On 1st June 2021 UEM and African leaders join the online 25th UEM anniversary celebrations. The 2019 Africa Regional Assembly resolved that the UEM 25th anniversary in 2021 will be celebrated in each UEM African member after the official launching. The official launching took place on Tuesday June 1, 2021 and had to be done online due to COVID-19. The event was hosted by the ELCT, Eastern and Costal Diocese and brought together the top UEM leaders at different levels. The launching liturgy was led by Bishop Dr Alex Gehaz Malasusa, biblical reflection by Bishop Dr Msafiri Mbilu, songs were performed by talented youth choirs of the Evangelical Church in Botswana, the ELCT-Eastern and Costal Diocese in Tanzania and the CADELU church in the DRC.
The launching was preceded by preparations including video recording of various African leaders on the testimonies they have between their churches and UEM over a period of 25 years. Their testimony showed great achievements of UEM in the last 25 years based on its five areas of work (Evangelism, Advocacy, Development, Partnership and Diaconia). It is noticed how UEM African members are committed to ownership, positive transformation, solidarity and fighting any feelings of fatalism.
In the launching event the UEM Moderator, Rev Dr Wilhelm Simarmata, African Council, Board members, the General Secretary, Rev Volker Martin Dally, members of the Management Team and Co-workers shared reports and testimonies on the UEM growth in the last 25 years. African members shared joyfully on the UEM support and achievements to date. One of UEM distinctive is putting members at the centre of all implemented work. God calls each one to help release people from poverty, regardless of their faith or background, UEM’s role is seen as enabling the church to live out this calling. The event is a chance to reflect on UEM history and bring members to reflect on their organization's success along the way.
Celebrating the 25th UEM anniversary enabled members to realize the opportunities and strengths they have within UEM in dealing with the greatest enemies of mankind which are ignorance, disease, poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. UEM members understand these enemies as the result of people’s broken relationships – with God, with one another and with the environment. Guided by holistic mission approach, participants see themselves as called to help restore these relationships by responding holistically to people’s needs – economic, emotional, spiritual and physical.
Reported colourful celebrations on the UEM week and 25th Anniversary by UEM African members.
Melina Manase, the Karagwe Diocese Co-worker shared that on June 6th 2021, the Diocese and congregants celebrated UEM week and 25 years anniversary under the leadership of Bishop Dr Bagonza Benson who explained the historical birth of UEM and her five working areas.
KAD Church leaders organized the event at Katinkimo mission congregation, Rukole Parish to celebrate this International Communion of Protestant churches in Europe, Africa and Asia. Hundreds of congregants from various Parishes of the Diocese attended the event, which also included fundraising for building the new church at Katinkimo congregation. Bishop Dr. Benson K. Bagonza described the growth, development and significance of UEM since when it was launched 1966 till now. He underlined that over 110 years ago missionaries came to Karagwe, built churches, schools, health centers and preached the Good News of Jesus Christ. Believers were found and faith was built within them. The celebration continued by the visitation of Dean Michael Kanju of NED who visited KAD from June 24-30, 2021 in particular to strengthen partnership between NED and KAD.
President Rev Bokombe Denis traveled 4 days from Basankusu, West Congo to Kinshasa to join members of Limete parish to celebrate the UEM week and 25 years of UEM. It was organized on Thursday 3 June 2021 a worship service on the occasion of the two events. The worship service was led by the parish pastor assisted by the elders. It was attended by more than 200 parishioners. He presented a history of the UEM, describing how the UEM went from the Rhenish mission society to be communion of churches in 3 continents. The activities and achievements of the UEM and the common challenges ahead were presented by President Bokombe. The celebration ended with a competition of parish choirs.
Anglican Church of Rwanda with the UEM Scholarship Alumni association celebrated with financial contributions to UEM: On June 6th, 2021, during the Sunday Service, a letter sent by the Bishop Dr. Jered Kalimba, the representative of Anglican Bishops in the UEM was read in all open parishes to transmit the same message regarding the celebration of UEM anniversary. As mentioned in his letter, the parishes interceded for all UEM member churches in Germany, Africa and Asia, for bilateral and trilateral partnerships, and gave a special offering to support UEM programs. Former UEM scholarship holders from the dioceses of Butare, Cyangugu, Kigeme and Shyogwe met in one parish to celebrate with the congregants the UEM week and 25th Anniversary. They presented greetings from their home dioceses, expressed their gratitude to UEM and the Anglican Church for the scholarship provided, and agreed to collect between themselves a financial contribution to UEM before the end of 2021. So far an estimated 600 Euros are reported to have been collected as a donation to UEM.
The Presbyterian church of Rwanda (EPR) in intercessions prayers: The President, the Rev Dr Bataringaya Pascal wrote that all parishes of the EPR celebrated the UEM anniversary 25 years. Even though not allowed to gather during the week, church members have kept praying for UEM, individually and in family and cell groups prayers. Parishes which are permitted to have gatherings incorporated the UEM celebration in their Sunday services. In the parishes whose temples are still closed due to Covid 19, the leaders used the familiar ways of worshiping together to inform the participants on the week of UEM and pray for the UEM family. The celebrations had the following parts: Presentation of UEM, the realization of UEM in the Church development work in Rwanda within 25 years.
The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA): Organized a worship service following the suggested liturgy by the Africa Region. The worship service was joined by members of the General Synod Executive (GSE) who thanked God for the URCSA being a UEM member.
The ELCT- KAD, NED, NWD and ECD: During the UEM Week, member churches in Tanzania have put up plans and schedules for the UEM United Action Campaign and church leaders exchanged physical visits to UEM member churches. The four Deans from these UEM member churches planned to use the 2nd week of June to visit each other as a way of strengthening partnership and stand for UEM United Action during this particular period of the UEM week and 25th Anniversary.
NED marked the celebration of the 25th anniversary of UEM with the opening of a house of worship in Maweni Sub-parish at Tanga on June 12, 2021 and the installation of Coast District Pastor on June 13, 2021. All events were led by Bishop Dr Joseph Mbilu and attended by Dean Wakami from KAD and Deputy Executive Africa Region Pastor Kadiva who was given the opportunity to give UEM greetings especially to mark the 25th anniversary. Bishop Mbilu highlighted the great contribution of UEM to NED and how UEM still continues to fund development work in NED. He appealed to all congregations to continue to strengthen ties with UEM and its partners. NED contributed Tshs 1,266,500 as a mark for UEM common work.
The Baptist Church in Central Africa- CBCA: The President, Rev Dr Ngayihembako Samuel reported that “June is dedicated to Mission work”. Especially at the occasion of the UEM anniversary, during June 2021, all Superintendents implemented a month exchange visits, learning from one another on the church activities, particularly on the work supported by UEM.
Church leaders shared that putting together UEM 25th anniversary events has been an exciting task, but it is with creativity and planning that African members celebrated their special milestone and it was fun and thanksgiving for all who were involved. After all, as it was noticed UEM milestone is a result of years of members’’ dedication and hard work. It is time to take a step back and celebrate what each member has achieved and positively decide on the way forward.
Rev Dr Kadiva Ernest and Rev Dr John Wesley Kabango (UEM Africa Department)
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