Last week I was privileged to attend the 12th General Assembly of the Iringa Diocese, which was held at the newly-built church in Kidamali (partnered with Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview). Almost 700 participants from across the diocese attended the three-day-long assembly; some 500 of them were voting members. Non-voting members included two visiting bishops from other dioceses, guests representing partnered Lutheran bodies, DIRA staff members, and wives of the Bishop and General Secretary - and myself, of course. Every parish in the Iringa Diocese was represented by its pastor, parish secretary, and one other lay voting member (or two, if the parish membership is greater than 1000). Every pastor in the diocese, including all retired pastors, are voting members.
The Assembly was similar in many respects to ELCA Synod Assemblies. Guests were introduced, business was conducted, discussions were held - both in full assembly and in small groups - and reports were received. There was plenty of visiting and networking as well as praise music and worship each evening.
One of the most exciting parts of the Assembly - and the last business conducted - was the election of District Pastors and Department Heads. The Diocese now has 6 new district pastors (1 was re-elected) and 5 new Department Heads. Their new assignments are effective immediately.
Those elected are as follows (current placement is in parentheses):
District Pastor, North (Kihesa): Rev. Askali Mgewekwa (pastor, Mkwawa)
District Pastor, Northeast (Ilula): Rev. Galadia Mkemwa (pastor, Image)
District Pastor, East (Ipalamwa): Rev. Zabron Lubava (re-elected)
District Pastor, Southeast (Idete): Rev. Fanuel Kikote (pastor, Pommern)
District Pastor, South (Pommern): Rev. Ombeni Sawike (pastor, Mkimbizi)
District Pastor, Southwest (Ihemi): Rev. Elia Konga (studying at Makumira University)
District Pastor, West (Iringa): Rev. Yekonia Koko (Christian Ed and Youth in School Dept)
Christian Ed and Youth in School Dept: Rev. Jiskaka Lwila (chaplain at Mkwawa University)
Music and Youth Dept: Rev. Ambrose Mwakikoti (District Pastor, Iringa)
Women, Children, and Families: Rev. Upendo Koko (District Pastor, Kihesa)
Mission and Evangelism: Rev. Doricas Kimbavala (pastor, Kihesa)
Theological Education by Extension: Rev. Valence Chaula/Rev. Medson Changula (shared role. Pastor Medson is current assistant to Pastor Chaula, who will be retiring by the end of the year)
The way these 12 people were elected is an interesting process. All of the pastors present at assembly were asked to nominate one of their colleagues. The names of the top 12 vote-getters from this process, plus an additional five names from the Bishop, were passed to the Nominating Committee, which is made up largely of lay people appointed by the DIRA Management Team (Bishop, Dean, General Secretary, and Treasurer). The Nominating Committee then decided which candidates would go where. Their election and placement was unknown to the candidates until their names were announced to the Assembly on Friday evening. This is an example not only of the Holy Spirit at work, but also of the deep faith, love of God and their church, and willingness to serve that these pastors have.
Following the close of business and while the church chancel was being rearranged for closing worship, the Praise and Worship band played several songs. Virtually the whole assembly was singing and dancing around the church in wild celebration of work well done - and it lasted for a good 30 minutes. I have never seen anything quite like it. Again, the Holy Spirit was clearly present at that moment and throughout the entire General Assembly, and I am honored to have been in attendance to see it.
Bwan Yesu asifiwe!
Deacon April Trout
BKB Program Coordinator in Iringa