Interview: Pioneer ministry
Peggy Kabonde, the General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, talks to Charissa King
After Peggy survived a near-fatal experience as a child, her mother felt she was an especially blessed child. Aged just 14 years old, Peggy started teaching peers at Sunday school, and went on to become a a pioneer within the United Church of Zambia (UCZ).
Now, the Revd Dr Peggy Kabonde is the first woman to serve as General Secretary for the UCZ and the longest serving General Secretary since the UCZ’s inception. Dr Kabonde’s academic and campaigning work for gender equity, both within and outside of the Church, is internationally renowned. She has presented papers and contributed scholarly articles at local and international levels. Reform found her a compelling and expressive storyteller, conveying an infectious passion for Church mission, the advancement of women and societal progress more generally. Reform met Dr Kabonde at the United Reformed Church Ministers’ Conference (catch up on the three talks she gave at this event via the URC’s YouTube channel: bit.ly/urcvids.)
How did your spirituality develop?
I was not baptised in infancy but my parents did encourage me to go to Sunday school and it grew from there. At the age of 14 I got baptised. Just after being baptised I was recruited to be one of the Sunday school teachers and because it was a young congregation, we grew the church from there. It’s now a very big congregation – but we started it as a family.
You grew up with six brothers and two sisters. What was it like being one of few girls?
I was blessed because my mother valued both a girl and a boy child. She encouraged both to go to school, though she was not educated. I remember her encouraging girls to work hard, to be independent, get employed and live on their own instead of depending on men.
Even when it came to house chores, both men and women did jobs interchangeably – we could go to the field and we could all cook. The African setup has prescribed gender roles but it never happened in our home.
They sound quite radical, your parents
Yes, especially my mother, she was very radical. She never had formal education but was very wise. She made sure that both boys and girls felt loved and that they had equal potential. It was a privilege for me to have such parents and especially such a special mother.
So that’s where your gender justice beliefs came from
I think so. When I told my mother that I needed to candidate for ministry and eventually become a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, she was the first one to encourage me, though others refused to. At the time when I was candidating, we didn’t have many women. Some thought ministry was a man’s domain. But when I told my mother about my calling she was the first one to encourage me to go for it.
How did you know you were being called to ministry?
I was at boarding school when some nuns came to preach from the Catholic Church. They encouraged us and said that life is how we make it. That was my turning point of clinging and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. After that, I followed this nun and I said I wanted to become a nun after secondary school. But she advised me to go back to my local congregation and find out if the United Church of Zambia was still accepting women into full-time ministry. From there, my passion to serve the Lord grew.
I candidated and the Church accepted me, although again, some people discouraged me because I was young and they said I needed to have some experience. People were not used to women in ministry. They were saying: ‘A woman pastor? What is that?!’ …
This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2018 edition of Reform