The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Some years ago, there were 70 parishes in the Iringa Diocese, and each one had a companion congregation. Since the start of this relationship, companions have been building chapels and parsonages together, and buying motorcycles so pastors could minister to their far-flung village congregations. Scholarship support enabled more people to study theology and more pastors were ordained. In turn, churches in the Iringa Diocese continued to grow.
As those village congregations and parishes expanded, and as the number of pastors increased, new parishes were established from self-sustaining village congregations. The number of parishes in the Iringa Diocese grew, while the number of U.S. congregations involved stayed about the same as before.
When Tanzanian parishes grow and new parishes are established, some of our U.S. congregations have the capacity to remain companions with both the original and the new parish. Others do not. Gradually, the number of unpartnered parishes in the diocese has grown. Currently, there are 76 parishes with companions and 54 without. On the U.S. side, there have only been three new BKB congregations within the past six years.
Our Scholarship and Education Committee was among the first to address this imbalance and propose a partial solution. The Equity Scholarship Fund offers scholarship support to students in unpartnered parishes. Students from those parishes are also eligible to apply for post-secondary scholarship awards.
When I was in Iringa last June, “Remember the unpartnered parishes” was the phrase rolling around in my head as I visited. What a difference a companion can make, especially in rural parishes! Whether the companion funds a chapel roof or a motorbike, bicycles for evangelists, a few secondary scholarships, or medicines for the local clinic, that steady support can make a big difference over time. But even more than project funding, our Iringa companions rejoice at the arrival of a guest, and they treasure the prayers of companions on the other side of the world.
In the next months, we will be highlighting this challenge and offering ways to step up and step into companionship with all the parishes of the Iringa Diocese. For sure, we welcome additional SPAS congregations into companionship. But we also are exploring new ways to engage with and support unpartnered parishes. Stay tuned for more updates.
Director of Bega Kwa Bega