The CWM Pre-Assembly for Africa region was held between 17 – 21 February, gathering representatives from Churches of Christ in Malawi (CCM), Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), United Church of Zambia (UCZ), United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) and Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA).
It was a time of fellowship, discussion, prayer and Bible studies for the delegates in Gaborone, Botswana, as well as orientation and preparation for the CWM General Assembly.
The keynote address was delivered by CWM General Secretary Rev Dr Collin Cowan, where he focused on the life and work of CWM, as well as the 2020-2029 Strategy Framework. In addition, Rev Dr Cowan and former CWM Moderator Rev Dr Prince Dibeela paid tribute to the late Rev Dr Vuyani Vellem, or Prof VV as he was affectionately known in Africa.
Through worship, presentation and group engagement, the bible studies and devotions were designed with the participants in mind, allowing them to respond to and engage biblically and contextually with the theme in the Africa context. Rev Rupert Hambira of UCCSA led the first Bible study on the topic of patriarchy, followed by a group discussion among General Secretaries of CWM Africa member churches on how patriarchy has become the domestic face of empire. The next day, UPCSA General Secretary Rev Lungile Mpetsheni focused on racism in his Bible study titled “Rising to Life – Breaking out from Babylon”.
The theme “Rising to Life with Jesus” was further unpacked by Prof Lilian Siwila of University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN), in her theological reflection, and Rev Dr Dibeela in his missiological reflection, guided the delegates to deal with the tension that lies between the scientific theology and church proclamation. These reflections were a time of genuine dialogue, and of receptiveness to all experiences, perspectives, beliefs and actions shared in the conversations.
Also included in the event, were plenary discussions and presentations on Legacies of Slavery, as well as “Thursdays in Black”, a campaign of solidarity and advocacy against gender-based violence supported by many organisations and groups all over the world. CWM Africa is no exception, considering it their signature programme for advocacy. Through a “Thursdays in Black” service, participants and the Botswana community – through the UCCSA Botswana Synod – were challenged to raise awareness and progress towards a world without rape and violence.
Time and space were given for young people to make their voices heard, which saw UPCSA youth Afika Rwayi speaking about youth advocacy as part of the process of breaking away from Babylon. During their immersion programme, they visited the Three Dikgosi Monument, where there are three bronze statues depicting Sebele I, Bathoen I, and Khama III, tribal chiefs who played important roles in Botswana’s independence.