CWM Moderator Rev. Lydia Neshangwe was inducted as Moderator of The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) in a joyous service on 24 June 2023 at City Presbyterian Church, Harare, Zimbabwe. The service was interspersed with rousing, lively South African worship by the choirs, and commenced with the current UPCSA Moderator Rt Rev. SJ Mtetwa’s welcome of guests hosted by the presbytery. Rev. Mtetwa recognised the presence of former UPCSA Moderators, Zimbabwe congregations, Commissioners, the Council for World Mission (CWM) General Secretary, and guests across Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), U.S and U.K.
Following this, the outgoing Moderator Rt Rev. SJ Mtetwa preached his retiring sermon on “going back to basics”. He stated that UPCSA is not just an African church, but a church whose identity, past, present, and future are embedded in Africa, with each person’s existence is subordinated to the community he belongs to. He said, “Our theological understanding of centrality of Scripture is undergirded by roles and functions to ordain ministers from presbytery to General Assembly”, adding that the UPCSA is “defined by ethics of sharing – sharing knowledge, resources, talents, space, faith, and best practices, sharing life itself”.
After his sermon, Rev. Mtetwa led the service of inducting the Moderator-Designate Rev. Neshangwe into office as she recited the words of response and was surrounded in prayer by UPCSA ministers. She was then given a ring as a symbol of her authority and office, received the Moderator’s Bible, and an official robe and stole was placed on her by her predecessor.
Subsequently, those present sang the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:23–27) as they raised their hands in prayer and blessing for Rev. Neshangwe. The overall mood was jubilant, and one of gaiety as the congregation and guests rejoiced alongside the Moderator. There was an outpouring of congratulatory messages from many participants joining the live-streamed service. President of World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) Rev. Najla Kassab said: “May the Lord bless the outgoing Leadership and the new Leadership. We pray with you today.” Also, CWM Board members Markel Virgo and Rose Wedderburn brought greetings from the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) and prayed God’s blessings on Rev Lydia as she assumes the role as Moderator.
CWM General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum said: “This remarkable achievement is a testament to your exemplary leadership, unwavering dedication, and profound commitment to the mission of God and the unity of God’s people. As you embark on this new chapter of your leadership journey, please be assured of our continued accompaniment, prayers, and support as one family of the CWM. Under your leadership, I am confident that the UPCSA will continue to flourish in God’s Mission, embracing the theme “Stronger Together”.”
The newly-inducted Moderator, Rev. Neshangwe, thanked her family of origin and marriage, and her intercessory prayer group, as well as introduced her two chaplains before the closing hymn and adjournment of the General Assembly.