Easter Celebration in Mutare

Mr Choi (my Korean friend at Africa University) and I took the bus into Mutare, and then walked to St. Peter’s church for the service this Easter Sunday morning. On the way, we walked through the Mutare Botanical Gardens and appreciated the beauty of the many flowers, shrubs and and flowering trees there. Walking through the cool beauty and quietness of the gardens was very nice!

The church was packed with over a thousand attendants. As always, the singing was wonderful. The first half hour consisted mostly of singing by the choir and the congregation. The next hour was taken up with announcements, prayer times, baptisms, and new member intake, followed by an hour of powerful preaching by a guest minister from the Mutambara Mission. He was a dynamic speaker, with lots of movement around the stage to accompany his preaching. Even though it was all in Shona, he always held our attention. (Choi and I had translators sitting next to us so we could get the gist of the message.) The last half hour was involved with taking up the collection, final announcements, more singing, and then the closing benediction. With over a thousand attendants, it took some time to disperse.

It was a three hour service, but as Choi commented afterward, it was never boring. One of the things I love about Shona services is how singing accompanies every aspect of the service. Prayer time begins with soft congregational singing of familiar Shona choruses, and the singing may go on for five minutes before spoken prayers begin. Dozens of people go down to pray at the altar, while everybody else goes on their knees or sits with bowed heads through the singing and the prayers. During the sermon, the preacher will often break into song at an appropriate juncture in his (or her) sermon, and the entire church then accompanies the preacher with soft singing for a minute or two before he resumes his sermon. I’ve concluded that one of the requirements to be a preacher in Africa is the ability to sing, because every African preacher I’ve heard has a wonderful singing voice that he or she uses very effectively along with the preaching. Of course, most Africans seem to sing beautifully. I love to hear them harmonizing. The matrix of singing throughout the service is one of the things that makes the church so vibrant in Africa.

After the service, the four student pastors from Africa University said we could ride back to campus with them, but their bus never showed up. An hour later, as we waited and chatted outside the church, my friend Tom Sarimana came out from an after-church meeting (he is the lay leader,) and after assessing the situation, he said he would take us back to campus in his pick-up truck. With eight of us altogether (Tom, his wife, the four student pastors, and Choi and me,) that was a bit tricky even with his double-cab, but it worked. The three female student pastors sat in the second seat of the cab, while Choi and I sat in the open back along with the male student pastor. It was a gorgeous day, and I’ve never had such a lovely view of the passing landscapes as I did facing backward in the back of the pick-up truck. It was a fitting finish to a beautiful Easter Sunday morning!