By CHARLES SIMENGWA –
PRIESTHOOD is honourable and a blessing to those who follow the plan of God, but rebellious members of some churches in Zambia have, in recent years, attempted to strip it of its sacredness.
This is evident in the conflicts that have engulfed some churches around the country, and have increasingly perverted priesthood with a myriad of challenges.
It is widely acknowledged that where priest-congregant conflicts are rife, fear and anxiety often skyrocket, and the important position of the church in the lives of the faithful is greatly undermined.
This is the tide of disunity the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) is eager to reverse through positive communication skills and improved conflict resolution mechanisms for both its ministers and the general membership.
The resounding message during an induction ceremony in honour of Simon Kasanga, the new minister-in-charge of UCZ Northrise Congregation in Ndola, was on the importance of pursuing Biblical counsel on respecting church leaders.
Ndola-based lawyer Kephas Katongo, who was the guest-of-honour at the ceremony held on April 29, 2018, urged the congregants to cooperate with church leaders as they were ordained by God.
He quoted Matthew 10:40-41 from the Bible, which states that “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Mr Katongo, who extolled Reverend Kasanga as a hard worker and team builder, said hostility towards church leaders would always be a poor substitute for the pivotal role priests play in spreading the Word of God.
“A rude awakening awaits us if we continue antagonising our church leaders. We should treat them with honour at all times,” he said.
The colourful ceremony, attended by UCZ ministers from different congregations – led by Ndola North Consistory chairperson Weston Simwinga – and guests from all walks of life, was spiced with melodious singing by the Bethel Church Choir, Springs of Praise, and the Women’s Christian Fellowship Consistory Choir.
Mr Katongo implored Northrise Congregation members to heartily embrace Rev Kasanga, describing him as the embodiment of progressive church leaders who had diligently served their flock both in urban and rural Zambia.
He said a congregation that desires to keep the sanctity of the Word of God should help in building good leaders whose attributes should include humility, integrity, perseverance and good communication skills.
“Those who resort to closing church buildings whenever there are differences must stop. Let us not instil fear in our church leaders, but instead pray for them and their families, and God will reward us,” Mr Katongo, the Ndola District Boys Brigade of Zambia patron, said.
He had some caution, though. Church leaders should not relax in their duties to encourage, warn and rebuke their flock.
Ministers of the Gospel should take the lead in visiting the sick and poor, preaching the Word of God, maintaining discipline, as well as encouraging the growth of spiritual gifts in the congregants.
Mr Katongo, deeply troubled by the helplessness of some retired church leaders, also urged the local authority to facilitate easier acquisition of residential plots to make such priests lead dignified lives.
A similar sentiment was voiced by acting Copperbelt Presbytery Bishop Bellington Kabaso, who appealed to UCZ members to help plug the growing suffering among some retired ministers.
Rev Kabaso, who delivered a sermon anchored on repentance, said church leaders had a huge task to discourage sinful living, which was threatening the future of especially youths.
He was particularly appalled by the irreverent dressing being displayed by a rising number of young people, some of whom have a blurred understanding of right and wrong.
He criticised the spiritual ‘blindness’ that had made some Christians seek salvation in wrong places, using unproven elements such as ‘holy water’.
Rev Kabaso further said the current focus on materialism and consumerism in Zambian culture had also affected the church as some priests were concentrating on the so-called prosperity gospel, leaving the noble messages of salvation in the shade.
He called on Northrise Congregation members to help Rev Kasanga settle down at his new station by supporting his work.
He offered a piece of advice to Rev Kasanga on extending his love and compassion to all the members, including those with a stubborn resistance to change.
“As John 21: 15-22 in the Bible encourages us all, take care of the sheep. You will find some members who don’t behave like genuine sheep, but you have to embrace them,” Rev Kabaso said, amid rapturous applause from the congregants and guests.
He said, rather than focus on trivialities, the church should reflect its characteristics as the body of Jesus Christ that appoints and prepares different people for their various roles in the service of God’s kingdom.
Rev Kasanga, a holder of master’s degree in theology from Edinburgh University in Scotland, was ordained in 1995 in Chinsali, now the provincial headquarters of Muchinga Province.
Chinsali was his first station after graduating from the UCZ Theological College in Mindolo, in Kitwe, with a diploma in theology. The college has now been upgraded into a university.
He later served in Mpika District in Northern Province from 1997 to 2002, when he was transferred to the Copperbelt where he has since served in different towns that include Mufulira, Chililabombwe, and Ndola.
Rev Kasanga, who joined Northrise Congregation from Ndola Main Congregation in December 2017, is married to Jessie Mulenga-Kasanga, with whom he has five children – Kisa, Rehma, Anjetile, Masebo, and Mwizya.
The statement of affirmation read out by Northrise Congregation secretary Mukeha Mukanaka, on behalf of the executive, was indicative of the warm embrace the new minister had received from the general membership.
“True leaders are not driven by the desire to lead people; they are instead driven by the desire to serve people, and that is who you are.
“Leaders inspire their followers to want to do something, and from the time you joined us in December 2017, you have demonstrated your willingness to help Northrise Congregation grow both spiritually and in our works,” Mr Mukanaka said.
He said the church was in need of spirit-filled leaders “for the work is plenty, yet workers are few.”
He appealed to Rev Kasanga to uphold the values on which the church is founded in order for the UCZ to succeed.
Mr Mukanaka said the new minister had left an admirable record of humility, hard work and team player in the congregations where he had previously served.
“We are confident those are the values which will help us move to a higher level as Northrise Congregation.
“You have a huge task to supervise and ensure successful completion of the running projects at the congregation, but we pledge the support of the executive and all the members towards your work,” he said.
These are crucial messages on unity, love and respect for church leaders – the reciprocal appreciation of the general membership included – and Rev Kasanga is expected to follow the same course of action to bring greater glory to God.