In mid-May I had the pleasure of traveling to Soweto, South Africa with members of the Planning Commission of the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA) to assist with a Strategic Planning Workshop for church leaders and lay people in Gauteng Presbytery.
LECSA is made up of 12 presbyteries, one of which, Gauteng, is located in South Africa. The denomination was once known as the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC), but changed its name in 2012 to reflect its presence in South Africa. This trip to Soweto was my first experience crossing the border from Lesotho into South Africa by car since arriving in Lesotho with my husband Mark at the end of January. Taking the five hour journey across the Free State in South Africa to Soweto with my Basotho colleagues was a wonderful experience.
LECSA is dedicated to the implementation of their 2018-2022 Strategic Plan and has prioritized the training of church leaders – from the Synod to the Parish level – in this strategic planning process. LECSA’s church structure resembles the Presbyterian system of organization, the Synod being the highest level (in Lesotho, the national level), then presbyteries, which are made up of parishes, followed by local churches, then individual church associations and groups. Not only does LECSA want all of its members to become familiar with its national level goals, the church leadership also encourages presbyteries and parishes to actively engage in the strategic planning process, to make annual work plans that are in alignment with the larger goals for the church.
The LECSA Planning Commission has been at the heart of the strategic planning process for the church and is responsible for capacity-building efforts at all levels. Part of my duties as LECSA’s Planning Officer includes serving as Secretary to the Planning Commission. Shortly after I arrived in Lesotho, Gauteng Presbytery requested that the Planning Commission put on a workshop specifically for their presbytery, as previous trainings were held in Lesotho. My Sesotho language skills are nowhere near the level required to lead a workshop, so my role at Gauteng was to provide planning and logistical support, while my Basotho colleagues presented the workshop material and led discussions in Sesotho.
Through traveling to Gauteng Presbytery, I learned that many Basotho live in South Africa, especially in the Free State. Most, if not all, of the people who attend LECSA churches in Gauteng speak the Sesotho language and the majority of them continue to maintain close ties to Lesotho. As a newcomer to LECSA, I was unsure about how closely connected Gauteng Presbytery would be to the wider LECSA church body, given the geographic and national difference.
When I asked about this, however, the presbytery leadership in Gauteng explained how they encounter many of the same social and theological challenges as LECSA’s Lesotho-based presbyteries and feel closely in-step with the broader denomination.
Excitingly, 43 people attended the workshop at Gauteng and 12 of its 14 parishes were represented. Gauteng now stands as the presbytery that has received the widest and deepest training for its members in the strategic planning process. Not only were leaders from the presbytery committee represented at the training, but also lay leaders and local pastors from the parishes.
While I was in Soweto, I witnessed such care and welcome. We were showered with hospitality from the local Moletsane Parish where the workshop was held. We ate together, learned together, worshipped, sang, and danced together. I could feel God at work that weekend in the great generosity of our hosts, in the sincere efforts at collaboration across church structures and geographic distance, and in the shared sense of dedication to a greater vision for the church.
Danielle Murry-Knowles serves with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.