HomeOpinion & AnalysisFeature: Sunday service in the Drunkards Church

Feature: Sunday service in the Drunkards Church

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BY PROBLEM MASAU
IT is 8 o’clock on a chilly Sunday morning at 7 Million Bar in Bindura, a small mining and agricultural town 90km north of the Harare.

A group of tipsy men and women are singing popular gospel hymns while gyrating in unison inside the bar.

Occasionally some take smoke breaks during what is actually an hour-long church service.

Most of these congregants have defied the odds to attend this church service.

Five hours earlier, Fatima, a 33-year-old single mother was at Piki shopping centre furiously swinging to the sound of Nigerian music, while clutching her favourite beer. She was in the company of male imbibers, who later dropped her off at her lodgings at Trojan Nickel Mine.

With bloodshot eyes, less than three hours of sleep and a terrible hangover, Fatima could, however, not miss today’s church service.

Even the incessant rains that pounded all night could not stop her from attending.

“I am a sinner and a drunkard, but I know that there is a Creator. That is why I am attending today’s church service,” Fatima said before revealing that after the service, she is going to down a few more pints of her favourite beverage.

For Enock Chikandiwa (63), popularly known as Anakonda around the mining town, the previous night was a busy one for him.

Church founder Richard Twala

Anakonda is actually a traditional healer, whose healing and exorcising prowess is known throughout Mashonaland Central province and people afflicted by various ailments flock to his homestead.

The previous night, he did not get even a single minute of sleep and was up until dawn.

“I have been dealing with a complicated situation. One of my clients was attacked by evil spirits. I had to help him because without my help, he could have been dead by now,” Anakonda said, puffing unprocessed tobacco popularly known as chimonera.

“Physically, I am tired, but I had to wake up early to attend church,” he added. Admire Karembo’s love for the bottle is well known far and beyond.

At the age of 13, his parents, who are devout members of an apostolic sect, chased him away from home because they could not tolerate his drinking habits. Now aged 24 and squatting with a friend, Karembo had to brave the drizzling weather, walk about seven kilometres and cross the crocodile-infested Pote River to attend today’s service.

“I feel loved and welcome here. I could not miss today’s service,” Karembo said, a small plastic bottle of cheap whisky protruding from his pocket. Fatima, Anakonda and Admire are part of a church that has set tongues wagging in Bindura.

The Kuziva Mwari Church is made up of drunkards. Some of them prefer to call themselves sinners. The church has more than 100 members and growing. The bishop of the church, Richard Twala, said he founded the church after realising that drunkards were being sidelined by mainstream churches.

“We love our God and beer. The other day, I was just thinking alone after my family had gone to their church. I asked myself what was stopping me from attending church. I realised it was the love of beer and I was not willing to quit,” Twala said. “The idea of starting a church struck me. I went to our drinking spot and discussed the idea with fellow patrons. We all agreed that we love our God and we should start our own church. We then formed a social media group. Our inaugural service had more than 40 members.”

The church hires pastors from other denominations for an hour’s service every Sunday.

“We are drunkards and we do not have proper knowledge of the Bible. No one among us can stand in front of congregants to preach the word of God,” he said.

“We hire those who are into the ministry full-time to teach us just for an hour. After service, we go and hang out enjoying our cold beer.” Twala’s goal is to open more church branches across the country. “Beer drinkers are everywhere and they are shunned by most churches. We encourage honesty among our members,” said Twala.

“We accept that we are sinners and we seek God’s deliverance through worshipping him, but we are not going to stop drinking.” After the church service which is punctuated by touching prayers, the bishop gives a special announcement to congregants: “We can now go and have one or two bottles of beers, if we do not have pressing matters to attend to.” Will Seven Million Bar be the foundation to save at least seven million “drunkards’” souls? l wondered as l exited the bar.

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