Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Features Editor
MEN in blue work suits kicked up clouds of dust as they danced to the rhythm of whistles, hand clapping and sharp singing voices in celebration of a newly-wed couple in Switsha, Gwanda District recently.
The wedding celebration, which followed the statutes of the Madida Apostolic Church, a widespread religious group in Gwanda, was a merriment of puritanism and chastity.
For members of the Madida Apostolic Church, the focus is not on Swarovski crystals, Chantilly lace gowns, eight-metre long cathedral veils or tailor-made tuxedos. It doesn’t matter whether the chairs are Wimbledon or Chivalry or if there’s mood lighting and fresh flowers.
The focus is on purity and building marriages that last.
Even guests to the wedding don’t dress to kill, like is common fashion at most weddings in other social spheres.
They maintain a certain decorum and focus on the two who have agreed to be joined in holy matrimony.
With divorce cases continuing to soar in the country, members of the Madida Apostolic Church believe the only way to protect the sanctity of marriage is for young men looking to marry engaging their would-be wife’s parents before courtship begins.
Negotiations are done through a mediator, and after all parties are satisfied, the union is sealed. But this only happens if the man and woman are “pure”.
“We make our weddings simple so that people are comfortable. People are different and they earn differently. Some can’t afford fancy clothes like those worn at other weddings. There’s no fancy music, people sing and dance, that’s how we do it,” said Ms Matsidiso Dadabuwa, a member of the church.
The church has over the years been accused of having repressive and abusive practices with the perpetuation of child marriages being one of them.
“It’s not true that the Madida church marries off young girls,” said Ms Dadabuwa.
She said all weddings are done after the couple intending to wed has consented.
“The families also have to agree. We don’t marry off anyone below the age of 18,” added Ms Dadabuwa, who has been part of the church for all her life.
The church has also been famed for extremism with members shunning medical facilities when unwell. Many still don’t get their children immunised. For years, they didn’t send their children to school and believed they had no business voting during elections in the country.
Ms Dadabuwa however, dismissed these as misconceptions.
“I grew up in the Madida church all my life. I went to school and studied up to Form Four. It’s also not true that our children don’t get vaccinated. It’s everyone’s right to vote, we don’t prescribe whether or not people should vote. The Madida Church is not oppressive as people make it out to be,” she said.
Pastor Jethro Madzivanyika Ndlovu said “rumours” about the church have spread far and wide.
“During the liberation struggle, when the country was still under white minority rule, we thought it prudent not to send our children to school as a form of protest to the system. But when the country attained its independence, we saw it fit to send our children to school. The country was now ours and so were the teachers in the schools,” said Pastor Ndlovu.
“We don’t have a uniform for the church except on such special occasions where we want certain people to be prominent, like the dancers for example. This is the church of Jesus Christ which preaches the word of God. Our teachings are anchored on having faith and trust in God. The book of Jacob says if there’s anyone who is sick, they must call on members of the church to pray for them so that they may be healed. We are healed because of our faith.
“Even if someone is bitten by a snake, they can heal through faith, without having gone to the hospital. We wouldn’t go to hospitals because we would see God healing us without having sought medical attention. As a result, people got to know us as those that didn’t go to hospitals. This was not because we prohibited people from going to medical facilities but it was because of their faith that got them healed.”
Although many believe the church doesn’t allow its members to seek employment, Pastor Ndlovu said there’s no limiting one and their God-given gift
“People are allowed to seek formal employment or start their own businesses. They can venture into farming; whatever God-given gift they have. Everyone has the right to do what they see fit to earn a living,” said Pastor Ndlovu.
Turning to marriages in the church, Pastor Ndlovu said: “We’re not allowed to steal cattle, we’re not allowed to steal people. Cattle have owners, just like people. If you want to get married as a young man, you should inform your parents. If your parents are agreeable, you look for a mediator to talk to the girl’s family. You don’t talk to the girl directly. Once the girl’s family is notified, she is given a choice to agree or decline.”
Church members said their faith doesn’t allow them to marry off someone who has a child out of wedlock.
“We don’t marry off anyone who already has a child. This goes for both men and women. We want our children to remain pure until they decide to get married,” said Mr Richard Nare, a member of the church.
The groom, Mr Solomon Dube said the beauty of getting married under the Madida Apostolic Church is in the simplicity of the weddings.
“The wedding isn’t complicated. It’s more inclined towards our traditional culture as Africans. We honour our parents and follow their guidance. I respected my parents and followed their teachings, that’s why I’m here today.
“I wish to follow all they teach me. I looked for my wife myself, notified my parents according to the required process, that’s why you see us here. We value our principles and follow God’s laws. Even as youths, we adhere to God’s laws,” said the newlywed.
According to Christian literature, at the heart of God’s design for marriage is companionship and intimacy.
The biblical picture of marriage expands into something much broader, with the husband and wife relationship illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church. For the Madida Apostolic Church, this intimacy begins on a foothold of purity. – @Yolisswa