TITLE: BUILDING THE CHURCH AS FAMILY OF GOD: EVALUATION OF SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES IN EASTERN AFRICA
Author: Joseph G. Healey
Publisher: AMECEA Gaba Publications – CUEA Press 2012, Spearhead Nos. 199-200, 163 pages, ISBN 9966-836-51-9, Price Kshs. 500.
Father Joseph Healey, MM, renowned promoter of the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in the Eastern Africa region and a member of the Maryknoll Society of Fathers and Brothers, has recently published a book that evaluates this pastoral programme and describes it as a new way of doing evangelization today. The new book, Building the Church as Family of God: Evaluation of Small Christian Communities in Eastern Africa, is published by CUEA (Catholic University of Eastern Africa) Press in the AMECEA Gaba Publications Spearhead series. AMECEA stands for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa and currently comprises nine countries, namely: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
In this book the author draws on various cases studies across the AMECEA Region and explores the quantitative and qualitative dynamics ascribed to SCCs as a new model of being Church. Owing to the proliferation of modern technology, the Catholic Church has embraced the new forms and new media for communicating the Gospel message as aspects of the New Evangelization, the author states. Therefore this is a vital handbook that elaborates fresh insights about SCCs relevant for biblical and theological studies and useful for parish pastoral councils and leaders of SCCs. The updated online version of the book states that currently there are an estimated 120,000 SCCs in AMECEA Region, of which over 45,000 are in Kenya.
In the book Healey first of all given some historic aspects of this Catholic Church pastoral programme that goes back to the 1970s when two plenary meetings of the Bishops from the AMECEA region converged in Nairobi, Kenya to deliberate on SCCs as the key pastoral priority in Eastern Africa. The author expresses special thanks to the Bishops for having taken the ownership of the SCCs priority during the past 40 years. He then thanks the African theologians who have articulated the theological framework for this new model of Church by using a contexual approach. The author equally pays special tribute to teams of SCC animators and coordinators who have developed a Train of Trainers (TOT) style of training leaders as well as members of the SCCs Website Team and their collaborators who have explored the future. Finally Healey thanks the SCC members themselves who have shared with us and taught us so much about this new way of being church.
In the last section of the book the author raises some of the challenges facing this pastoral programme today as the Church looks forward and offers various recommendations for action. The Church should encourage the youth to form their own inculturated Youth SCCs. It should assist SCCs members on the grassroots to face the challenges of tribalism, negative ethnicity and nepotism in their SCCs. This includes facilitating services, rituals, and ceremonies of reconciliation, justice and peace that are integrated into SCC masses, Bible Services and other meetings.
The new book further recommended that the Church should assist the SCCs to form SCC leaders/animators/facilitators/coordinators in a deeper evangelization that integrates African values and Christian values (“Truly African, Truly Christian”) as part of an overall pastoral strategy of forming and training pastoral agents. He further recommends that Church should encourage the active participation of priests in animating, facilitating and coordinating SCCs. There is a need to include more courses and workshops on SCCs in the normal curriculum of major seminaries, theological institutes, universities and houses of formation of both men and women that include some kind of planned practical action and social outreach.
Healey emphasizes that there should be a focus on practical, pastoral theology on the local level. This includes the need to promote the use of the “SEE, JUDGE and ACT” (Pastoral Spiral) process/methodology in SCCs (including Bible sharing/Bible reflection and social analysis) on the deeper issues of reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa leading to concrete action so that this process becomes a central part of the life and ministry of SCCs. He also raises the need to foster strategies on self-reliance and sustainability in SCCs. This includes the financial support of SCCs and various parish activities.
The section on “The Future is Now: Using the Internet to Promote SCCs in Africa and Around the World” highlights the many resources on the Small Christian Communities Global Collaborative Website and “Facebook Page” (www.smallchristiancommunities.org).
SCCs in Eastern Africa have an important role in promoting the New Evangelization on the local level.
Francis Oswin Njuguna
Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA)
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NOTE: For the SCCs Website Online Version of this Double Spearhead Nos. 199-200 (2012) Book Building the Church as Family of God: Evaluation of SCCs in the AMECEA Region published by AMECEA Gaba Publications — CUEA Press in Eldoret, Kenya click on the link below or the cover above). This online version is updated as of 1 January 2020.
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