A Course in Christian Discipleship for Africa
















Diocese of Niassa (from 2006)

Bishop Mark Van Koevering. Teams led by Alison Morgan, with Martin Cavender, David Cundill and Stanley Hotay (2006) and John Watson, Isaiah Chambala, and John McGinley (2007).

The diocese is experiencing rapid and challenging church growth. It covers a remote area 3x the size of UK with fewer than 50 clergy.

Rooted in Jesus is used in Portuguese, Chichewa, and 4 other local languages (Yao, Makua, Senna and Lomwe), and was introduced in 2 clergy conferences in May 2006. In April 07 we returned to offer further training for the catechists and evangelists of Lago archdeaconry; these conferences were repeated in the other archdeaconries by Amorim Rocha (his remarkable report can be found below). Amorim was succeeded as diocesan coordinator by Oscar Hamsine, and following Oscar's untimely death the programme is now overseen by Revd Helen Van Koevering in her capacity as Director for Mission and Training in the diocese.

Rooted in Jesus is seen as a key part of the diocesan strategy, and is used for:

Growth in 2007

Bishop Mark wrote: 'I have just returned from Mecanhles where we have grown from 6 churches in 2006 to 23. This year at least one Rooted course will be held in each of the communities. I was told that the literacy groups we had started like the course so much they wanted to meet daily rather than each week.''

Growth in 2008

Helen Van Koevering wrote: 'The diocese has increased 25% in numbers in the past 4 years to about 51,000 now. The MU has increased by about 30% in past 18 months, with lots of activity in all sorts of projects. On all levels and in all church organizations, we are encouraging participation in Rooted in Jesus for discipling, and the priests are much more actively involved now too.The excitement of being church is palpable, quite different to when we came back in 2003. Last weekend,15 were confirmed in my (new, almost finished) church having completed two books - the first lot of confirmations following the introduction of Rooted in Jesus. One whole family was baptised, a single mother with 3 children, all raised Muslims.'

Growth in 2010

Helen Van Koevering wrote: 'The Diocese of Niassa is experiencing a newness of growth and worship. In 5 years, our churches have almost doubled to around 500, as have our priests to 45, and there are now around 65,000 members of our church in northern Mozambique! We are looking for clues to this grace of God. Perhaps it’s through our desire to be the church in new places, a new approach to training leaders as ‘training the trainers’ to reach and empower more people, offering new life through healing and development, new rootedness for believers and new belonging for communities. Rooted in Jesus is the basis for all our ministry and mission training, supporting as it does our diocesan vision to ‘become a communion of communities in Jesus’, ie small groups studying, discipling one another, church planting and rooting, growing in faith and changed lives together.'

Growth in 2012

Helen writes: 'RinJ is used as the primary study in our PCCs (Small Christian Communities – midweek family groups of 20 or so people who pray, study and support each other – and groups where we are currently seeing great growth in terms of both participants, healing prayer, new leadership). We estimate that there could be at least 600 of these groups around the diocese now. RinJ Book 1 is used for confirmation candidates, alongside the Catechism, and I have used all four books with training catechists, our community workers and community priests.'  

The effects of all this growth are being increasingly felt in the local community. Rooted in Jesus forms part of the diocese's integrated mission approach to development, and as part of their discipleship, group members are asked to look after 10  families in their community, providing orphan support, water provision, health, HIV awareness and support of the long term sick. All this is remarkable in a country which only recently emerged from 30 years of civil war, during much of which time the church was a proscribed organisation - the last landmines were being cleared as we were there in 2006. Plans are underway for the division of the diocese (which covers the whole northern half of the country) into three new dioceses.

Annual reports from the priests for 2012 show that there were 5135 baptisms and 1898 confirmations around the diocese; 5604 people were involved in 250 'Rooted in Jesus' groups. In addition the 7212 members of the 331 PCC groups (Small Christian Communities formed in churches) follow RinJ as part of their programme. Helen thinks there may be some overlap!

Latest news

In summer 2013 Helen wrote a brief history of the diocese in New Wine magazine. "Our church is reading the Bible differently", she said. "With high levels of illiteracy and insufficient Bibles, a study method similar to the lectio divina was implemented early on - a method which required only one Bible and one reader in each group. This led to us using the Rooted in Jesus resource, which has led to confidence in the movement of the Spirit leading to some significant growth in the Church." To read Helen's article click the link below.

Memorable quote, from a Niassa priest: "Bishop, what shall we do with this church growth problem?"


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