Over that time ministers and lay people have visited one another’s churches,sometimes participating in special events such as assemblies and synod meetings, and sometimes shadowing their opposite numbers in the work of ministry.
As a synod we have been able to support a number of projects, which have included providing a vehicle for the central staff in Maputo to visit churches further from the capital, and setting up a small women’s sewing project. More recently we have enabled a minister in training to take up a scholarship to study in Brazil by covering the cost of his air travel, and we are currently helping the central finance department in upgrading its IT equipment. Some of our local churches have also developed links and supported small scale projects in churches and parishes.
We have been looking forward in 2015 to at least two visits by synod members to Mozambique: see our Mozambique Blog. And we hope that 2016 will see some return visits again.
More about our Mozambique link
The Presbyterian Church of Mozambique (Igreja Presbitériana de Moçambique – IPM) grew out of the evangelising work of the French-speaking Swiss Mission in Southern Africa at the end of the 19th century. As the influence of the Portuguese colonial powers extended inland from their traditional trading strongholds, the Mission was restricted to working in the most southerly part of the country, and the church is still strongest around the capital, Maputo, and in the Limpopo Valley in Gaza Province.
As soon as the country achieved independence the IPM resolved to evangelise and plant churches in each of the eleven provinces; and despite the ravages of civil war that lasted for 15 years, this goal was achieved. During the war many people from the north fled over the border to Malawi, where they were evangelised by the Presbyterian Church whose origins were in Scottish missions. The churches of Mozambique, including the IPM, were influential in helping bring war to an end; and in since 1992 the country has been at peace, with flourishing democratic institutions.
Because Mozambique is surrounded by English speaking nations, the government decided to seek membership of the Commonwealth; and Mozambique became the first Commonwealth member not to have had a British colonial history.
Northern Synod and the IPM
In 2003 Northern Synod was invited to consider forming a link with the IPM – a church about which we knew nothing, in a country of which we were equally ignorant. However, members of the synod world church committee were keen to explore the possibilities which were offered by the Belonging to the World Church programme, and towards the end of the year our moderator Peter Poulter spent a few days in and around Maputo as a guest of the church.
The following year saw two substantial visits: eight IPM members visited us for two weeks in the summer, followed by a similar visit of eight of our members to Mozambique in September and October. During these visits we recognised that language presented a considerable challenge: after their local languages, most Mozambicans have Portuguese as their second or third tongue, and English follows only after that. And while one member of our visiting team showed enthusiasm in introducing himself in Ronga, most of us remained and remain stubborn monoglots.
However, there was a real sense of fellowship and deep friendship across the various divides, and a desire to build on what we had already achieved. Over the past ten years we have welcomed IPM leaders to our synod on two occasions, but have been frustrated because of visa refusals in our hope to entertain some of their young people. It has been easier for us to visit Mozambique, and successive moderators and synod officials have been able to attend some of the IPM annual synod meetings, while four of our ministers have spent some of their sabbatical periods with the church.
We have much to learn from one another, and much to share with one another. While our friends in Mozambique look on us as a rich church in a rich country, we recognise them as bring rich in people. Churches are full and vibrant – but of course, the country is poor, and this is reflected in the way that church buildings often lie uncompleted, and ministers need to find a second income because they cannot rely on their stipend being paid. But all of us are united in a desire to share the good news of Jesus in rapidly changing societies.
Sometimes there are practical things that we can do. Over the years we have raised money for particular projects, which have included buying 4×4 vehicle for the IPM synod, setting up a small women’s sewing project, and more recently enabling an ordinand to take up a scholarship to study in Brazil.