Winnet Matiza slowly made her way up the flight of creaky steps, holding on to the rail for support. A few concerned onlookers assisted her, wary that the 76-year-old might slip and hurt herself.
At the top of the stairs, she paused, regained her breath and walked across the stage. Waving and spurred on by the cheering crowd, Matiza smiled and confidently imitated what she had previously only seen on television.
Last month, this United Methodist church member was crowned “queen” at the inaugural Chitungwiza-Marondera District modeling show held at Mberi government school hall. “This is an exciting new activity, I hope we will have more like it,” she said.
Matiza had never imagined that the conservative United Methodist Church women’s union, Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai, would hold an event previously associated with secular society.
The modeling competition attracted 65 women of all ages. The audience loudly cheered Matiza as she strutted on the improvised ramp in The Zimbabwe United Methodist Church women’s uniform – an outfit made from African print material.
The Rev. Portia Kanoyangwa, Chitungwiza-Marondera district superintendent, had front-row seat at the event.
“Modeling teaches people to dress well and to be confident,” she said, adding that the event was a good way of having fellowship, something unique and far removed from the usual church activities.
Women from the 15 churches that make up the district competed in three age groups: 18–35 years, 36–55 years and 56 and up.
Competition attracts new churchgoers
Another winner, Rufaro Muskwe, 29, is no newcomer to the runway. “I won the Miss Chinhoyi title when I was in high school, over a decade ago,” she said. Chinhoyi is a small city located 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Harare.
Muskwe was excited about modeling, but wary that the church has to change the negative perception about pageants.
“People believe it is not Christian-like to parade on stage. The event helped me realise that being a UMC member is not just about praying, there are other activities which may attract more people to the church,” she said.
Muskwe told her friends and neighbors about the modeling show and she said some have expressed the desire to join The United Methodist Church.
The event was the brainchild of Annah Hlahla, who heads the women’s union in the district and wanted to help women understand that grooming is important, especially in church.
“Modeling is an activity whose aim is to instill confidence in church women, some of whom have an inferiority complex,” she said.
Hlahla said the event also brings women together to fellowship, make new friends and strengthen relationships away from the formal church environment.
“Personal presentation makes you feel fantastic. It boosts your confidence and self esteem,” Hlahla noted. She quoted Matthew 23:26 which states that cleanliness is next to Godliness and said once the inside was clean, the outside appearance was easy to deal with.
Loveness Mayere, chairperson the sports and recreation committee, which organized the event, said the response from members had been overwhelming and modeling may become a regular feature of the annual calendar.
Chikwanah is a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
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