Kenya-based Revd Fedis Nyagah is taking the message of community empowerment throughout Africa, with help from the Anglican Alliance.
Revd Fedis started working on church and community mobilisation – called Umoja – in her home diocese of Mount Kenya East, and earlier this year took up a position at the office of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa to train people in the programme.
The Anglican Alliance has part-funded the position in Nairobi, and has also worked with the Mothers Union to put a programme in place in Guyana so that the good practice developed in Africa can be spread to Latin America.
Revd Fedis has been a wonderful champion of Umoja, which encourages churches to work with their local communities on working out plans to meet local needs. It’s community empowerment with the Church providing the inspiration and the vision in partnership with local people.
She was the keynote speaker at the recent Us annual conference in the UK, where she urged churches to “take charge of their own destiny rather than rely on the intervention of outsiders.”
Focusing on her work with the church in Zimbabwe, she said: “In African communities, we have looked to the west for so long, always on our knees begging. But God has already given us skills and resources to become what God has called us to be.
“It can be very easy to offer solutions; it’s a very human thing to give advice. But let’s focus on empowerment instead. Let’s give communities an opportunity to decide their destiny for themselves. They have the skills; they only need to be encouraged.”
Training community facilitators, Fedis brings the church and community together, involving everyone in identifying their resources and implementing solutions.
She said, “The whole idea of the local church is very central. We are enabling the church to stand out and help the local community. We are creating a forum where people can look at issues in their communities and, at the same time, find solutions.
“It’s about enabling people to identify their needs and resources. So we are developing and training facilitators and volunteers who work alongside these communities, helping the poor to experience the kingdom of God now.”
Fedis shared a story from the village of Zimunya, where the community began to manufacture peanut butter, selling it to raise funds to support people with HIV. Before Fedis’ work with the church, villagers thought that only NGOs could do this kind of work.
“Now the people – the church and the community – are doing development work themselves. Once a begging church, the church in this village is now a giving church that is supporting other communities.”