By Woody Woodrick
United Methodist bishops from Mississippi and Zimbabwe formalized a covenant of “chabadza” between their conferences Sunday night, June 11.
Bishops Eben Nhiwatiwa of the Zimbabwe Area and Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of Mississippi signed the document calling for United Methodists in Mississippi and Zimbabwe to work and learn together.
The signing of the agreement highlighted the opening worship service of the 18th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference, which featured spirited singing by the Anderson United Methodist Church choir and dance troupe. The conference was held at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.
“Chabadza” is a Shona word meaning to join someone already at work. Ward has been developing the covenant with Nhiwatiwa over the past year or so. The $140,000 offering received at the service will go to support ministries in Zimbabwe, including Africa University.
Nhiwatiwa preached the sermon, which was intended to be a celebration of chabadza. Using Luke 21 as his text, Nhiwatiwa called for the preaching of Jesus Christ, who was born, crucified and rose again. Anything that doesn’t carry that message is just niceties, he said. Chabadza is part of the gospel, he added.
”Chabadza can take place anywhere,” he said. “There needs to be a place where people meet. As we meet, we encourage each other.”
Luke 21 tells of how Jesus would teach during the day, but go to a different place to pray in the evening. Nhiwatiwa encouraged the gathering of some 2,000 clergy and lay members and guest to find their own places for prayer.
“The Christian faith needs time for each other,” Nhiwatiwa said. “How on earth can we show the gospel if we’re just running up and down. We need to have time for each other. How can we share Jesus Christ if we don’t have time?”
That, he said, is the greatest need of the 21st century. ”The 21st century needs to hear Jesus Christ preached,” he said.