Pragmatic Faith and the Tanzania Lutheran Church; Bishop Erasto N Kweka’s Life and Work. By Amy Stambach and Aikande Kwayu: Lexington Books, 2020. 150pp : Shirumisha's Platform

Shirumisha Kwayu
Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
Forget the former things: Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in wasteland. Break camps and advance!

Pragmatic Faith and the Tanzania Lutheran Church; Bishop Erasto N Kweka’s Life and Work. By Amy Stambach and Aikande Kwayu: Lexington Books, 2020. 150pp

by Shirumisha Kwayu on 11/30/21

My childhood was naughty to an extent that I would lose a shoe or part of my outfit. Oftentimes I came back from school without my shoes, socks and/or shirt. My mum had to buy me new outfits every now and then. Sometimes she could not keep it up with constant demand for new clothes. One day, probably when I was 4 or 5 years old, there was an event in Meru Diocese and all of our family went to it. I was roughly dressed for the event and everyone was so smart, thus my mum had to stop at Tengeru market to buy me a shirt so I could be somewhat smart. That day turned out to be a lucky day which makes it memorable to be as there was this old man in a landcruiser who invited me to his car and held me in his seat. He keenly was asking me lots of questions about my life especially about my maternal grand dad Reverend Orbelin Solomon Nkya. I told him how I normally go to graze his cows with him and how he would react when a cow goes astray. Shortly I saw the old man leading a church service with a well pampered rob and a majestic hat. Afterwards there was a ceremony out of the church and this old man invited me to the high table. He was given a traditional cake (Ndafu) which normally the elder/ guest of honor is given. My shock, he  sent a plate to me while on the high table. Later on, he gave me a ride in his car again. I was elated with this attention. I was so happy that my mom had changed my clothes. I went back to join our family and everyone was asking and talking of the favor I had that day. I came to learn that the man who treated me was Bishop Dr Erasto N Kweka. I think that was my first memorable encounter with him. Today I have a privilege to review his biography which narrates his life and work and how that explains the pragmatic faith and the Tanzania Lutheran Church.

It's an understatement to say I am privileged to review the book because I am closely related with the authors and I was privileged to see the writing process. The book is written by my mentor Prof Amy Stambach and my sister Dr Aikande Kwayu. The best thing I like about the book is its first chapter which explains the theoretical underpinning of the book that is social theory. The theory focuses on the integration of beliefs and behaviours, meaning with experience and religious practice with worldly power.  Thus, this book is set to examine daily activities of the Lutheran church and the effect of these activities on society. It does so through the life and work of Bishop Kweka. The book explains the early life of Bishop that's from 1930 till the near present times. In the first chapter the book sets the ground by explaining religion as a set of common expressions of ethical and moral values. This reminded me of the Ziggy Marley  song Love is my religion and it made me think of what is our religion as a country? or  in other words,  what are our common values as a country? Are these values negative or positive and what do our values explain about the state of our affairs?

Further, after explaining the meaning of religion and religion in practice, the chapter went on to explain Tanzania lutheranism as opposed to pentecostal church, western lutheran, colonial (mission Lutheran) towards a localised lutheran which is what we have now.  

Reading through the social theoretical lens or practice perspective directed my focus towards the practices (rules and guidelines), praxis (actual activities) and practitioners (people mentioned in the book). The book narrates the constrictions that delayed Kweka going to school at an early age and the role that was played by her sister Paulina who orchestrated a scene that made Kweka’s father agree to send Kweka to school. Later on, the book also explains the role of three teachers (Miss Kakundwa Solomon, Miss Haifarisi Abdiel Shangali and Mrs Nikokaeli Nkya) who encouraged him a lot when he enrolled in government school in 1946. In addition, When Kweka was called to be a pastor it was a female  teacher who encouraged him to accept the call as opposed to his fellow teachers (three men) who discouraged him. Similarly, at family levels the uncles encouraged Kweka to decline the call to be a pastor while citing the responsibilities he had for looking after her mum and family but her mum encouraged Kweka to accept the call and that God will look after them. Looking at these women we see their positive role in Kweka’s Life no wonder we can later see how Kweka played his role in ordaining women Pastors in the Lutheran Church to a point he was ready to resign. This was a progressive move that Kweka played and I think it should be well recognised within the nation and beyond.

Last but not least, the book has a number of things that we need to think about. The chapter of Bishop of Projects shows the impact of the economic projects on the growth of church and the society. These projects included, water supply, medical services (hospitals), education services (schools, universities, training centres etc), services for disabled and also a nunnery. The projects were geared towards self-reliance, which echoed the state policy at one time though it differed in approach. With all these, what strikes me hard and keeps revolving in my mind is the church social agenda of setting a moral compass for the society and government. To what extent does the church set this moral agenda and will it continue or have the ability to set the agenda continuously. On page 11, the book intrigues us to ask as to what extent does the church or religion  play a role in exercising power through economic distribution and redistribution, by offering alternative ideas, resources and social networks through which people can change oppressive systems. My thinking at our current situation is how does the church play its role towards having a good new constitution. What ideas and values does it advocate for in the cry for a new constitution?

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