By Alvin Makunike

January 24, 2022, I JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Key Points:

  • The Annual Conference was a memorable event, and the hosting district did a splendid job
  • Ordination Ceremony of the clergy witnessed with joy and satisfaction
  • You have been equipped by the Holy Spirit, go, and serve, be fishers of men
  • Conference delegates are very pleased with the 18th Session
  • Delegates and observers rejoiced in the opportunity to gather in person with Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala.
  • “This is the day the Lord has made for us,” said the Rev. Thandeka Nhanga.
  • “One of the highlights,” said the Rev. Blessing Mwaitirwa, “was media coverage, which, for the first time, invited everyone from the comfort of their homes to experience the conference as it happened.”

The South Africa Annual Conference held its 18th Session at Wilberforce College in Johannesburg, South Africa from 18-20 November 2021. A well-attended conference was conducted both physically and virtually. Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of the South Africa Conference presided over the 18th Session. Various committees tabled their reports followed by deliberations, this was concluded by the ordination of deacons and elders.

Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala and her Cabinet prayed before Ordination Ceremony during the 18th Session of The South Africa Annual Conference at Wilberforce Community College, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Alvin Makunike, UM News

Due to the pandemic, the Annual Conference for the year 2020 was held under strict regulations and the bishop did not attend due to the closure of borders.

 “This year it was different, Covid 19 infection statistics decreased, and South African government now allows indoor gatherings of two hundred people, paving way for the Annual Conference to take place,” said Doesmatter Mutandawakawa, Annual Conference Secretary-General.

A total number of 14 Decons and 12 Elders were Ordained by Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala during the 18th Session of The South Africa Annual Conference 2021. Photo by Alvin Makunike, UM News

The South Africa Annual Conference has five Districts namely, Cape Coastal, Central, Khayalethu, Makhukhanye, and Ikhwezi, and a total of thirty-six circuits. There are 36 UM Circuits in South Africa Annual Conference, with about (3 808 members).

´´We are glad that despite the current situations we are facing, all districts were represented by their delegates and clergy, ´´ said DS Rev Sonwabo Bala, Director on Connectional Ministries.

 The Central District hosted the conference and opening devotion was delivered by Rev Miriam Magura, Central District Superintendent. 

A total number of fourteen women and men were ordained as deacons and twelve as elders. 

“You have been equipped by the Holy Spirit, you are now ready to go and serve in your districts, be fishers of men,” says Bishop J. F. Nhalala. 

 “This is the day the Lord has made for us. We have been ordained as Elders and it is the beginning of greater works of the Lord to come,” said Rev Thandeka Nhanga.

One of the youngest ordained Pastors, Rev Blessing Mwaitirwa, thirty-one years old had this to say, “the Annual Conference was a memorable event, and the hosting district did a splendid job, ´´

´´One of the major highlights perhaps was media coverage which, for the first time, invited everyone from the comfort of their homes to experience the Conference as it happens, ´´ explained Mwaitirwa.

´´The Communications team brought virtual life of the Conference to those who could not come for obvious and unknown reasons,” concluded Mwaitirwa.

Rev Mills Maliwa, the administrative assistant to the bishop, briefly commented about the conference session.

“The session was excellent, the program was followed accordingly, attendance was hundred percent from clergy and laity, the good thing is all the Covid-19 safety regulations were strictly adhered to, ´´ 

Speaking on the postponed 2020 Annual Conference Session, he explained: 

´´In 2020 the Conference was postponed due to high alarming cases and lockdown, a resolution was undertaken that all congregations should pray that it can take place the following year (2021), here we are by God’s wonders,” concluded Maliwa.  

“It is at this Conference that I was ordained amongst fellow clergy. Though called by God it is this special moment in a clergy person’s life that one anticipates,” said Rev Blessing Mwaitirwa after he was ordained

´´The conference was excellent, everything went well, the time spent was within standard and we thank the Lord,” said Rev Thandeka Ntlanga from Makhukhanye District.

The 2021 ordination had the following numbers: ordained deacons, four women, and two men. Ordained elders, eight women, and six men totalling 14. The number differs from previous years simply because, in 2020, SAAC did not have ordination service, but this ordination number is historically important to highlight in the life of the UMC in South Africa.

Another young, ordained Pastor, Rev Innocent Muhomba aged thirty-five had this to say, “The conference was one of its kind…it exhibited the growth of the church through the number of Pastors who were ordained, ´´

´´Personally, it marked a great milestone in my life as I was ordained both as a deacon and elder the same day, and I interpret my ordination as a clear manifestation of God’s grace in my life”. 

Funds to fund the conference were raised by a team from Central District.

“To me, this Annual Conference held against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, was a unique one, ´´ said Mr. ZanoMataruka, Head of Fundraising Committee. 

´´As outlined by the Bishop in her Episcopal address, the church’s role could not be more relevant than what it is today in these difficult times, more than ever, the church should provide hope to our communities, ´´ concluded Mataruka.

A gala diner to welcome the bishop and conference was held accompanied by various performances on stage.

 “Central District has proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be able to host a conference with a difference and in style, ´´ said Nandipha Mkwalo from Ikwezi District and Conference official.

´´ The food, venue, and timekeeping were out of this world, I hope other districts have learned something from this conference, ´´ said Mkwalo.

 “We had a planning committee that worked tirelessly to make sure that all areas are covered. It was not easy, but we thank God everything went well according to plan,” said Rev David Mucherera.

As per the norms of the annual conference, Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala announced appointments of Pastors whereby they were assigned to various circuits for the year 2022. The conference was concluded by celebrating Bishop’s birthday, where districts presented their gifts in celebration.

Alvin Tiri Makunike is the Director of Communications for The South Africa Annual Conference.