Church in AMECEA Seeking to Grow Small Christian Communities in Yearlong Celebrations

Official logo of the Golden Jubilee Year of Small Christian Communities (SCCs). Credit: AMECEA

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) has launched the Golden Jubilee Year of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) to assess the status of this new way of being church in the region.

For the whole year starting from the August 19 launch, the nine countries in the AMECEA region are to reflect on the goals that Catholic Bishops in the region had when they founded SCCs 50 years ago.

In his key address at the launch in Malawi, Bishop Rogatus Kimaryo of Tanzania’s Same Diocese and Chairman for AMECEA Pastoral Department said that the goal of the yearlong celebrations will also be to reawaken the spirituality of SCCs in the region.

“By December 2023, it will be 50 years since the Small Christian Communities were adopted by the AMECEA Region as a pastoral priority,” Bishop Kimaryo said at the launch, which was held in Malawi’s Dedza Diocese.

He added that the Pastoral Departments of Bishops’ Conferences in the AMECEA region will be spearheading the yearlong Golden Jubilee celebrations, “not as an event, but a process comprising of several strategic activities involving all AMECEA member Conferences.” 


“The overall goal of the Jubilee Year is to reawaken the spirituality of Small Christian Communities as envisaged by the AMECEA Bishops at the onset of the concept, way back in 1973,” the Tanzanian-born member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers/CSSp.) said.

He said that in their inception plans, the AMECEA Bishops had envisioned through SCCs, a self-reliant church that is capable of self-propagating, self-supporting and self-ministering.

To achieve the goal, he said, AMECEA Bishops had prioritized promoting the centrality of the Bible, Communion of the people with emphasis on outreach to all especially the most vulnerable members, and by providing ongoing training to the lay leadership of the church.  

“Fifty years down the line, AMECEA is launching a yearlong stock of SCCs with an aim of assessing the status of the perceived goals,” the Chairman for AMECEA Pastoral Department said.

He went on to call on pastoral agents in the AMECEA region to work, during the yearlong celebrations, towards instituting mechanisms aimed at fostering the engagement of children, youth, women, and men in SCCs.

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The pastoral agents in the countries and Conferences of AMECEA are also to review guidelines for SCCs “taking on board the current signs of times”, and to promote the theme for the SCCs Jubilee celebrations across the AMECEA member Conferences which is, “Small Christian Communities: 50 Years of Building the Church as The Family of God in The AMECEA Region”.

The nine countries of AMECEA include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Catholic Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan are in a single Conference. Djibouti and Somalia are AMECEA affiliate members.

The eight Bishops’ Conferences of AMECEA have been asked to give equal attention to both the Jubilee celebrations and the Synod processes as activities will be taking place concurrently.

The August 19 launch was followed by a training on Monday, August 21 to introduce participants to the method of reflections, and models of SCCs. 

Participants at a session that was moderated by Fr. Alloys Nyakundi, the Coordinator of the Young People SCCs at the SCCs Global Collaborate Website were introduced to steps of Bible sharing in SCCs. 


They learnt the steps of bible study called LUMKO, a method of communal and prayerful approach to the Sacred Scripture developed by Lumko Institute in South Africa to help facilitate encounter with God and one another and “open eyes to the presence and work of God in everyday life”.

A session, “Facilitation Skills in Small Christian Communities”, was also delivered by Dr. Alphonce Omolo, a Kenyan researcher on SCCs. The objective of the session was to equip SCCs animators with skills, techniques and tools to enable SCC facilitators shepherd members in achieving individual and group’s spiritual and social objectives.

Fr. Joseph Healey who is popularly known as Mwanajumuiya Padri Joseph for his specialization in SCCs through research and practice recalled the milestones of SCCs in Africa, all the way from 1972 when Malawian Missionary of Africa, Bishop Patrick Augustine Kalilombe was installed as the Bishop of Malawi’s Lilongwe Diocese. 

Bishop Kalilombe, Fr. Healy recalled, “had a vision of a new model of church and was a great visionary of SCCs.”

“(Bishop) Kalilombe understood the cultural importance of Mphakati/Miphakati (the Chewa, Malawi word for “small family” or “in the midst of/among the people''– referring to the wider family but smaller than a clan) and how they could be inculturated into Catholic pastoral practice. 

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The Bishop envisioned these neighborhood communities as being responsible for Christian formation and helping to raise children in the Catholic faith,” Fr. Healey said at the August 21 training workshop.

The American Maryknoll Missionary Priest added, “Being a biblical scholar, Kalilombe valued reading and reflecting on the Bible. So, in 1972 after he became a Bishop, he encouraged these neighborhood Catholic Small Family Communities to regularly reflect on the Gospel. So, SCCs were born in Malawi and Mphakati became the common name.”

According to Fr. Healey, Pope Francis has, since the beginning of the Synod on Synodality process, emphasized that pastoral synods should take place on the diocesan and national levels throughout the world.

He expressed optimism that the October 2024 session of the Synod on Synodality will recommend and vote on concrete pastoral solutions to the challenges of Synodality such as making Parish Pastoral Councils and Diocesan Pastoral Councils mandatory so as to grow SCCs.

“We hope the importance of SCCs will be emphasized,” Fr. Healey said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.