Cascade UMC Explores Increasing Engagement with AU

Cascade United Methodist Church is planning a 2018 visit to the Africa University main campus at Old Mutare, Zimbabwe as part of its effort to enhance support for the institution.

Cascade UMC is the fourth largest African-American congregation in the denomination, with roots in the Atlanta-College Park District that date back to 1926. The church's senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Murriel, describes the upcoming visit as connectional and exploratory in nature.

"Being that Cascade is a pivotal church in the United Methodist Connection, our engagement with Africa University speaks broadly to our commitment to education and the global mission of the Church," said Murriel. "We hope to be a resource to better the lives of the students, faculty, and staff and…to be a bridge for other congregations who might be interested in serving the needs of the Africa University community."

     Cascade UMC Worship Services

The planned visit is just one of the initiatives evolving from discussions between influential United Methodists in the North Georgia Conference and university leaders. A July 2017 meeting brought together representatives of the Candler School of Theology and several large United Methodist congregations including Cascade, Glenn Memorial, Peachtree Road, Oak Grove, and First UMC Atlanta. The group met with Dr. Munashe Furusa, Africa University's Vice Chancellor/CEO at a gathering co-hosted by three longstanding advocates for Africa University—Dr. James Laney, chair of the Africa University site selection committee; Dr. James L. Waits, a former member of the Africa University Board of Directors; and Dr. Gerald Lord, a former executive of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

"It was the perfect opportunity to bring the remarkable story of Africa University to the fore and discuss the potential for greater progress at AU through support from North Georgia United Methodists," said Laney. "It isn't just a question of a church making its apportionment, but of connecting with individuals in the churches who might give substantially to help Africa University to grow even more."

 Both Laney and his co-host, Dr. Waits, say that they were greatly encouraged by the response from these Atlanta area United Methodist congregations.

"As we hoped, the meeting was met with enthusiasm and promises of active financial and other forms of support," said Waits. "The current Campaign for Africa University (an effort to raise $50 million for scholarships, professorships and new infrastructure) offers fresh opportunities for congregations, individuals and Annual Conferences to engage in a distinctive mission for the continent of Africa…  Churches find in their support a global extension of their local ministries. It is our hope that the North Georgia Conference will reach 100 percent of its apportionment this year, and as other conferences have done, perhaps even launch a special campaign to raise funds for the endowment at AU."

The dates and schedule for 2018 Cascade UMC visit to AU are still unfolding, with organizers targeting the latter half of the year. The organizers hope to have the trip participants provide specialized seminars or courses in theology, health and business to students during the visit.

"Many of our members are energized around the purpose of our relationship with Africa University and I anticipate this relationship growing in vitality for years to come," said Murriel.

Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office

A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.