TRANSITIONING from pastoral duties to retirement can be daunting, but several pastors in Zimbabwe have taken a leap of faith, retired from active ministry and become small-business entrepreneurs.
More than half of Zimbabwe’s clergy retirees have become involved in agriculture, with the Revs. Zebediah Marewangepo, Kelvin Mwandira, Ananias Mutemeri and John Chinyati embarking on horticultural activities. The Rev. Miriam Kanjanda took a different path and invested in real estate.
“Poultry, rabbit, goat rearing and fruit farming is my new hobby, together with my wife, Mildred Tapiwa, a retired nurse,” said Marewangepo, 84. “We used to raise more than 500 chickens, but are now downgrading as we age.”
As a young man, he trained as a carpenter, then earned various theology and Christian education degrees in the United States, India and the Netherlands.
“I am happy to venture into agriculture,” he said. “I am now mainly into horticulture.”
Community members and other clergy applaud the efforts of the clergy-turned-farmers.
“Rev. Marewangepo has always been a true reflection of the benefits of hard work,” said Loveness Mutezo, who chairs the Equitable Salaries and Compensation Committee of the Zimbabwe East Conference. “The Glen Lorne community is benefiting immensely from some of his projects such as maize, vegetables, poultry and fruit farming.
“He has remained active even in church programs, despite his busy schedule. The income-generating projects sustain him and his family and stand true of the Shona idiom ‘unodya cheziya,’ meaning ‘you eat of your sweat.’ (Physical activity) has gone a long way in improving his wellness and health.”
The Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, assistant to Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, said, “This is a man who is an all-rounder. From very humble beginnings to a renowned preacher, adviser, administrator and pioneer. A true believer in Christ who does not quit because of the tough times but would rather pull himself up to meet any challenges.
“Humility in leadership and diligence to duty are his identity, for how could he have managed to serve Africa at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries for 13 years? His 11-year stint in the bishop’s office saw The United Methodist Church grow from strength to strength in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area. If one were asked to point at a pastor who has retired in dignity, I would confidently point at Zebediah T. Marewangepo.”
Congregants also admire the retirees’ hard work, commitment and dedication to agriculture.
“In my view, the Rev. Lovemore Nyanungo, 88, is another shining example of integrity in all areas, a hard worker who did not just rely on what the church provided,” said the Rev. Chris Chikoore, pastor to the Nyanungo family at Waterfalls United Methodist Church circuit. “He has run businesses and done farming to provide for his family.”
Through its Central Conference Pension programme, Wespath provides pension payments for United Methodist clergy and surviving spouses in the central conferences — church regions in Africa, the Philippines and Europe. The fund is supported by the investment earnings on $25 million that was donated by individuals and conferences from 2004 to 2013.
Still, agriculture provides more benefits than added income.
Retirees agree that sustainable farming has improved their personal well-being. They eat healthy food and follow the Covid-19 preventative measures set up by the World Health Organisation.
“Forty-three years of active ministry is really loaded in terms of experience,” said Mwandira. “I have gone through rough times and good times. I haven’t realized much of a difference (in retirement), except no appointment, no pressure of duty and no fixed remuneration.”
Growing mushrooms, he earns $50 U.S. weekly from local sales in Harare.
“Some of the retired pastors are also doing very well with self-help projects,” said the Rev Lancelot Mukundu, Zimbabwe West Board of Ordained Ministry chair.
“The Rev. Ananias Mutemeri owned a grinding mill while serving as a pastor and is now a businessman because the milling business is always on demand.
Retired Rev. John Chinyati also owns a grinding mill, which is giving him a decent living. We continue urging our pastors in Zimbabwe (to do) good planning and investing to avoid dependency syndrome.”
Retired Pastor Stephen Musodza is also into farming. He owns a medium-size farm in Mutoko and this year realized a bumper harvest because of the good rains.
Most of the retired pastors serve as torchbearers in their districts, mentoring upcoming retirees.
“Our retired pastors had prepared for retirement in a much-improved manner than before,” Nhiwatiwa said.
“Most, if not all, had a home of their own to move into when they left the comfort of the parsonage. Our pension scheme is well-established. It may not be enough, but they have something in their pocket at the end of each month.
“The central conference (pensions) fund, run by the general church, is a major boost. They get money to supplement their income. On top of that, most of our districts go out of their way to ensure that the welfare of retired pastors is well cared for. I am personally thankful for what the church has put in place for the well-being of the retired pastors.”