Leading the Anglican Church of Congo from the grassroots

The Most Revd Zacharie Masimango Katanda is not only the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Congo (ACC), but he remains bishop of the vast Diocese of Kindu. Travel along narrow dirt roads through forest to the church centres is all but impossible except at certain times of the year. We listened to his experience of training local leaders to see what BUILD can learn as it partners with the ACC.

The Archbishop began by describing a typical visit to a distant group of churches: “Most of our parishes are in remote, equatorial areas. This means we are only able to visit them in the dry season: we go for confirmations, to visit the pastors, and to train the catechists where they are. We invite those from around five local churches to come to a central place, so that they are able to walk to meet with me. Sometimes I travel with my wife, Naomi, so that she can meet with the women, otherwise she will not have a connection with them.

“A visit like this can involve 250 kilometres of travel from the headquarters, and there is no petrol anywhere on the way. And so I carry my own petrol supplies on the back of the motorcycle. My bishop’s cross for ordination and confirmation [is in short sections] – I unscrew those so that it can travel in a box on the motorcycle, and I then screw it back together again when it is needed.”

Travel within the diocese is only part of the challenge. When asked about the training he does, the Archbishop described methods that are similar to those embedded in BUILD: “I teach the catechists an overview of the Bible as a whole; how it is set in sequence according to the plan of God. I use local illustrations to help: people are used to the way in which the leaves fall in the forest, and can understand the Fall of Man. I use images and ideas, such as from Creation, which they know well. And [to teach] the covenant I use ways in which they are used to making covenants – for example, a goat as the symbol of a covenant: two families being bound together. For the Holy Spirit, fire, which has great power. When teaching we use cultural issues.

“For example, teaching the death of Jesus: no one will die for another person in our culture, but sometimes people will use animals to reconcile people in the village. There is a large animal in the forest, and if they can find it they will bring it to share with each other: there is joy and a feast. The animal was hidden, just as Jesus was hidden in Heaven. Then he came and there is now reconciliation and peace.”

The training is at a basic level, and literacy levels are low. He shared that, “like BUILD, local level training is what we need. I am talking to people who have never been to school, but they have a heart for mission. So we need people who are creative with resources in adult education.”

The Archbishop is impressive for the way in which he is taking the lead in this, from the top to reach those at the grassroots. “I want to set an example,” he explained, “and I need to train others who can move and train others themselves using simple resources: with the Bible and teaching documents in Swahili, to share biblical models of leadership.”

An earlier post described the scale of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the genesis of BUILD training in Bukavu on the eastern fringe. It ended with a mention of the consecration of the first bishop of the ACC’s new Kamango Diocese, attended by BUILD representatives from Uganda, where BUILD has since begun some teaching. Archbishop Masimango shared how grateful he is for the vision of BUILD, and for the ways it is beginning to have an impact within the ACC. His prayer, and ours, is that slowly but surely it will continue to grow there.