Rumuko—Early Morning Prayer in Zimbabwe
By Eveline Chikwanah*
As a church with a global reach, considering the United Methodist culture and practice of prayer requires a look at traditions that have developed in some of the denomination’s central conferences. While many in the United States may practice personal early morning devotions that include prayer, in other traditions, this practice is extended in corporate prayer—gathering as groups or congregations each morning for prayers at sunrise, which some say, is the best time for praying. The following story considers corporate prayer in Zimbabwe.
Photos of early morning prayer at a UMC campground in Zimbabwe for an annual five-day women’s convention that happens every August. PHOTO: EVELINE CHIKWANAH
United Methodist church members in Zimbabwe gather for early morning prayers—usually from 4 a.m. till 6 a.m.—to give a good start to the new day. The prayers, known as rumuko in the indigenous Shona language, are characterized by individual prayers and a short message to guide the service.
“Rumuko is essential in a Christian’s life because the prayers give you renewed strength and hope to face the new day,” said Mrs. Greater Nhiwatiwa, wife of Zimbabwe Episcopal Area resident bishop, Eben K. Nhiwatiwa. “In the early hours of the morning, everything will be quiet, and it is the best time to pray,” she said. For Greater Nhiwatiwa, the practice of rumuko is something she learned from her mother.
“My mother would wake me and ask me to accompany her to rumuko. When I was a young adult in 1968, I would attend morning prayers at Ehnes Memorial Church in Old Mutare,” said Nhiwatiwa.
This tradition of praying very early in the morning before going to work or school in Zimbabwe dates back to the 1920s. Trainee pastors at Old Mutare held early morning prayers before attending classes. The practice was adopted by their wives, including the late Lydia Chimonyo, who founded the women’s organization, Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai (RRW), in 1929.
PHOTO: EVELINE CHIKWANAH
The women prayed after gathering firewood in one of the mountains in Mandisodza Village. The mountain, called Chin’ando, has become a sacred place of prayer and is currently being renovated for preservation.
Rumuko services are now a common feature of the church, even in urban settings, where services can be attended by sometimes 500 people of all ages. One such church is St. Mark United Methodist Church in Highfield, Harare, where hundreds gather every morning to worship and commune individually with the Lord.
Two years ago, St. Mark was the only church offering early morning prayers to Christians of all denominations in its neighborhood, but now other churches have started their own services.
Eggester Jokomo, a pioneer of the St. Mark prayer services, said her church still attracts many people seeking spiritual healing and deliverance who come to see one of St. Mark’s leaders, Fred Bande Mutemera.
“Saturday rumuko services are the most popular, drawing more than 500 people, because that is the day they can be assisted by Mutemera,” said Jokomo.
During these services, people pray individually for personal issues such as unemployment and marital problems, including infertility. Jokomo said they also take time to pray for the church and the country.
Even in new churches, like the Mount Pleasant Preaching Point, a local church administered by Harare Inner City UMC, where Nhiwatiwa is a member, rumuko has found a place.
United Methodist Women take part in rumuko, early morning prayer, every day during an annual five-day women’s convention in Zimbabwe when women gather for a special time of spiritual growth. PHOTO: EVELINE CHIKWANAH
“We meet regularly to pray at a local club during the early morning,” said Nhiwatiwa. Most urban churches hold daily rumuko services, while others have rumuko on selected days.
The Rev. Joel Mutema of Kwekwe, 210km (338 miles) southwest of Harare, also confirmed that rumuko is very important in his church.
“It freshens the mind and brings people together in prayer. Rumuko creates oneness in mission and ministry, nurturing individuals and faith of the church,” he said. Mutema said rumuko equips the congregation to face life’s challenges through prayer and love. “It is a platform of sharing God’s action and prayer and a prelude to a sound and deep worship service, especially on Sundays.”
“It is from prayers and sharing that we testify to God’s mighty works of healing, redemption, forgiveness, restoration, inspiration and love,” said the Rev Mutema.
*Eveline Chikwanah is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Winter 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.