Happenings, News

A historic event: Bishop Dr Solomon’s visit to Zambia

THE visit of Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), and Mrs Solomon to Zambia, on the invitation of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ), is a historic event in that for most of our life as a church the outside partnerships of UCZ have been with the West.

Given the demographics of the church during this time, we are convinced that the South-to-South partnerships are strategic to the work of our Lord’s Kingdom.

The bishop’s visit, from June 9 to 18, began with a brief courtesy call on his counterpart, Bishop Patrice Siyemeto, UCZ Synod Bishop at the Synod office.

The first contact between the UCZ and MCS was made in September 1988 when the Rev Ajit Hazra and his wife, Kim Hong, were sent to us as missionaries by Kampong Kapor Methodist Church. They opted for a two-year term, but eventually stayed on for 15 years. They returned to Singapore early this year.

Bishop Dr Solomon’s programme began in earnest on June 10 with a day-long seminar for church workers in Lusaka Presbytery. Bishop Dr Solomon spoke about the call of a minister. His theme was woven around the minister being like the bread, taken, blessed, broken and given. All who attended the sessions were very encouraged. It was particularly special that ministers who are giving all the time had a chance to receive this time.

Bishop and Mrs Solomon also visited Bissel farm, a project of Lusaka Central Consistory (the equivalent of District in Methodist parlance) of the UCZ. The HIV/ Aids project team from Trinity Church was donating materials at the community school based at the farm. The farm provided the Solomons with a perspective of life on the margins of Zambian society.

The children learn in very basic struc-tures and most of them are orphaned as a result of HIV/Aids. The church’s involve-ment is one way of seeking to uplift the standards of those children and to give them hope and a sense of self.

Bishop Dr Solomon had a formal meet-ing with UCZ synod officials at which they exchanged information on the state of the two churches and possible areas for future partnerships. Mrs Solomon spoke at the Women’s Christian Fellowship (WCF) meeting at Trinity Church.

On the Sunday morning of June 13, Bishop Dr Solomon preached a very challenging sermon at the 70th anniversary service of Trinity Congregation (Trinity was the host congregation for the bishop’s visit). It was a colourful open-air celebra-tion at which we, a congregation of about 1,000 people, gave thanks, told our story and celebrated our heritage.

It was very meaningful to have Bishop Dr Solomon, an Asian bishop, as our guest-of-honour. That was symbolic of the new reality in the worldwide church that the centre of gravity for Christianity has shifted to the South.

In his sermon titled “Echoes of the Gospel”, he challenged us to consider and respond to the challenge that the growth of the Church in our part of the world entails. It is our turn to “echo” the Gospel to the world, and to “re-echo” the Gospel to post-Christian Western nations that brought the Gospel to our shore.

The Solomons also took a five-hour drive north to Kitwe. Bishop Dr Solomon was the guest speaker at the opening service of the UCZ Theological College. He brought a timely message from the book of Jonah to our students preparing for ordained ministry. He later gave an open lecture on globalisation and its effects to the students and faculty.

To Bishop and Mrs Solomon, we simply say, “We are glad you came.” “Zikomo!” (Thank you).

Kuzipa Nalwamba is the Associate Regional Secretary (Publishing) of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students – English and Portuguese Speaking Africa.