Bishop Musa Kahurananga, the first bishop of the Anglican diocese of western Tanganyika in Tanzania spent the last month conducting Bible study sessions throughout the Episcopal diocese of Virginia.
They were much like the one held in his own country, expect "my Bible readings at home are attended by, say, 140 to 150 people. They fill the church" as opposed to more limited attendence here, he said.
Here, at the invitation of Suffragan Bishop John Baden as part of a reciprocal program between the two dioceses, Bishop Musa (as he is called by his American hosts) was asked what Virginians most wanted to know from him.
"Well, they wanted to know why the church is growing so much in Tanzania and not here, and why so many young people in my country go to church.
"And I told them," he continued, "that they have got to be invited and evangelized."
But, as he admits, there is not much competition from other beliefs and influences in his country where there is not television, most of the inhabitants are farmers, the villages are spread far apart, and where most of the converts formerly practiced "idol or evil spirit worshiping."
The state of Christianity in Tanzania more closely resembles that described in the New Testament, he said, where the early Christians burned their books on witchcraft.
"When people get converted at home," he said, "they are coming from animism and they bring their worship objects with them to be burned openly."
Contrary to the Anglican church in this country, where membership is declining, Bishop Musa's diocese, established in 1966, is growing rapidly. Nine new parishes will be created next year, making the total 29, and with that growth comes the need for additional money and American agricultural expertise.
Mindful of the needs of his diocese and in the spirit of international cooperation, Bishop Musa came to this country to conduct the series of Bible study sessions int he 15 regions of the Virginia diocese. The diocese in return has provided help to the Tanzanians in improving farming methods and also some financial help to Tanzanian clergy studying at the Virginia Theological Seminary.
"They have given me funds to build and furnish a house for an agriculturalist they are trying to find who will come and teach farming to the evangelists in our schools," Musa said.
There is no hunger problem in his country, he says - atleast in the sense that no one is starving - "but there is malnutrition because of the lack of certain commodities such as eggs, and there is poverty."
After his month in Virginia, Musa was a guest for five days in the Chevy Chase home of Harrison Chandler, president of the Companions in World Missions program, an association of 25 Episcopal parishes, organizations and individuals that make direct grants to several African Episcopal dioceses.
Musa's diocese received a $1,600 from the group this year and he personally received another check for $1,000 from the group at a reception and dinner in his honor last Friday night at St. Columbia's Church in the District.
Musa also preached on Sunday at Grace Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, another church participating in the Companion in World Missions program.
"Money is only one expression of our missionary work, said Chandler. "We also get to know the various bishops by exchanging letters and arranging visits when they are in the country."
"We believe in the indigenous missionaries of the church" said Chandler, "We feel that the best qualified people are the native people in taking care of their own interests."
Musa said that the greatest immediate need in his diocese is for corrugated iron sheeting, the material used for roofs on the new churches being built to replace the temporary mud churches with thatched roofs. "They (the old ones) leak," said Musa, and they are highly flammable.
"We need a good vehicle too," said Musa, "to take books to sell in the villages - religious and agricultural books." Musa estimates that 50 percent of the people can read but "they don't get enough books." Musa said he learned his English, which he speaks slowly but well, from books and that the language is the second most popular language after the native Swahili.
A major part of Musa's ministry is spent on the road going from village to village in his Volkswagen microbus, accompanied on occasion by his youth choir. "We go to the market area in the villages and start singing and then when people have gathered we stop and several of our members will give their testimonies."
Musa said that they often perform simply morality plays for the villagers to get across Christ's teachings. "We have found that this is very attractive. People like to see what follows and many will come back on Sunday seeking more of what they have heard."
Musa said that the church's relations with the socialist government of Julius Nyerere are good and that church leaders are free to express their view in regular meeting sessions in the villages.
Musa, who attended the Lambeth conference in England before his arrival in Virginia, was asked about the conference's vote in favor of letting each of the 25 members churches of Anglicanism decide whether they should ordain women priests.
"We voted for that almost unanimously because that was the onlyway we could keep our church together," Musa said. "But I don't think that is an issue that is all that important in Tanzania." Musa said that he personally is not in favor of the ordination of women and that "it is a departure from the apostolic tradition and teachings."
Musa said that he found the questions posed by Virginians during his travels were not all that different from the ones he is asked at home.