Scott & Susan Couper Valiquette - South Africa
Our family was given the opportunity to visit the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) and its Seminary located in Kitwe, Zambia.
We were delighted to discover a vibrant and growing church. We attended a graduation ceremony for those who had completed a degree in theology and would be seeking ordination. The curriculum of the Seminary is impressive and thorough. The Seminary requires their students to take the standard courses that one would expect and, in addition, classes on HIV and AIDS, mission/outreach and pastoral counselling. The Seminary also offers a preaching course for lay persons. The preaching course is a requirement for anyone who wants to preach in the UCZ. The standards are high in the UCZ.
The high calibre of ministers and lay persons was evident in the local church. We heard a very prophetic sermon from a female lay person on the realities of AIDS within their church and families. The message was bold and relevant for the congregation. The UCZ must be germane because we stood in a line outside the church in order to enter for worship. The church we attended holds multiple services, yet it still had standing room only and overflow seating outside the building. Imagine people waiting in line at your church because they wanted to come to worship or standing or sitting outside in order to participate.
The attraction seemed obvious once we experienced the hospitality and heard of their mission. Each visitor received a red rose and the congregation sang a special welcome song. The church was also very active in the community from prison ministry to donating clothes and food to those in need. An announcement was made for the members to donate clothes, and they were challenged to give away their favourite outfit, rather than one that was old or faded.
The church was a place of love and care as we prayed for the sick. An engaged couple was brought before the congregation and their wedding date was announced. The congregation was asked if there was any reason that this couple should not marry. If anyone had a reason why they should not marry, then that person should speak to the minister during the week. What a creative way to include that traditional question and allow for someone to confidentially inform the minister if there were issues that could prevent them from marrying.
The United Church of Zambia is alive and relevant to its members. We are grateful for the opportunity of visiting one of our partners, and even more grateful for all that was learned from our brothers and sisters in Christ in Zambia.
Reverend Susan M Valiquette, missionary
Serving as Chaplain of Inanda Seminary
Reverend Scott E Couper, missionary
Serving as Pastor of Bethel Congregational Church and HIV and AIDS convenor for the KZN Region of the UCCSA
Durban, South Africa Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette are missionaries serving in South Africa. Scott serves with the UCCSA as pastor at a UCCSA congregation in Durban. Susan serves with the Inanda Seminary in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa as chaplain.