World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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6 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 11

Zimbabwean churches proclaimed their welcome to participants in the World Council of Churches Eighth Assembly with exultant singing, dancing, drumming and praises to God. With some dressed in white robes and others in dazzling African attire of every colour, church choirs entertained their guests in rhythmic African style, complete with rattles and ululations.

There was the Voices of Angels choir from neighbouring Botswana, with its song "There Is No Sorrow In Heaven" setting an appropriate mood for the occasion. A brass band, the Christian Marching Band, captivated all attention, particularly with its acrobatics. Then there was the traditional African Christian group Jekenisheni, with heavy drumbeats and whistling, plus other groups whose presentations reverberated through the huge Rufaro stadium at the heart of Harare on Saturday (5 December).

The congregation was as varied as the countries and churches they represented. Women in brightly coloured dresses and scarves, men in long robes and others in dazzling shirts mixed with those in western attire. A sprinkling of brown and white faces added diversity to the black crowd. The voices in which people spoke added to the variety, reflecting their different historic and ethnic backgrounds.

It all started with the beating of drums in a procession led by children and including officials and guests, among them a Roman Catholic bishop, the Right Rev. Paride Taban of Toriti, Sudan, the Right Rev. Professor Kwesi Dickon, President of the All-Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Canon Clement Janda, the AACC General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, the WCC General Secretary, the Right Rev. Jonathan Siyachitema, the master of ceremonies, and officials of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.

Bishop Dickon, greeting the congregation in his "Oxford" English accent, said that "as we gather here we need to constantly remember our need to be guided by Christ." The Moderator of the Central Committee of the WCC, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia (Armenian Orthodox Church), said: "It is a blessed moment because He made us come together."

Songs by the congregation in the local Shona language started with "Ishe Taungana" (Lord We Are Gathered) and continued with "Zuva Guru Richauya" (The Great Day will Come ), which served as a fitting reflection on the Assembly theme "Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope", while a commitment to unity and a willingness to serve together came through "Hoyo Mushandiri Washe" (Behold The Servant of the Lord) and "Tiri Vawadzani" (We Fellowship Together).

In a final symbolic act of worship and hope, Bishop Siyachitema declared in prayer, "Let our presence here be a lasting sign of unity. We are members of one body. We praise and thank God for the great occasion of today, knowing that divided we fall and united we thrive."

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 332, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.