The South Africa Annual Conference held its 18th session at Wilberforce Community College in Johannesburg Nov. 18-20, 2021. The gathering was well-attended, both in person and virtually. Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala presided.
The coronavirus limited the gathering, although it was open to delegates and observers. Only 200 were allowed indoors at any one time.
In 2020, the bishop did not attend annual conference because borders were closed.
“This year, it was different,” said Doesmatter Mutandawakawa, annual conference secretary general. “COVID-19 infection statistics decreased, and South African government now allows indoor gatherings of 200 people.”
“We are glad that, despite the current situations we are facing, all districts were represented by their delegates and clergy,” said the Rev. Sonwabo Bala, district superintendent and connectional ministries director. The conference has five districts namely (Cape Coastal, Central, Khayalethu, Makhukhanye and Ikhwezi) and 36 circuits, with more than 3,800 members.
The Central District hosted the conference, and the Rev. Miriam Magura, Central District superintendent, delivered the opening devotion.
Fourteen people were ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership. Their average age was 40. In 2020, the conference did not have an ordination service.
“You have been equipped by the Holy Spirit,” said Nhanala. “You are now ready to go and serve in your districts, be fishers of men.”
“This is the day the Lord has made for us,” said the Rev. Thandeka Nhanga. “We have been ordained as elders, and it is the beginning of greater works of the Lord to come.”
One of the youngest new pastors, the Rev. Blessing Mwaitirwa, 31, said, “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 happened.”
The Rev. Mills Maliwa, the administrative assistant to the bishop, described the session as “excellent.” “The program was followed accordingly. Attendance was 100% from clergy and laity, [and] all COVID-19 safety regulations were strictly adhered to.”
“In 2020,” he added, “the conference was postponed due to high alarming cases and lockdown.”
Conferees urged prayer for an in-person 2021 conference. “Here we are by God’s wonders,” Maliwa said.
Reflecting on his ordination, Mwaitirwa said, “Though called by God, it is this special moment in a clergyperson’s life that one anticipates.”
“The conference was excellent,” said the Rev. Thandeka Ntlanga, Makhukhanye District. “Everything went well, the time spent was within standard and we thank the Lord.”
“The conference,” said the Rev. Innocent Muhomba, 35, “exhibited the growth of the church through the number of pastors who were ordained. It marked a great milestone in my life as I was ordained both as a deacon and elder the same day. I interpret my ordination as a clear manifestation of God’s grace in my life.”
Two delegates to General Conference were named: the Rev. Blossom Nobuhle Spiva (clergy) and Abel Mandeya (lay).
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 were 10,000. Eighty adults and young adults participate in small groups.
A team from the Central District raised funds for the conference. Zano Mataruka, who heads the Fundraising Committee, commented, “This annual conference, held against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was unique. As outlined by the bishop in her episcopal address, the church’s role could not be more relevant than it is today in these difficult times. More than ever, the church should provide hope to our communities.”
A gala dinner highlighted the conference.
“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 a conference official.
The planning committee, the Rev. David Mucherera said, worked tirelessly. “It was not easy,” he admitted, “but we thank God everything went well [and] according to plan.”
Nhanala announced clergy appointments and assignments for 2022. Concluding the conference, delegates joined the bishop in a birthday celebration, and districts presented gifts to Nhanala.
To watch video from the conference, click here.
Alvin Tiri Makunike, director of communications for the South Africa Annual Conference.
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