27 February 2012

The Day I Dreaded Has Finally Come (Ps. Singogo's Farewell Service)

~by Edwin Mpande.

"The day I feared most has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me. brethren, the day I feared most has come, 26th February, 2012 when I should bid farewell to the congregation I love having served as Pastor for 12 and half years."

Fashioning his opening statement after Job 3:25, which he read to the congregation, Pastor Grave Singogo opened his speech with the words above as he bed farewell to Evangel Baptist Church to join Ndola Baptist Church on the Copperbelt, the first ever baptist church in Zambia. The auditorium was filled to capacity with people coming from an assortment of sister churches in Lusaka, some travelling great distances from outside Lusaka. Also in attendance were 13 members of Ndola Baptist Church, Pastor Grave’s new Church; as if to say, "We have come to get him."

The occasion was divided in two sessions, the first session being the normal church service which involved among other things the singing of songs, reading of the scriptures and the preaching of God’s Word. This was followed by a wonderful lunch which ushered in the second session where Pastor Grave gave his moving, mind sobering, well structured, farewell speech. This session also saw an Elder give a speech on behalf of both the Eldership and the church and the session ended with the Elders laying hands on both Pastor Grave and his "brown" wife, as he himself often puts it from the pulpit. Pastor Collins Sakalunda prayed as the Elders laid their hands.

In his sermon, preaching from John 3:30, which reads "He must become great, I must become less", Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa of Lusaka Baptist Church encouraged the congregation to emulate the attitude and spirit of John the Baptist, of letting Christ take the glory and honor while we ourselves decrease. This was a fitting sermon as Pastor Kalifungwa applied it to both the church membership, non-Christians in attendance and Pastor Grave himself emphasizing the need for both the Pastor leaving and the congregation staying to remain Christ centered and the non-Christian to search themselves as to whether or not Christ is central in their lives.

In his speech, Pastor Grave mentioned that the work at Evangel was not his and neither was the success of the church achieved by him alone, rather, it was God's work and they worked as a team. To that end, he thanked the Elders, the Deacons and the church members for their participation and contributions at Evangel Baptist Church.

Furthermore, he took the opportunity to apologize to the congregation for any wrong that he may have done in the course of his duty. "I am not perfect and I will not pretend to be perfect," he said.

He took advantage of the occasion to thank everyone for the spiritual, financial and material support rendered to him and his family during the 12 and a half years that he served at Evangel Baptist Church.

He acknowledge the 'blue moon' privilege of being both a son and Pastor to his 89 year old (this July) father as he thanked him for having infused in him life principles such as time management and financial discipline, which have helped him significantly in his life and his pastorate in particular. In his characteristic manner, with a finger pointed at his Father, Pastor Grave commanded “I am now talking to you as your Pastor” as he asked him to stand and the congregation gave the man (who appeared proud of his son) a round of applause. He went on to thank his dear wife for having been afflicted with him in his afflictions and happy with him in his happiness. Lastly, he thanked God for being there for him.

He ended his speech by saying that it would be sad, and a burden to both him and his wife, Irene, if he heard that people have left Evangel Baptist Church because he has left. He pleaded with all the members to remain committed and faithful to the work, recalling the sermon which underlined Christ's increase and everyone else's decrease. Something I felt was critical to mention.

Mr. Lovemore Nkhoma, one of the three remaining Elders at Evangel Baptist Church, gave a brief but whole encompassing speech. "We will be prayerful, patient and consult widely as we look for someone to fill Pastor Grave Singogo’s position," he said.

The departure of Pastor Grave has been received with mixed feelings. When asked for a comment on the general feelings of Evangel Baptist members, one of them responded saying "Well... its 50 – 50, but for me, its 100%, I would have loved him to stay". As if that was not enough, an inconsolable woman was seen teary as she hugged and said bye to both Pastor Grave and his wife.

Well, what can I say other than to wish Pastor Grave a successful ministry at Ndola Baptist Church and pray for the elders at Evangel Baptist Church as they look for someone to fill the position of Pastor. As Pastor himself put it, "It would be a sin for Irene and I to stay, it would be like Jonah, as we believe it is the Lord directing us to move."

The manner in which the entire event was conducted was both refreshing and commendable. To God be the glory!