Over a period of five weeks last Summer, the Africa University Choir worshipped and performed in more than 50 venues in the Mississippi and South Carolina conferences. Fifteen students from six African countries shared their stories, expressed their gratitude for the ongoing United Methodist Church support, and gave audiences a taste of the music, praise and worship traditions of sub-Saharan Africa.
The choir began its tour in Mississippi, where it helped to increase awareness of the conference's campaign to endow 10 scholarships for students at Africa University at a cost $1.3 million. By June 4, when the choir gave its closing performance at the Mississippi Annual Conference session, Mississippi United Methodists had committed more than $586,000 to the campaign.
"Having the Africa University Choir was a joy and inspiration for the thousands of persons who heard and worshiped with them all across the Mississippi Conference," said Rev. Jimmy L. Carr and Ms. Martha Scarborough, who are co-chairing the campaign. "Through their 30 appearances and serving as the Conference Choir they brought excitement and commitment to our Mississippi-Africa University Partnership. Their leadership brought us to the half way point in our 1.3 million dollar goal."
While in Mississippi, the choir took time to shop at the Edwards Street Fellowship Center Thrift Store. Established in 1979 this outreach ministry of the Hattiesburg District, serves an urban community on the southeast side of Hattiesburg. The ministry centers on the commitment to strengthening families and individuals and meeting special needs in the community. The money made from sales supports programs of the center.
According to the center's executive director, Ann McCullen, members of the choir came to their store to buy luggage to replace their broken suitcases. To their surprise, the store manager allowed them to take whatever totes they needed and gave them a $10 credit to spend in the store. The mutuality of United Methodist sisters and brothers from another continent appreciating the viable ministry of Edwards Street Fellowship Center is a reminder of the gift of the connection.
In South Carolina, choir members crisscrossed the state before ending their visit in North Charleston, just days after the murder of nine persons attending Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the wake of the tragedy, the choir changed its program in order to console and encourage South Carolinians.
"The AU Choir came to us at a unique moment in South Carolina…Your (students) blessed us beyond measure," said the Rev. Robert Howell, senior pastor of the largest United Methodist congregation in South Carolina—Bethany United Methodist Church in Summerville.
Eight congregations in the North Charleston area gathered at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in June for the choir's final performance. South Carolina Bishop L. Jonathan Holston attended and affirmed the choir for its ministry.
"The choir's presence in the Palmetto State will always be remembered," said Holston. "The AU Choir shared its ministry of song to a broken and hurting community with the love of Christ. We are grateful for their presence in a time of hope and reconciliation."
The Acacia newsletter, Africa University and Mississippi Annual Conference (Tamica Smith Jeuitt and the Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton)
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.