Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Southern Africa!

In mid-April the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe held a workshop at the Njuba Youth Center in Bulawayo on Worship, Liturgy and Music in the context of COVID-19 for bishops, deans, pastors and program coordinators from the three dioceses. The gathering was held in collaboration with the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA).  The program included presentations on liturgy and worship in the life of ELCZ congregations, liturgy and contemporary worship,  the ministry of Word and Sacrament including gifts of the Spirit, ELCZ policy regarding marriage, separation and divorce as well as matters relating to justice and counselling in the context of COVID-19.

I was invited to give two (virtual) presentations on Theology and Worship.   (The ELCA Upstate New  York Synod is a companion to the ELCZ.)

On Sunday April 18 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa consecrated Bishop G.A. Seane as the fourth bishop of the ELCSA Central Diocese.  Following national COVID-19 protocols a maximum of 250 people were able to gather at the ELCSA Central Diocesan Center in Jabavu, Soweto.  The service was also live-streamed on several virtual platforms.

Bishop Seane based his sermon on Luke 24:36-48.  “As the risen Lord appeared to the disciples and said ‘Peace be with you’ Jesus also comes to us when we are afraid and gives us peace…  COVID-19 has changed many things, including the way we worship.  We have lost loved ones, jobs and income…But Jesus opens our minds to the Scriptures and calls us back to the core business of the church – to cross boundaries that divide and to proclaim repentence and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations…”   Holy Communion was shared with wafers in plastic ziplock bags and wine in disposable plastic cups.

At the end of the service messages from companions were read out including a greeting from the ELCA Service and Justice Home Area and the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod which is a companion to the ELCSA-CD.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  April 20, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Consecration of Bishop V. Mhaka ELCZ Eastern Diocese (Zimbabwe) Photo: D. Mangenda

Easter greetings from Southern Africa!

It is a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implimentation of lockdowns and other measures by countries around the world to curb the spread of the virus.   The South African government has announced a three-phase vaccine roll-out strategy beginning with the country’s estimated 1.2 million frontline healthcare workers, with a target to vaccinate 67% of the population by the end of 2021.

Observing health protocols the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi held a workshop on Worship, Liturgy and Music for some 20 pastors and Deans in mid-March. The gathering was held in collaboration with the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA). 

I was invited to give two (virtual) presentations on Theology and Worship.   (The ELCA Northwest Synod of Wisconsin is a companion to the ELCM.)

On Sunday March 21 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe consecrated Bishop V.  Mhaka as the new bishop of the ELCZ Eastern Diocese.   Bishop Kenneth Sibanda was installed as the new Presiding Bishop.  Bishop Mhaka based his sermon on the Annunciation in Luke 1:46-55 saying “God is the liberator of the marginalized… Luke does not hesitate to show women as disciples at the beginning and end of Jesus’ life and ministry. The woman is untouchable – in isiZulu they say ‘wathint’ umfazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ [If you strike a woman, you strike a rock]. Don’t touch her, the Savior is watching over her!  … Let’s sing with Mary her song of praise and see this world transforming to God’s desire. Amen!”         (The ELCA’s Upstate New York Synod is a companion to the ELCZ.)

ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response continues to support several projects in Malawi and Zimbabwe to assist the churches as they work to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  March 30, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

It is almost a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implimentation of lockdowns and other measures by most countries in the world to curb the spread of the virus.  

Globally, as of 10:15am CET, 26 February 2021, there were 112,456,453 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,497,514 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). https://covid19.who.int/    South Africa has reported about 1.5 million infections and over 50,000 related deaths. 

Several coronavirus vaccines have been developed and approved for use but access, cost and distribution are matters of deep concern.   In an open letter to the leaders of the G7 countries The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge noted: “Wealthy countries have secured their doses, sometimes in more quantities than they need, while other countries and their populations have inadequate or no access at all.” https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/covid-19-until-all-are-safe-no-one-safe

The ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response has responded to appeals from companion churches in Southern Africa to support several programs during the first and now second wave of the pandemic.  Activities include distributing relevant information about the pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment and food hampers to vulnerable communities.   Lockdowns and restrictions on the numbers of people allowed at funerals and church services have also affected the pastoral, financial and evangelism work of the churches. 

However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi reported that evangelism training workshops were held in 2020 for pastors, evangelists and youth leaders.   The report stated, “The evangelism work has been hard especially during this period of Covid-19. But despite this… trainings and meetings have been going on very well.” The report included the story of Mr. K. who attended one of the training workshops.  He is an elder and Confirmation teacher in a local congregation.  (In the photo Mr. K. is holding up Sunday School and Confirmation resource books translated into Chichewa, the official language in Malawi.) 

In a recent email ELCM Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe wrote: “Kindly please convey our appreciation to the Global Mission office in Chicago and the ELCA members who always support our efforts for the sake of the mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  February 26, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Food distribution to vulnerable communities by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola
ELDS training local artisans to make face masks (PPE) in Malawi

Dear friends,

With mixed feelings we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the coming year.  There is sadness at the loss of life due to the corona virus pandemic affecting communities and families across the region and around the world.  There is also admiration and appreciation especially for health care and frontline workers.  There is hope for the roll-out of effective vaccines but concern over uneven access and slow distribution especially in poorer countries.  The World Health Organization Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus has stressed that “the only way to end the pandemic anywhere is to end it everywhere” by working together as “one global family.”

ELCA Global Mission – Lutheran Disaster Response is supporting various COVID-19 emergency response programs initiated by companion churches around the world.

In Southern Africa, over the past six months:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola has distributed essential food items and Personal Protective Equipment to vulnerable families in several communities in southern Angola.

The Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS) in Malawi is working with volunteer community change agents to distribute posters and pamphlets and conduct door-to-door awareness campaigns to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.

ELDS also facilitated identification and selection of artisans (tailors) in targeted villages to make masks that meet the WHO/Ministry of Health standards. The training included information on how to wear and care for cloth masks effectively.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum have  distributed food hampers to vulnerable families and purchased hospital beds to meet the growing need to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

Leaders and members of Lutheran churches in the region appreciate the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  January 25, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Every other year the ELCA churchwide office invites an artist from a global companion church to design a Christmas card.  This year several art students at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art & Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa submitted ideas. A silk screen print of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus riding on a donkey by Mr. T.  Mpanza was the one selected.

The ELC Art & Craft Centre was established in 1962 by the Church of Sweden Mission.  In the 1970’s the American Lutheran Church (ALC) provided several art teachers.  The centre now operates under the umbrella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) – South Eastern Diocese, which is a companion to the ELCA’s Southwestern Minnesota Synod.

At a time when the oppressive Apartheid system denied learning opportunities to black South Africans Rorke’s Drift was one of the few institutions that provided space for creative expression and study in fine art, textile tapestry weaving, pottery and silk screen print-making. Rorke’s Drift had a significant impact on the development of South African arts and crafts in the 1960s and 1970s and boasts several world famous artists as alumni.

The ELC Art and Craft Centre continues on a smaller scale to produce tapestries, silk screen prints and pottery and is offering a one-year accredited certificate course in art for about 15 students. 

2020 has been a difficult and challenging year.  The President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), Dr Panti Filibus Musa put it well: “My hope and prayer is that state actors and governments will not retreat into themselves in this time of crisis. My call, if I can borrow the theme of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are also using, is that no one is left behind, as we begin to hope and see a post COVID-19 period.”

ELCA Global Mission continued to accompany companion churches and provide support for mission personnel, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and disaster response programs.  Leaders and members of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  December 17, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Worship, Liturgy & Music Workshop, Zambia

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.

How do we worship, conduct the liturgy and use music as Lutheran churches in Southern Africa coming from diverse traditions, cultures and languages?  What are some of the challenges churches face? What is our tradition and what are our gifts? How do we worship in the time of a pandemic and how can we learn from and teach each other, deepen our fellowship and strengthen the proclamation of the Good News? 

LUCSA member churches are currently engaged in a three-year project focusing on worship, liturgy and music.   (The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation with 15 member churches in ten different countries.) 

A number of planned gatherings had to be postponed because of COVID-19 travel restrictions but recently workshops with in-person and virtual on-line presentations and participation took place in Botswana and Zambia.

One of the organizers of the workshop in Zambia wrote the following:

“…This was an historical workshop because it was the first of its kind … for worship and music leaders. We pray that it will not be the last one, as all participants requested that we should have similar workshops at least once a year.

We give thanks to [all the presenters] who took time to facilitate at the workshop. For our international facilitators, we were connected via Zoom with few difficulties and the audience was able to hear them loud and clear.  This clearly indicated that we can host more e-workshops in future.  Thank you so much and we wish you God’s endless blessings.”

An important joint study on worship and liturgy published in 1996 by the Lutheran World Federation observed that Lutheran worship is cultural, counter-cultural, inter-cultural and trans-cultural.   Through LUCSA workshops musicians and worship and choir leaders are sharing knowledge and being encouraged to develop and write new music, songs and liturgies that are Gospel-centered, contextual, inclusive and relevant, remembering that prayer and praise without justice and mission is incomplete. 

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  November 20, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

Giving Code: MSG0245

Dear friends,

We had planned to gather in May 2020 in Johannesburg for an ELCA Southern Africa Companion Church Consultation but the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to postpone the gathering. 

Companion synods relating to Lutheran churches in Namibia then asked: “What can we do to keep in touch, to support each other and to strengthen our companionship as we respond to COVID-19, racism, poverty, inequality and climate disaster?”   

The publication by the ELCA of a study guide on Martin Luther’s 1520 treatise Freedom of a Christian provided an opening. (The Treatise and Study Guide are available for free download at https://www.elca500.org/

500 years ago Martin Luther wrote: “The Christian [person] is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian [person] is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all. … Christian[s] … do not live in themselves but in Christ and their neighbor, or else they are not Christian. They live in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love.” 

While one can ask what Luther meant when he wrote this, the key question is, “What does this freedom mean for us today?”   What are we freed from and what are we freed for?

We decided to use the internet to bring us together. Eight presenters, representing the three Lutheran churches in Namibia, four ELCA synods, Wartburg Seminary and ULTS Seminary Paulinum, were asked to reflect on four topics relating to Christian freedom.

Participants were invited to read and listen, and then in breakaway groups, to reflect and to share their unique stories, experiences and insights from Namibia and the USA.

Time and the number of participants were limited but we are finding new ways to be together. Presenter Prof. Paul Isaak said: “It was really good that sisters and brothers could come together, sit and talk together to paraphrase Psalm 133.”

We hope to develop similar learning and sharing platforms in future as we walk together as companions in God’s mission.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  October 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/ Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

20200927_092852

Dear friends,

“… During this time of COVID-19, other pandemics have surfaced such as Gender Based Violence, corruption and poverty…  But we have a good story to tell… Forget the negative… Glorify the name of Jesus Christ… rejoice that all of our names are included in the Book of Life… and proclaim peace, unity, reconciliation and reconstruction…a new beginning…” These were some of the words from the sermon, based on Luke 10:17-20, preached by Nkosinathi Myaka, the newly consecrated bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – South Eastern Diocese. 

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions I was not able to be there in person but participated along with 100 others via a ZOOM link.  The service was held in the hall at the diocesan center at Umphumulo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on September 27, 2020. 

A limited number of people who did attend were required to wear face masks and observe social distance protocols.  The liturgy and hymns were pre-recorded and broadcast over loudspeakers as singing by the congregation was not allowed. 

The Premier of the province, local government officials, active and retired bishops from ELCSA as well as bishops from several other denominations including Cardinal Napier of the Roman Catholic Church were also in attendance.

The South Eastern Diocese is one of seven dioceses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.  Messages of congratulations and support were sent by the ELCA Global Mission unit and the Southwestern Minnesota Synod (ELCA) which is a companion synod to the diocese.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  September 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

IAC 2020 Zimbabwe attendeesDear friends,

Warm greetings from Johannesburg.

South Africa has recorded over 400,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of July 24) which puts the country fifth in the world in this regard. Schools opened in June for Grades 7 and 12 but have been closed again with a staggered opening planned for later in August.

The 23rd International AIDS Conference was scheduled to be held in San Franciso from July 6-10, 2020.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the organizers decided to hold a virtual conference instead.  As in the past ELCA Global Mission provided scholarships for a number of representatives from companion churches around the world to assist them to attend the conference.  Three delegates from churches in Southern Africa were selected. https://www.aids2020.org/

Ms. Chifamba, who is the coordinator of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) Infohut program and based in Zimbabwe, made arrangements with the head office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe so that she could participate in the virtual conference with four Infohut facilitators observing.   (The LUCSA Infohut program teaches young people about HIV&AIDS and provides life-skills and computer training)

Ms. Chifamba describes some of the challenges she and her colleagues faced attending the virtual conference as the whole country is still in a COVID-19 lock down.  There is also a 9-hour time difference and it is winter so it was not easy staying up late at night in the office.  They also had to organize COVID-19 preparedness for the group including an infrared screening thermometer, hand sanitizers, masks, good ventilation and reasonable distancing during the conference.

The first night two of the five were too excited to take time off to sleep resulting in them attending the workshop for 16 hours continuously.

The program allowed for discussions in breakaway groups or clubs.  New ideas were noted for implementation to improve the outcomes of the Infohut program.  During the virtual conference it was common to hear US-based participants saying “Welcome to America”, as they shared the Southern Africa HIV response.  The ELCZ Infohut facilitators who attended the IAC Conference strongly feel the Infohut program deserves a presenter’s spot in the next IAC saying, “What we do deserves to be shared with the world.” Ms. Chifamba and the four facilitators expressed their sincere thanks to the ELCZ, LUCSA and the ELCA for the support that enabled them to be part of this important event.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the Southern Africa region continue to express their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg,  July 24, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

ELDS COVID-19 info posterELDS Community awareness session on COVID-19

Dear friends,

“Corona is dangerous but preventable”

That is the message on the poster developed by the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service in Malawi (ELDS) as part of their COVID-19 community outreach and mobilization program supported by ELCA World Hunger funds.

Malawi is a densely populated country of some 19 million people. Cross border movement, lack of information and resources and a fragile health system mean many are vulnerable to the virus.

The ELDS project aligns with the World Health Organization (WHO) strategic objectives and guidelines for preparedness, prevention, management and control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ELDS is working closely with district health authorities, community health committees, local leaders, religious leaders and community members raising awareness, disseminating information, training health change agents and peer educators and distributing hygiene kits with masks and sanitizers.

The project is also orienting and encouraging faith leaders to counter misinformation about the pandemic and to offer messages of hope and support to people who may test positive.

As of August 26 there were over 5400 reported cases and 170 deaths in Malawi.

In South Africa there were over 600,000 positive cases and 13,000 deaths.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the Southern Africa region continue to express their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg,  August 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving