By Daniel Nemukuyu and Lovemore Meya
ANGLICANS in Harare yesterday held their first mass in five years at the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints under heavy police guard. The midweek mass was held a day after the eviction of Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga of the Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe from the cathedral.
The eviction on Wednesday sparked violence, resulting in six members of his church being arrested. The six paid admission of guilt fines for assaulting four security guards employed by Metro Security.
Bishop Chad Gandiya’s Church of the Province of Central Africa hired Metro Security to safeguard its premises following Archbishop Kunonga’s eviction. The eviction was done in fulfillment of the Supreme Court judgment that declared CPCA the legitimate owner of all church properties in the Diocese of Harare.
At around 8am, police officers barred parishioners from entering the cathedral before the officer commanding Harare Central District Chief Superintendent Alexio Chagwedera and his deputy arrived. Bishop Gandiya received a heroic welcome from members of his congregation.
The police bosses were locked in a lengthy meeting in the cathedral with Bishop Gandiya and his lieutenants before letting parishioners in. After being granted the permission, members of the congregation went into delirium, hugging and congratulating each other as they trooped inside.
During the service, Bishop Gandiya praised God through a hymn before he started preaching. “Ndiani waronga kudai? Ndimwari vakanaka, ndiMwari wakanaka,” they sang in unison. Bishop Gandiya delivered his message and chronicled what the church went through in the past five years.
“We have all sang to this beautiful hymn acknowledging the presence and the power of the Almighty. Our God is a mighty God. He knew what we have been going through and today he has answered our prayers.”
Bishop Gandiya thanked the congregants for their perseverance. “I would like to thank you all for being God-fearing people,” he said. “We have been subjected to torture, humiliation, embarrassment, arrests, persecutions and all other unholy deeds but we managed to maintain peace.”
Bishop Gandiya said when a group of six men aligned to Archbishop Kunonga’s church unleashed violence at the cathedral on Wednesday, members of the CPCA remained calm and did not fight back. “I thank you all because you did not fight back when the violent men who were resisting eviction yesterday chased some of you with chains and iron bars.
“Some of our guards were assaulted, but you remained calm and law-abiding people. It is not that you were overpowered, but you just behaved well like real Christians. May you please continue serving your God in peace. We do not condone violence.”
Bishop Gandiya said since 2007, the church had grown and some churches have become too small to accommodate the parishioners. In an interview after the service, he said his church now had unlimited access to the cathedral.
“From the reading of the Supreme Court judgment and as far as I am concerned, we are here for good,” he said. “This morning we faced some challenges entering the church, but we later had a fruitful meeting with the police. We resolved the issues amicably and that is why you find us in our building.”
The Deputy Sheriff has suspended evictions at other church properties pending the determination of an urgent chamber application by the Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe set to be heard on December 4.
ACPZ is seeking to block the eviction pending another declaratory application in which it is reclaiming ownership of the church properties.