Worship at Chitakatira United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe

Worship at Chitakatoira United Methodist Church
is an experience of hope and depth,



(This is the second post from Mutare, Zimbabwe where the General Commission on Communications of The United Methodist Church is meeting. With representatives from Africa, Europe, the Philippines and the United States, this is the first meeting of the Commission (board of directors) outside the United States. The Commission supervises United Methodist Communications, the communications agency responsible for communications services for the global church.)


As the choir enters the sanctuary, energy fills the room. Bodies stir. To the clapping of hands and the shaking of gourd rattles, music swells and melodic voices fill the space.

Faces lighten, along with burdens of the week, and the community starts to become as one. The children, youth, men and women of Chitakatir United Methodist Church along with visitors from Europe, the United States and other African nations are beginning the first worship service of the new year in the mountains of rural Zimbabwe.

Music is integral to worship, and worship is the most intimate and formative act that shapes community. Music comes from the heart and memory. It moves and engages us.

Almost naturally we sway to rhythm and clap in time. Caught up in the joy and energy of being together we offer praise and thanksgiving for this new day in this new year, we become one community from many different parts of the world.

For the local worshipping community, the songs are so integrated into their lives they know the words by memory. Those of us who don’t know Shona, are drawn in by the sound itself.

The choir leader sings a few opening words and the congregation picks up until everyone is singing.

The sanctuary has high walls covered with corrugated zinc. It is spare but functional. The pews are hand-made from slabs of locally sawn lumber, well-worn with a patina oiled by the hands of worshippers over time.

The message, delivered with animation and passion by Tafadzwa Mudabanuki, encourages us to open the windows of our hearts and let fresh breezes blow through. For this first Sunday of the new year, it is a message that resonates. For those of us experiencing worship in a new setting, some for the first time in Africa, it helped us frame the experience so we will remember and speak about it.

The pastor encouraged local parishioners to sit among the visitors to interpret and assist us during worship. As they moved among us barriers of language and culture melted away, distance evaporated and we became as one.

When entered into with a sense of expectation and humility, worship unites us and gives us perspective that leads us beyond our individual selves and makes us aware that we belong to each other and to our Creator. It points us beyond our isolation and the feeling that we’re different and invites us to see each other as ourselves, to let fresh breezes blow through our hearts so that we forgive those who have wronged us and are forgiven for the wrongs we have done.

In this way, it not about pie-in-the-sky promises of life beyond, or outside of time. It refreshes our mundane, everyday existence, giving us new spirit and energy. This is the paradox of worship. It renews the mundane while lifting us above it. It transforms everyday reality through a mystery we do not fully comprehend, lifting us beyond ourselves and making us one with each other and the whole of Creation.

As the service ended and we prepared to depart, we were refreshed and renewed, our hearts full of hope and joy.
There were handshakes, hugs and smiles. We were lifted beyond ourselves and we knew we were in the embrace of a God who knows no boundaries, and says we all belong–to each other and to God.

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