By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
Anglicans from the Diocese of Botswana on Sunday celebrated the diocese 40th anniversary and bade farewell to their bishop in a special thanksgiving service held at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Botswana capital Gaborone.
Thousands of jubilant Christians and many high level dignitaries including the president of Botswana His Excellency Lt General Ian Khama Seretse Khama and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu attended the event.
Preaching during the event, Dr John Sentamu challenged the Anglican Church in Botswana on the social role that it is mandated to play: “The church is called to challenge violence, injustice and oppression,” he said. “We are also called to work for peace and reconciliation. Jesus died on the cross because he was challenging injustice, violence and oppression.”
He added: “All the power given to Jesus, in heaven and on earth has been given to the Church to set free the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Outgoing Bishop of the diocese the Rt Revd Trevor Mwamba wished the Christians in the diocese well as he leaves for the United Kingdom. He said: “In your love and generosity, I have been transformed. I am much richer than I came and may the Lord strengthen, guide and inspire you for the next forty years.”
In a message read on his behalf by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby congratulated the Diocese of Botswana on its achievement.
He said, “This is a significant moment in the life of the Diocese of Botswana. It’s an opportunity not only to look back with thanks to all those who have contributed to make the Anglican Church in Botswana to be where it is today but also to celebrate the role of the church.”
“May the Diocese of Botswana continue to grow from strength to strength. I pray that you all be richly blessed both as individual disciples and as Christian communities as you seek to follow Christ and witness to the gospel in the world today.”
The first Bishop of the diocese Shannon Mallory could not hide his joy on this “momentous” occasion. “It’s one of the most wonderful moments of my life,” he said.
“It’s a fulfillment of a dream to see the diocese thriving as it is; my heart is overflowing with joy and thanksgiving to see the cathedral filled with people from all parts of the world.”
Pointing to huge trees within the Cathedral yard, the Bishop added: “It’s just hard to believe that it has been forty years. All these trees were tiny little things when I left and this gives me a thrill that I never thought I would have.”
Young people did not want to be left out of this event and enthusiastically turned out in large numbers. Ben Chebani a young congregant at the cathedral who had drifted away from the church and later came back admitted, “I guess this is the nature of the Anglicans. There is so much vibe and life.”
“I had grown out of the Anglican Church but I was challenged and renewed myself and came back to the church. Many people who are here today had gone to far away places but could just not afford to miss this event,” he said.
Archbishop of the Church of the Province Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama also joined other Christians in congratulating Botswana Anglicans. He said: “It’s a great joy for us to join you in the great celebration of the 40th Anniversary of this diocese. We thank God for your ministry and missions.”
The service, which was also attended by Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon, included the dedication of large stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral honouring the Anglican Communion.