Title: Strengthening the Growth of Small Christian Communities in Africa: A Training Handbook for Facilitators
Editors: Emmanuel Chimombo, Joseph Healey, Rita Ishengoma, Febian Mulenga, Rose Musimba and Alphonce Omolo
Publisher: AMECEA Pastoral Department in cooperation with Paulines Publications Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
Printer: Don Bosco Printing Press, Makuyu, Kenya
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of pages:80 pages
Price: Kenya Shillings 200/= (US $2.00)
AMECEA Pastoral Department
P.O. Box 21191
00505 Nairobi, Kenya
Website (URL): www.amecea.org
Paulines Publications Africa (Daughters of St Paul)
P.O. Box 49026
00100 Nairobi GPO, Kenya
Website (URL): www.paulinesafrica.org
Reviewer: Francis Njuguna
There is a popular saying We create path by walking. This fits very well the recently published handbook Strengthening the Growth of Small Christian Communities in Africa: A Training Handbook for Facilitators edited by six members of the Eastern African Small Christian Communities (SCCs) Training Team within the AMECEA  Region.
The official launching of this new handbook took place on Friday, 19 May, 2017 at the AMECEA Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya. It was presided over by H. E. Souraphiel Cardinal Berhaneyesus, Archbishop of Addis Ababa Archdiocese, Ethiopia and current Chairman of AMECEA. His Eminence Berhaneyesus commended the role of SCCs in the pastoral mission of the Catholic Church today.
The entire work of compiling and editing the newly published handbook was carried out by the members of the Eastern African SCCs Training Team comprising three priests, a religious sister and two lay people. The Pastoral Department of AMECEA coordinated the project. With the new handbook in place, both the facilitators and animators of the SCCs in the AMECEA region and beyond now have a practical training handbook or manual to use for effective promotion of the SCC key pastoral priority within and outside the Eastern Africa Region.
The Catholic bishops in Eastern Africa initiated this SCC pastoral priority in 1973 and 1976 during their plenary meetings held at Saint Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme: Building Small Christian Communities in Eastern Africa. A summary note on the newly published SCCs Handbook observes: “This is a handbook for training facilitators of Small Christian Communities (SCCs). It fulfills an emerging need for impactful training contents and methodologies for individuals and groups actively involved in the facilitation of SCCs processes.” It has further adds: “This handbook is motivated by the AMECEA mission that seeks to “inspire and empower God’s family in the AMECEA Region to a credible and prophetic witness to Christ.”
The book’s summary note also emphasizes that the training thematic topics are grounded on the history and accomplishments of AMECEA and its decision to emphasize SCCs as a key pastoral priority as well as the recent teachings of the Holy Father Pope Francis that is documented in his Apostolic Exhortations The Joy of the Gospel and The Joy of Love.
The new handbook recommends 15 topics and sessions for an effective training course on this pastoral priority. They include: arrival of the participants, introduction of the participants, logistics, sharing of roles and responsibilities, participant’s fears or concerns, training topics, expectations and training objectives.
Other topics and sessions for this training course for the SCCs facilitators include: sharing of Small Christian Communities’ experiences, what is a Small Christian Community, basic characteristics of Small Christian Communities, history of SCCs as a AMECEA key Pastoral Priority, the centrality of the Word of God in SCCs, models of Small Christian Communities, the Way Forward and planning for the next steps and conclusion and closing ceremony (page 51).
The new training handbook also include a rich bibliography, comprising references, additional reading materials, videos and DVDs as well as accompanying rich annexes. The new book recommends a checklist of 16 common activities in Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in Africa today for effective training of SCCs facilitators and states on page 71:
A key factor is that Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in Africa are not a program or a project, but a way of life. In Swahili, we have the dynamic expression jumuiya ni maisha, siyo kazi. Based on new experiences and data we continue to update this “Checklist of 16 Common Activities in Small Christian Communities (SCCs) in Africa Today.” In SCC meetings, courses, workshops and seminars we ask: How many of these activities are part of the life of your SCC? How many of these activities have you actually participated in?”
On both parish and diocesan levels of SCC training, the new handbook recommends a duration of three or four days minimum for a given training course for facilitators.
In all these courses a session is set aside for what the book describes as “deeper questions”’ meant to make the topics and sessions interactive and participatory (page 75).
The new handbook says that both printed and online materials are available for the training of the SCCs facilitators. “Since our overall priority in the AMECEA Region is the on-going formation and training of SCC members in Eastern Africa, there currently exist 25 basic printed SCCs resource materials that are available free online” (page 69) in
Building the Church as Family of God: Evaluation of Small Christian
Communities in Eastern Africa. The Online Digital Version, regularly revised and updated, is available as a free, online Ebook containing 924 pages as of 24 May, 2017 on the Small Christian Communities Global Collaborative Website at:
On a one-day SCCs Pastoral Solutions Workshop (page 66), the handbook emphasizes tresearch indicates that many parishes, centers and institutions prefer a “one-day SCCs pastoral solutions workshops” that takes place all day Saturday or after the first Mass on Sunday morning or any selected day of the week.
In the handbook’s preface, H.E. Souraphiel Cardinal Berhaneyesus says the new handbook is not only intended for the AMECEA Region, but for every parish or ecclesial community that is inspired by the Word of God, promotes participation of the Christian faithful in the community and giving witness to Christ by way of life. “In this way, the parish becomes, as Pope Francis says, ‘a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a center of constant missionary outreach’” (The Joy of the Gospel, 28). He adds that despite the diversity of cultures, ecclesial models, social circumstances and backgrounds of the various ecclesial communities, this book has been designed in order to promote the spirit of new evangelization through SCCs. “I encourage all the pastoral agents to take advantage of the document and make it useful within their pastoral context” (page 10).
On his part, AMECEA Pastoral Department Coordinator Father Emmanuel Chimombo, acknowledges the people who have made possible the work on this new handbook, and in a particular way, an anonymous Catholic Family Foundation in the United States of America
that provided the financial support through the AMECEA Pastoral Department. “We owe special gratitude to all Secretaries General, National Pastoral Coordinators, priests, religious and SCCs members in the AMECEA region,” Father Chimombo emphasizes (page 11).
 AMECEA is an acronym for Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa. It is a Catholic service organization for the National Episcopal Conferences of the nine countries of Eastern Africa, namely Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Djibouti and Somalia are affiliate members.