Last Tuesday I was in Mbare, one of Harare's large townships. I stood out like a sore thumb because it is not a place where you see many white people. But it is a place of vibrancy and encounter. The large number of small stalls that form the famous Mbare market allow you to buy a massive variety of goods. There is always plenty of noise and lots of people.
I was visiting Mbare Uniting Presbytrian Church, the entrance to which is between a couple of market stalls, and there met a group of the church elders so that I could listen to the story of their hopes and fears, opportunities and concerns. It was a fascinating conversation as they told me some of what they are up to.
The church recently engaged in an envisioning exercise in which they developed a mission statement aimed at summarising their goals. The statement talked about things like good worship, challenging Bible study and different ways in which they can, and should, relate to their community.
They told me about the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) in which they had engaged as part of this exercise. They recognised, for example, that they were good at hospitality and maintained a strong preaching and teaching tradition. Finance was a bit of a weakness, though people are good at responding to appeals, especially in kind. They play home to a much-in-demand training centre which runs courses for pre-school teachers and to a pre-school. Both have excellent reputations, but are each run independently, which could be seen as a threat, though the opportunity is to try and make them church-run.
They went on to speak of the opportunities offered by pastoral contact with families who come looking for weddings and funerals. They also spoke of the frustration of the collapse of two successive water tanks put in place to store water from their bore hole.
Here is an engaged church trying to keep what it is doing under review - surely a great example!