By Beauty Rosebery Maenzanise, East Zimbabwe Annual Conference
The ministry of clergywomen in the Methodist tradition, which has a testimony of sixty years, has been focused on the North American context for decades. While the clergywomen in North America witnessed to the gospel and celebrated their sisterhood, many women who received the call in Methodism across the globe lived in their oppression, years after the approval of the ordination of women by the 1956 General Conference.
With the growing number of clergywomen in the United States and their testimonies to the living Word of God, the fire of the Gospel caught on other parts of the globe. In Zimbabwe for example, with people like the late Bishop Abel Tendekai Muzorewa, women with a call to ordained ministry started to have backbone. In 1984, there were only two ordained clergywomen in the Zimbabwe Annual Conference. Being one of the three clergywomen who were ordained elders in 1988 as the second group, I felt the care of a shepherd from Bishop Muzorewa. To demonstrate his opening of doors for women in this ministry, he would many times be heard during the annual Pastors’ School sessions saying: “Men, we need to remember that biblically we are leaders of the Old Testament. The women are leaders of the New Testament based on the resurrection story of Jesus [Mark 16].” This statement gave us fire within. With the support of our African bishops, now, based on 2012 statistics, Africa has more than three hundred clergywomen.
Let us hear the voice of one of the Zimbabwe clergywomen, the Rev. Anne-Grace Chingonzo who was interviewed by the writer in 2001:
For me to want to continue as a Christian I started worshiping while I was still young. . . . As I was in Grade Four, I started to like preaching so much. I always felt like preaching and wanting people to be saved, to know God. One of the contributing factors was that I always dreamt about preaching. Sometimes I would dream seeing someone calling me saying: “Come and see people who need the message.” Then I would preach in my dream. That same sermon when I preached it next time, it would be very effective.
In my life I wanted to become a nun, and I was so close to Roman Catholic sisters. . . . I admired their service together with their love and care. These sisters arranged a trip for me to go to Switzerland for that training, but I was not allowed to let my parents know about it. But the secret became known to my parents. They transferred me from Mhangura. . . . They said: “You are not going anywhere.”
When I went to Mutambara, there was Rev. [Christopher] Jokomo as the pastor, and he was told about my story that: “We removed her from there because of this condition, so please assist her.” That’s when he took me to a sister [Deaconess, Pat Fulmer] who was working at the United Methodist Head Office. . . . He said: “So you can be a sister in the United Methodist, and we can train you here in Zimbabwe.” . . .
. . . While there at Mutambara doing Form Four in 1983, I had a dream. Rev. Jokomo was in America by then. I dreamt being in a valley with a mountain nearby which had lawn throughout. That mountain had a very narrow path which people could use. Rev. Jokomo was wearing a yellow gown, and he said: “Annie, I want to show you where you are. If you choose to walk this road, I want you to see how hard it is to walk that road. There are thorns on the road, especially when you get to that point. It is very painful.” Then he said: “Follow me.” I followed him walking in front of me. He would say: “You see, walk this way. Make sure you are walking on the right road. Don’t step on the sides of the road. You will be hurt.” We walked and arrived where there were thorns, and he said: “Be very careful.” Then I woke up. . . . All those dreams pushed me to think about ordained ministry.
I became a Local Preacher when I was doing my Form Three, and I was preaching. Towards the end of November of my Form Four, that’s when I was interviewed for ministry. But the main challenge which pushed me to go to ministry was that I was concerned about women. . . . The fact which pushed me was that, as women, there is not much direct contact we have with the pastor as parishioners. Whereas when a woman has a need or a problem, they share with the pastor’s wife, and that pastor’s wife would then share with her husband. The pastor will then try to solve the issue indirectly through the wife. So it was a long process. I then felt that if I become a pastor being a clergywoman like this, I can manage to go direct to the women and talk to them. . . .
… I was ordained as a Deacon in 1986 at Old Mutate, and the dream I had in 1983 was fulfilled in 1986. How? That was the year Rev. Jokomo came back from America. As we were assembled to process into the Old Mutare Church, I was surprised to see Rev. Jokomo because I didn’t know that he was back. He greeted us all then said: “Annie, come here.” We stood at a corner and he said: “Annie, are you serious that you want to go and vow that you want to become a pastor? Do you know what they will say about your crying all the time? I want to pray for you so that when you give vows you need to know the meaning of what you are going to say. You will be belittled. They will say this and that about you.” And he later said: “Let’s pray.” . . . It did not have much meaning to me as he was praying at that moment. We processed in and sat down. As soon as I sat down . . . it hit me that this was the hard road which I was accompanied by Rev. Jokomo. He did it vividly, and that same person prayed for me. I had not shared this dream with him when he prayed for me.
After graduation from College, I was appointed in Murehwa. When I got to Murehwa, I was not welcome. Why? I was the first clergywoman in that area, and worse, I was a single woman. And, yes, I was single, but the situation was worsened because of the area I came from, Manicaland. As soon as they saw me, to them I was not a pastor. . . . I was so confused and did not know what to do next. Going to church, there was no respect that they were receiving their pastor. Before March 17 of that year, there was a death of a soldier in my parish. They did not even inform me of the death of my member’s son.
When the Headmaster said to me: “Do you know that your members spent the night at a funeral?” I took my bicycle and books then went there. When I arrived, no one greeted me. I extended my hand to give my condolence, and no one wanted to touch my hand. No one communicated with me, and no one was willing to sit close to me. I went and sat outside by myself. A family member who was the head of the family came to me and said: “Pastor, I am telling you that it’s better for you to leave and go back home. You are not wanted here. One, you are Muzorewa’s representative and two, people don’t want you here. Last night there were songs which were sung against you. The person who died is an ex-combatant. You can be killed here.”
I said: “I am here for my member’s child who died. He is the one I came here to mourn. I am here, and I am not going to leave this place until after burial.” He said: “Anyway, I told you. Whatever happens to you, you are forewarned.” Then the man left.
After he said those words, everyone looked down. . . . I stood up and went to where the soldiers were. I said to them: “Can I please see your Chaplain?” . . . They sent one of the soldiers for him. The soldiers welcomed me saying “The pastor is now here.” . . .
When the Chaplain finally came, he said: “Thank you so much, pastor, for coming. . . . Do everything during this funeral service. I will let you know where we will need to have some gun salutes, and I will tell you what to do.” We drafted the program together . . . , we called people to come closer. This was me now, calling people and leading the call to worship with that authority. For a while people stared at me, but they later came because I was standing beside my partner now, the Chaplain. . . . After prayer we led the procession to the grave yard. . . . On the way we were having the salutes, and everything which was supposed to be done during the funeral of an army person. The Chaplain would tell me what to do next. . . . So people thought that I knew all those things.
Before we left for the graveyard, I asked the family if they had a representative who would like to say a few words, and they said they had nothing to do with “our person.” . . . When we arrived at the graveyard, I only gave time to people from his job and his Burial Society. . . I preached. . . . After the burial we got onto the Puma and went back to the home. . . . After the meal I was about to leave. . . . The soldiers said: “You are not going to ride your bicycle back home, pastor.” They put my bicycle into the Puma, and I went to the front seat. As the engine was being started, all the people from the area I lived started saying: “Pastor, can we get a ride?” I said to the soldiers: “Give them a ride.”
This was a Wednesday . . . before Sunday there was a meeting organized by our church members preparing a big welcome for me on 17th March 1989. . . . From there I was the pastor of the community even to non-Methodists. . . . Then I went to Bulawayo. From Bulawayo I was transferred to Old Mutare where there were many challenges. Challenging in the sense that I had only “O” [Ordinary] Level education, and I was a pastor of people with degrees, from the medical doctor, headmaster and some teachers. That really challenged me. I was challenged positively . . . to the point that I wanted to further my education. What was challenging was that all those people with degrees respected me so much. . . . But as soon as I was appointed, people started echoing, “A woman at Old Mutare,” because I was the first clergywoman there as the Station Chairperson and Chaplain. But the greatest challenge I had was on marriage. You could see that my husband was welcome more than I was. . . . But the good part of it was that my husband understood me. . . . But even with that, the top leadership respected me.
… As a person who believes in dreams, there is a dream I had which was unveiled this year. I was at UTC, and I dreamt hearing: “Come and see Harare.” It was as if we were on top of the Harare Kopje. . . . While at the Harare Kopje, I was told: “All Harare needs your preaching.” I was being shown all the low and high density areas. . . . It was said: “This is where you are supposed to be preaching the Gospel.” As things were unavailing, I realized it was Jesus who was holding my hand as we went on top of the Harare Kopje. He started to leave me behind, and I said: “Don’t leave me, Jesus.” He said: “That’s a challenge for you.” That dream came vivid this year after my appointment as DS. The whole area I was shown in my dream is where I am overseeing as Superintendent. But the dream happened in 1986. So I believe in these dreams, and they really come true. . . . So that’s my spiritual journey.
Using this example, we see now that what started as a North American clergywomen’s venture has now windows open to a wider global sisterhood.
 Story used by permission of the Rev. Chingonzo.
2019 – Unity in the Church
2018 – Claim Who We Are in Christ
2017 – Bodies, Oppression, and Gospel
2016 – Birthing a Worldwide Church
2015 – Clergywomen Lead Vital Congregations
2014 – Empowerment for All
2013 – What Next?
2012 – What Does the Lord Require of Us?
2011 – See, I am Doing a New Thing
2010 – Voicing Truth With Grace
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WellSprings, A Journal of United Methodist Clergywomen, is published by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Editor: HiRho Y. Park
Managing Editor: Barbara A. Dick
Editorial Circle: Patricia Bonilla, Neelley Hicks, Anita Phillips, Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Trudy Hawkins Stringer