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The church: The first steps towards unity

For years we have not known that the church is one. The church has always been one, but later got separated. This happened several years ago beginning with Martin Luther, the man behind the movement in 1517. He was a priest theologian who was firm.
By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

He nailed 95 theses on the door of the church. Little did he know that what he had started was what was going to divide the church for a long time.

Most Protestants were brought to Harare to celebrate the coming back of the two greatest movements of all time. The Catholic Bishops Conference in Zimbabwe (CBCZ) also brought their members to this grand accession at the St Marys All Saints in Harare. This was a grand gathering to celebrate the coming together of the churches after a long time.

Among the invited dignitaries were officials from City of Harare including the mayor Bernard Manyenyeni. Many representatives from different churches from the city were also present. Diplomats were also present.

The chairperson of the Roman Catholic church said, “It is important that we can meet for joint worship on the eve of October 31, the date associated with the reformation. We meet with mixed feelings. On one hand we celebrate the renewal of the church through the ministry of Martin Luther and other reformers; but we also lament the divisions of the church of Jesus Christ. For this reason, we meet here today to both celebrate and repent.”      

For its part, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches said “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by the baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like this, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Thereafter the churches lamented together the many years they have been separated as if they were not children of one Lord.

For a long time, the church became fragmented and formed societies within societies. It is not the members’ fault as the labels are a norm. Unfortunately, there was no attempt for a long time to meet and celebrate the church as one entity. No wonder there were members in attendance who did not know that the church in this fractious form is divided.     

The church has continued to meet like nothing had gone wrong. The new Protestant movement and the old Catholic Church had not known a united church. This was the first time they had come together.

I have written somewhere that the divided church that we inherited seemed normal. We have even celebrated division in the manner we have conducted business. However, the church is better when it comes together.

The church was encouraged by the Second Vatican Council, “[to] gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowment from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognise the riches of Christ and the virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.” In this, Catholics and churches of the Reformation are called to embrace each other as sisters and brothers in the Lord.  

This was followed by an apologetical song. A song that showed both the Catholics and the Protestants that they are contrite for the sins of the day. The sins of staying away from each other when they were supposed to be together worshipping as sons and daughters of one Lord and one faith. Instead of working together by bringing people together and thereby demonstrating that the word was brought out here to bind us together, the church was divided with each doing its own thing. 

Men and women from across the divide put aside their differences to come to a demonstration of love and acceptance at the cathedral. The Anglican church was magnanimous in that they rose above the occasion and demonstrated they can be one with the rest and worship God in one spirit.

The atmosphere was electrifying in all the procedures that were taking place in the place of worship. Each leader took people from one stage of worship to the other. Nothing was left to chance and all those who had come to worship said it was worthwhile. The denominational atmosphere which was in the worship place was because it was the first time such a service had been held.

All congregants wanted to witness what the churches could do together. The churches left no stone unturned to demonstrate that the church is one. At least for an hour it was one church that was founded by Jesus Christ when he established it in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We hope that the church shall work towards unity. It was only the name of the Lord that was exalted. After the service the people discussed why they had kept each other at arm’s length. They all left the congregation happy, knowing that they have come from a service that was graced by God. Let those with ears hear.

l Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College. He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.

*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.

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