Methodist Church

United Methodists in Africa elect first woman bishop


NEW YORK – The Rev Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, 51, has been elected as the first woman United Methodist bishop in Africa.

The Pastor of Matola United Methodist Church in Mozambique was elected at a meeting of the denomination’s Africa Central Conference at the Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe last year. She has succeeded Bishop João Somane Machado, who is retiring as the leader of the Mozambique area.

In another election during the conference, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa was re-elected to lead the denomination’s Zimbabwe area.

The Africa Central Conference includes the denomination’s Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola episcopal areas, the South Africa Provisional Conference, the Malawi Missionary Conference, and the East Africa Episcopal Area of Uganda, Southern Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.

Bishop Nhiwatiwa was first elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and has served as General Secretary of the Africa Central Conference since 2000.

Besides serving a large church in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, the Rev Nhanala has coordinated women’s projects for the Mozambique church and led a World Relief HIV/Aids programme designed to mobilise churches for education and advocacy in Mozambique’s three southern provinces.

The Rev Nhanala, the only woman United Methodist pastor in Mozambique holding a master’s degree in theology, facilitated the Mozambique Initiative’s consultation with 200 participants in Maputo in 2003.

She is is married to another United Methodist pastor, the Rev Eugenio Tomas, and they have four adult children.

Although she was baptised and confirmed as a Catholic – her father’s religion – she also attended her mother’s Methodist church. Drawn to the youth programmes, she became active in the Methodist Church as a teenager. She and her husband, who married in 1976, were both accepted for theological studies at the 1985 Mozambique Annual Conference and received sponsorship from the Women’s Fellowship. – United Methodist News Service.

Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.


Teen musician steps up to lead church choir

MOUNT GRETNA (Pennsylvania) – Many members of the choir he leads are old enough to be his grandparents. But 15-year-old Ryan Brunkhurst is more than the choir director and organist at Mount Gretna United Methodist Church. He also shows members of the Pennsylvania congregation how the youth can make valuable contributions to the church.

“I love hymns,” he said. “I love taking a hymn and just putting my own style into it and just playing the way I like to play.”

Ryan volunteered for the job last year when the church needed to find a new organist.

The Rev Janet Steger, Pastor of Mount Gretna UMC, said: “We did not have a choir director, and there might not be music, special music, anthems and such for Christmas, so he decided that he had to do something because he loves Christmas.

“And so he came to me and he said, ‘You know, that’s not acceptable to me, so I will lead the choir.’ ”

Ryan first played the organ at the church when he was 11 – and barely able to reach the pedals. His first introduction to music came when he was three.

“My grandma taught me how to just play some of the basic things,” he said. “She was the organist at her church at 12.”

His mother, Tracie, encouraged him to pursue the choir director’s position. Said Mrs Brunkhurst: “He takes it upon himself to do these things and he looks forward to it, and he really puts all his efforts into it. We often say that he’s a 60-year-old man trapped in a 15-year-old’s body.”

Ryan hopes to continue his musical pursuit after high school. He wants to get a doctoral degree in music, play for a church and perform. – United Methodist News Service.

John Gordon is a freelance producer in Marshall, Texas.