Bishop Dr Gertrude Rwakatare, distinguished voice among women in Tz

21Apr 2020
Michael Eneza
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Bishop Dr Gertrude Rwakatare, distinguished voice among women in Tz

ICONIC pastor Dr Gertrude Pangalile Rwakatare is no more, dying at 69 years of age after a short illness, on the basis of what church authorities said in a terse statement early yesterday. She was a versatile individual noted as a leading educationist and investor in a large family of schools,-

Bishop Dr Gertrude Rwakatare

-a noted pastor and head of her own church that grew enough to even open branches in other parts of the city and certain spots in the country. Her voice was piercing and set people alight in her presentations, an influential educationist and church minister, such that at some point state authorities took note of her presence, and CCM nominated her on its special seats list.

In her own right she was a shining example of what critics abroad and at times in Tanzania have come to know as ‘pastorpreneurs,’ suggesting somewhat lackadaisically that preaching is but an enterprise. Those who are nearer to ‘pastorpreneurs’ know that they have spiritual capital which ought to be taken seriously, not just ability to preach but essentially to heal, in which case their houses of prayer grow to massive proportions because of testimonies of those who attended and obtained meaningful change in life. She attained considerable heights in that dimension as well.

In the past few months the late Bishop Rwakatare was narrating her story of salvation and calling in the church, especially as she made her first paces in the ranks of the late Bishop Moses Kulola who led the Pentecostal movement in Tanzania from the mid-1960s. At an earlier period those who come from households with ‘born again’ enthusiasm will recall that there was chiefly an evangelical movement from neighbouring Uganda, led by Reverend Festo Kivengere. There was a universal hymn used by ‘saved’ people at that time in Luganda by the name ‘Tukutendereza…’

She was narrating at Mikocheni ‘B’ Assemblies of God church (famed as ‘Mountain of Fire’) in the past two years or so as she was gradually taking to the way of recent ardent ‘pastorpreneurs’ who are more anchored in the healing ministry than in ‘salvation’ per se how she learned the efficacy of prayer. She was explaining how it developed while on a working or study period in the United States, and upon return she was given a massive crowd of people to address (where she wasn’t the principal guest, but was expected to make a contribution). At that time she had already prophesied for a lady colleague in the US and it was realized, building trust in herself.

Some biographers of the late Dr Rwakatare have been saying on internet write ups that she was a ‘Tanzanian CCM politician,’ which she frankly wasn’t but more of a community leader and a voice that was recognized for inclusion in Parliament. On that account as well she was a member of the constituent assembly whose distinguishing feature is that it gave the country many of its fifth phase vital appointees to all sorts of political, administrative offices. She was an exception.

What is even more surprising is that she cut her most important public role not as an investor in schools and an administrator, where women aren’t numerous, but as a pastor and a bishop – where one has to scratch the head to find another example locally, regionally or elsewhere. While certain churches are debating whether women can lead church services and largely came to the conclusion that it is grossly inappropriate, the late Gertrude was an influential pastor and bishop, proving by her own example that the debate is pointless. Several reformed churches have accepted that role for women, and Lutheran churches have quite a number of them but hardly any bishops as yet. Dr Rwakatare chose to remain part of Assemblies of God denomination, but on the basis of her enterprise and work to build it, church hierarchy was of allies, not superiors.

One question that comes to mind when the passing away of Dr Rwakatare settles into place is how far there is capacity for her ministry to remain in place, let alone remaining intact, in the wake of her passing away. Different from ordinary churches where pastors are appointed into the place by bishop, that was her personal handiwork and largely reliant on her radiant personality, visions and effectiveness in the ministry, whether it was salvation earlier or healing in the more recent past. Her team of 12 pastors will have work cut out for them, to start a period of fasting and prayer so that the void can be filled partially and adequately for the ministry to continue.

Yet on the basis of what one would project from the teachings of Max Weber, early 20th century leading German sociologist, organizations that last are those which developed a bureaucracy, for instance private companies with a visible ownership structure and shareholding. When some public activity is entirely reliant on the charismatic presence of an individual, the demise of such a person can easily be a paralyzing blow to that activity. Adding to the doubts arising from the current environment where a faith unsettling scourge is in our midst, chances of survival narrow down still, so this turn of events is destabilizing psychologically for charismatic religious work.

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