doing a great job. We are happy and glad that the laity of this Diocese can be given such a chance to undertake theological studies in their local parishes which was perceived as for the ordained ministers. When I visit the parishes I have seen people gathering and undergoing these training on Saturdays and Sundays after Mass. I am delighted to see such progress. I am convinced that if people (the laity) are rooted in Jesus having undergone these trainings, we shall have both the laity and clergy rich spiritually which will lessen the tasks of our priests as we shall have knowledgeable faithfuls. Please continue praying for us.
Following reports from Fr Edward and Fr Elliot Bishop Brighton invited us to send a team to run a follow-up conference in February of this year. John Lee again led the team, and was delighted to find consistent and widespread support for RinJ within the diocese, reflecting the regularly expressed support of Bishop Brighton. Participants were punctual in their attendance; the team found that they responded particularly warmly to the teaching about the Holy Spirit, which felt fresh and new for a significant number. John also paid tribute to the hospitality of the diocese: “For the team this was an encouraging and stimulating visit. We felt welcomed and cared for, and particularly enjoyed a visit to St George’s Zomba on the Sunday after the conference, where we shared in contributing to the service.”
After the conference Fr Elliot reported:
Rooted in Jesus was introduced in this Diocese two years ago. It was like a seed which was planted on fertile soil whereby a farmer is needed to care for the growth and development of the seed. This is in conjunction with the mission statement of the Diocese, a “Christ-centred Church that is commissioned for discipleship and the proclamation of the gospel.” This mission statement and the objectives of Rooted in Jesus are almost the same. This is why there is a tremendous growth of Rooted in Jesus groups in various parishes. We have received good reports from group leaders that they have formulated means of supporting themselves if one member of their group is sick or admitted to Hospital. It is one way of preaching about love in action. Priests and laity are working together in the proclamation of the Gospel to unbelievers. In our context we target Muslims; we regard them as a mission field, hence intensifying evangelism. In short the entire family of the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire warmly welcomed Rooted in Jesus, and we have already started reaping the fruits of the seed that was planted two years ago.
In a large, rural diocese it is not easy for the coordinator to travel to meet with the group leaders. Fr Edward tries to time his visits in conjunction with others, but also plans to appoint Archdeaconry Coordinators to make supporting the group leaders easier. He also plans to hold further regional training conferences. One of our aims here at The Mathetes Trust is to be able to raise enough money to provide proper support for coordinators in dioceses where budgets are stretched – Fr Elliot’s comment that RinJ is like a seed planted where a farmer is needed to care for its growth is very apt. To read Fr Elliot’s full report click here.
Finally, the headlines! It turned out that not all of those who hoped to lead a Rooted in Jesus group own a Bible, so the team donated a number of Bibles in the local language of Chichewa. Fr Elliot distributed these last month. He wrote: “We had time to distribute the bibles we received. By God’s grace by the time I was doing the exercise we had people from the media, and someone surprised me with pictures in the Malawi Newspaper The Sunday Times!”
It was a privilege to share in the life of the diocese, and we continue to pray for the priests and people of Upper Shire.
This blog was posted on 8th June 2017.