CCAP Harare Synod

We Are A Living Church Serving God To His Glory
Centenary Years 1912-2012

Immigration and its effects on Our Church

Below is a paper that was presented during a REC Focus meeting by the General Secretary of CCAP Harare Synod Reverend Juma:
REC FOCUS - Vol. 3, No. 1 March 2003
Immigration and its Effects on Our Church CCAP-Harare Synod
 Rev. Joseph Juma


Zimbabwe is just north of South Africa. It is one of the countries in Southern Africa. Because of her location and high infrastructure, a large number of people from neighboring countries have migrated to Zimbabwe. The population of Zimbabwe is now approximately *12 million and a third of this is purely immigrants. Another third is a mixture of the immigrants and indigenous people because of inter-marriages. People who migrated to Zimbabwe from Malawi up to now make the largest number of immigrants. It is from this group that the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Harare Synod was born and at a later stage was joined by some Zambians and Mozambicans.

THE START OF THE Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian - Harare Synod:

Some people from Malawi who started worshiping with the indigenous Zimbabweans felt isolated because of the language and the cultural barriers. Hence they asked the CCAP in Malawi to send a missionary to start a CCAP in Zimbabwe using a Malawian National language. In 1912, on November 17, a first missionary was sent by Dutch Reformed Church, Western Cape Synod in South Africa through the CCAP Nkhoma Synod in Malawi. The name of the missionary was Rev. T.C.B. Vlok. The missionary visited all the parts of the country and met some Malawians who showed zeal of establishing the church of their origin with their vernacular language being used in the church. Their first church was built in 1935 but operating under the Nkhoma Synod in Malawi. After establishing several congregations in Zimbabwe, which were divided into two presbyteries, the church became autonomous on May 1, 1965.

Before considering it to be an independent Synod, some agreements were laid out with the CCAP Nkhoma Synod and Dutch Reformed Church, Cape Synod of which some were:

  1. The training of pastors to be done in Malawi
  2. The calling of pastors to be from Nkhoma Synod and missionaries from Western Cape Synod :- The maintaining of identity of origin in Administration and worship services

These agreements are still outstanding today, save the calling of the pastors from both Synods.


As said above, the church has conserved her identity since 1912. The Bibles and hymn books used are all in the vernacular language. As the training of pastors is done in Malawi, the church is also affiliated to the CCAP General Synod in Malawi which is comprised of Blantyre, Nkhoma, Livingstonia. Zambia and Harare Synods, and this makes the identity strong. Also because of the cordial relations between the Church and the Malawi High Commission, the church members living in Zimbabwe but of Malawian origin are able to visit their homeland without much difficulty in terms of obtaining travel documents.

However, some serious disadvantages have also been created by this situation

  • When most of the migrant workers came to Zimbabwe, they did not live in the country's rural areas. Therefore, the Church mainly operates in towns, on farms and in mining areas.
  • Although the church has officially declared that it does not intend to serve only those who speak the vernacular language, there are some members and leaders who insist on maintaining the original identity. This makes some indigenous members shun the church.
  • Children of migrant CCAP members in Zimbabwe are exposed to other indigenous Zimbabwean languages in Schools and elsewhere. Thus not all of them can understand well or master the vernacular language. This puts them off when the language is used in the services,
  • Some CCAP members of migrant origin got married to the indigenous ladies who can not speak or understand well the language spoken during the services.
  • Apart from children born to the CCAP members of the migrant origin or the indigenous spouses, there are some other migrants who have people who need to be ministered into, in the languages they understand.
  • At the moment, the church's Sunday School and Catechism materials are only available in the vernacular language. Thus, those who do not speak the vernacular language do not benefit much from them, although some of the Sunday School teachers and Catechists can use the indigenous language in their teachings.
  • Just the idea of being considered as a "community without a community" (i.e) Speaking a foreign language in a foreign country, makes CCAP in Zimbabwe become misconstrued as a church of exiles, of people alienated from the country they are operating in.

Looking from the other angle of the church, there is only one advantage. The church has managed to unite and bring a feeling of togetherness among many migrants living in Zimbabwe. Hence their cultural practices in the worship services are promoted.


By observing that there is only one advantage from many disadvantages, the church is faced with many challenges of which some are:

  • to engage in learning the cultures and languages of the indigenous people in order to effectively minister to the majority of the people in the country.
  • to have evangelistic and church work in the rural areas intensified as a part of fulfilling the great commission, since there are no migrants coming to Zimbabwe these years
  • to avoid giving impression that the church is serving or representing one particular group or ethnic community :- GO YE THEREFORE AND TEACH ALL NATIONS... (Matt. 28:19)


The other church in similar category as ours is the Dutch Reformed Church in Central Africa which is linked with the General Synod of Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Some of their members migrated to Zimbabwe many years ago and established themselves in this using the Afrikaans language and order of service as done in South Africa. The difference was that the Dutch Reformed Church members belong to the privileged class, while most of our members to the unprivileged group. In the Dutch Reformed Church many are farm owners, while many of our members are farm workers. The main factor which makes the relationship harmonious is the origin of both churches. Including the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, there are the three that belong to the same Reformed family of origin. So joint meetings for the modermen of the three churches are held three times a year to discuss mutual issues.

The Reformed Church in Zimbabwe is the indigenous one while the other two belong to the same category. Hence some advantages and disadvantages for our church can also be the same ones experienced by the Dutch Reformed Church. As a matter of fact, the two churches, CCAP and DRC were the most affected after the LAND REFORM PROGRAM


Zimbabwe's Land Reform Program, which started in the year 2000 has resulted in many of our church members and also DRC members leaving the farms. Automatically the church's work on the farms has ceased, resulting in a drastic drop in membership from the year 2000. Our church's survey shows that a quota of our membership has become displaced without any hope of returning to the home lands or getting any gratuity from the employers. The church buildings on the farms were taken over by the new occupants of the farms, and are now used for other purposes.


Despite some problems or hindrances affecting the CCAP, mentioned before, it is gratifying to note that:

  1. the preachers can use both the indigenous and the vernacular languages during the services.
  2. some church members who at first did not understand the vernacular language are able to do so now.
  3. some of the indigenous people are interested in joining the Church.

* Population now above 16 million from the 2004 censors.

Copyright (c) 2003

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