In the beginning…

Rooted in Jesus was originally developed for use in Tanzania, where it was first introduced in 2002. Since 2013 it has been independently run in the Province, and on 22nd August representatives from 10 dioceses gathered in Arusha for the annual Coordinators Conference hosted by National Director Rt Revd Dr Stanley Hotay.

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Tanzania’s famous Baobab trees with roots deep in the sands of the Rift Valley

The conference opened with reports from Canon Jacob Robert (Mara) and Bishop James Almasi (Masasi), Zonal Coordinators for the North and South of the country respectively, who reported on the programme in each diocese and offered some thoughts for future strategic development. Diocesan coordinators spoke on articular aspects of Rooted in Jesus, and Revd Alison Morgan, attending as a guest, gave an overview of the work of the Holy Spirit through Rooted in Jesus internationally. Rooted in Jesus has come an unexpectedly long way since its beginnings here in Arusha 15 years ago!

There are 27 dioceses in the Province of Tanzania, of which 18 so far have introduced Rooted in Jesus, along with a number of theological colleges. Every diocese is different, with some experiencing great difficulties, others enjoying periods of growth and stability. The longest perspective is provided by the founding dioceses of Mount Kilimanjaro and Kiteto, both of which saw significant growth through RinJ in the early years, but then for different reasons found themselves facing a period of internal conflict which seriously impacted morale and growth. We were all deeply encouraged to learn that both dioceses are now growing again under the leadership of their bishops Stanley Hotay and Isaiah Chambala, and that for both the turning point was the reconciliation conferences we were invited to facilitate in 2012. In DMK over 180 new churches have now been planted, and clergy numbers have doubled; the diocese is growing spiritually, numerically and financially. Rooted in Jesus is used for confirmation preparation, and Rooted in Jesus Junior has been adopted for Sunday School in every church across the diocese. Meanwhile the Kiteto coordinator Revd Anderson Lesijila reports that Kiteto is at peace – “we dare not fight again,” he said, “we burned all our conflicts when you came!” Rooted in Jesus is back in use in 61 of the 74 parishes, and they plan to introduce it to the remaining 13 parishes soon. Given that when RinJ was first introduced to Kiteto there were only 16 parishes this is remarkable growth – much of which is said to be the fruit of the groups, from which a new generation of leaders has arisen.

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RinJ has been in use in the Diocese of Mara since 2011. There are groups in every parish, many of which have completed all four books of the course; and RinJ Junior is strong in the Sunday Schools too. It is diocesan policy to use RinJ whenever they start a new church, and Jacob Robert observes that the result is rapid maturity – in a very short space of time it no longer seems like a new church, he says. Jacob also explained that many of the churches in Mara are now led by graduates of RinJ groups.

Canon Dunstan Mtoro reported that in Mpwapwa Rooted in Jesus is going very well, with 2802 people now in 206 groups, adult and junior – and he went home with a stock of Book 3 for groups which have completed the first two books. He has heard many testimonies from group members, he said; and the thing he particularly likes about the groups is the way in which they bring together people from across the social spectrum, with professionals, graduates and illiterate people learning together. This is a well organised and forward thinking diocese: there is a deanery coordinator for RinJ in each of the 13 deaneries, and it has been decided that every church service will be led once a month by the children. “RinJ can change the other issues and challenges we face,” Dunstan observes. Here the diocesan bishop is Jacob Chimeledya, who also serves as Archbishop of the Province.

Many groups have been started in Lweru, where Rooted in Jesus was introduced in 2015, and they are going well; retiring bishop Jackton Lugumira is emphasizing the importance of RinJ to his successor. The most recent diocese to adopt RinJ is SW Tanganyika, which got off to a slow start due to the bishop being unavoidably away for 4 months following the conference. On his return he appointed Revd Mattiya Mtweve as coordinator, and Mattiya has managed to fan groups into existence in all of the 40 parishes, with a male and a female evangelist leading in each one; it has also been incorporated into the curriculum of the Bible College. He is very encouraged by the response he sees, and hopes for a followup conference soon.

Of the other dioceses, Kibondo (Revd Amon Masabile) has groups now moving onto book 3. In Morogoro Josephine Semwenda has just taken over as coordinator for both the adult and junior programmes. Josephine is the President of the Mothers Union, a responsibility she has held since 1989, and is looking forward to meeting with group leaders and finding out more about the programme. In Masasi, the first diocese in Tanzania to introduce it, Rooted in Jesus Junior is particularly strong, and Bishop James has just appointed a new coordinator, Catherine Ligunda. Finally, Revd Leonard Giligwa asked for our continued prayers for the diocese of Victoria Nyanza, which is going through a time of stress and difficulty. Groups are still meeting; but they are inevitably distracted.

Rooted in Jesus Coordinators Bishop James Almasi, Canon Dunstan Mtoro,
Revd Leonard Giligwa, Canon Meshack Manyaga, Revd Amon Masabile

A Strategy for Growth

Much time was given to discussion of how best to ensure continued growth of Rooted in Jesus across the Province. It was recognised that the role of the Coordinator is key and that it is helpful for coordinators from this pioneering province to join teams to other dioceses and other countries, both in order to gain experience and to share what they have learned with others – Leonard Giligwa (Victoria Nyanza) who joined the team to Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, and Meshack Manyaga (Western Tanganyika), who went to Katanga in DR Congo, both spoke movingly of their experiences there. Jacob Robert had just returned from leading a Rooted in Jesus Junior team to Madagascar, and four Tanzanian bishops (John Hayden, Stanley Hotay, Isaiah Chambala, James Almasi) have now represented RinJ in other dioceses nationally and internationally.

Closer to home, the advisability of appointing deanery coordinators was discussed, as was the need for a reporting system so that proper support and accountability can be provided. Finally, the knotty problem of finance was tackled. In the long run Rooted in Jesus will be sustainable only if a diocese invests in it – not on any grand scale, as it is designed to be a low cost programme, but with a minimal ongoing budget to enable the coordinator to visit groups and keep in touch with leaders. It is always tempting, Bishop James observed, to hope that “someone else, somewhere else” will pay for what you want to do – but the reality is that this is our programme, and we must take responsibility for it. Rooted in Jesus Tanzania has been greatly helped both by the UK office and by a two year startup grant from the Anglican Communion Fund; but in the long run it needs to become self sustaining. Significant progress towards that goal has already been made in the provision of books, which are now locally printed to a very high standard in Arusha at very reasonable cost – it would not be difficult, given that only one book is needed at a time, for group members to club together to buy it, thus ensuring a continuous supply. In the meantime it was noted that coordinators need to be creative, innovative, and able to mobilise others.

Gratitude was expressed for the willingness of the bishops to sponsor their coordinators to attend the conference and for the readiness of the coordinators themselves to travel long distances to do so; and to Catherine Mwega, the RinJ administrator, who had organised the day. Cate’s role at the hub of the programme, everyone agreed, is crucial. The conference was closed after a long and fulfilling day by Bishop Stanley.

Dioceses represented at the conference:

Mount Kilimanjaro
South West Tanganyika
Victoria Nyanza
Western Tanganyika
Bishop Stanley Hotay, National Director of Rooted in Jesus Tanzania,
and Catherine Mwega, Rooted in Jesus Administrator.

If you would like to help us support the ministry of Rooted in Jesus in Tanzania please visit our support page.

Posted on 29th August 2017 by Revd Dr Alison Morgan