The History of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe
On 3 October 1967, the London Missionary Society (LMS) which had been in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, for 108 years transformed into the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). The celebrated unity came about through the coming together of three Congregational Churches, the LMS, the Bantu Congregational Church (BCC) and the Congregational Union of South Africa (CUSA). This transnational church is not only in Zimbabwe but it cuts across South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique. Having been in existence for fifty years the UCCSA celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2017.
Missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS), founded in 1795, came to Zimbabwe, in 1859, during the reign of King Mzilikazi Khumalo in Matabeleland and the Midlands. On request for land, the missionaries were offered Inyathi for their first mission station. The Pioneer Missionaries of the LMS comprised William Sykes, Thomas Morgan Thomas, Robert Moffat and John Smith Moffat. Their difficult journey to Matabeleland and their acceptance by King Mzilikazi was made easier by the fact that Robert Moffat had already made friends with King Mzilikazi. Other missionaries who came later were John Mackenzie, James Boden Thomson, Rev Charles, Daniel Helm, David Carnegie, Joseph Cockin, Norman Clarke, Rev Main, Rev Grifiths, Rev Dr. Neville Jones, Cullen Reed, Rev W. A. Elliot, Mr Bowen Rees, George Wilkerson, W. W. Anderson and A.E. Walden. The list is not exhaustive.
A number of mission stations were established. In addition to Inyathi other mission stations are Hope Fountain, Dombodema, Insiza (given up in 1911) Centenary (given up in 1913) Shangani Reserve, Lupane and Tjimali. The mode of transport to transverse the sparsely populated expanse areas comprised oxwagon, donkey cart, horse, mule or bicycle until 1917 when Bowen Rees bought the first car. Part of the missionary work included establishing schools and clinics. Emphasis was on teaching the three ‘r’s, reading, writing and arithmetic and practical subjects. The well-known LMS schools are Inyathi, Hope Fountain and Dombodema. Having been allocated 8 000 acres at Inyathi, 6 000 acres at Hope Fountain and 24 000 acres at Dombodema by King Mzilikazi, King Lobengula and the British South Africa (BSA) Company respectively,
As years went by, local ministers were trained and deployed like their European counterparts. Initially the training in ministry was done at Tiger Kloof in South Africa and was later done at Epworth Theological College, now the United Theological College. The following were some of the first local ministers: Zhisho Moyo, Mtompe Kumalo, Sitjenkwa Hlabangana ,Joshua R. Danisa, Christopher Nyoni, Amos Mzilethi, Aaron Mpofu, Senzani Mkandla, Willie K. Dube, John Mpofu Mabhena, Mongwa Tshuma, Pute Ndlovu Arthur Mhlanga and Christopher Sibanda. The placement system was used as there was no calling system. All Ministers were the responsibility of the Synod, which at that time was called the Region.