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On Palm Sunday in Tanzania, the Iringa Diocese celebrated at Kanisa Kuu (the Iringa Cathedral) not with the waving of palm fronds -- though there are several live palm plants growing in clay pots inside the church -- but with the installation of a new Dean and Assistant to the Bishop. Pastor Askali Mgeyekwa, who was elected at a special assembly meeting held at Ipogolo on January 31st, was installed as the 5th Dean of the ELCT Diocese of Iringa in a celebration of church that took place over two days.
As is the usual practice for this level of installation, a preparatory service of Holy Communion was held Saturday afternoon at 4 pm. Despite it being the season of Lent during which the paraments are purple, the color of the day was red for this celebration. Several choirs sang, including the visiting Kwaya Kuu (principal choir) from Azania Front Lutheran Church in Dar es Salaam, and many guests brought greetings to the Diocese and the Dean-Elect from other ELCT dioceses.
On Sunday morning the installation service began at 11 am with the customary procession, made up of visiting and retired bishops, deans, some 100 pastors from Iringa and beyond, the DIRA management team, and honored guests. We were escorted in by a brass band. The Cathedral was jammed full as the procession snaked its way inside and the organizing committee scrambled to find more seats for those at the end of the procession. Eventually everyone found a spot, but it was a tight fit for all.
Interwoven throughout the liturgy of the first part of the service which followed the usual Sunday pattern, various choirs were called on to sing. One of the musical highlights of the day was the performance by the Kihesa Youth Choir, which sang and danced a traditional Maasai song in Maasai dress.
The second part of Sunday's service was the actual installation. Surrounded by all the visiting deans, the Dean-Elect was asked several questions regarding his readiness as well as his willingness to serve in this new role, to which he consistently answered, "I will, and I ask God to help me." Each dean read him a Bible verse. Then Bishop Gaville declared him installed. His new red stole, adorned with a cross and dove (the logo of the Iringa Diocese), was placed on his shoulders. He was also given a Bible and important documents for his office, including the DIRA constitution and their strategic plan.
The Dean was blessed by the laying on of hands and then his wife was called forward and she also was blessed and prayed over. Then followed the gift-giving, where each district was called one by one to present household gifts (cooking equipment, sheets/blankets/curtains, etc.), vitenge, money, or simple congratulations and best wishes.
Dean Mgeyekwa has already been hard at work at the diocese headquarters since the day after his election. His duties are many and varied as he serves the Lutheran pastors and congregations of Iringa. This Easter season, please remember him and the Diocese in your prayers as we continue to work with him, shoulder to shoulder, in the months and years to come.
Deacon April Trout
BKB Program Coordinator