In Malawi many ministers have found their calling in mid-life, after a career in another sphere. As a result, it is unusual for anyone to complete 50 years of active ministry. An exception to the rule is Silas Ncozana (Very Rev Prof) who was ordained to the ministry at an early age and on 16 December 2019 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination.
Silas was my boss as General Secretary of Blantyre Synod when we first arrived in Malawi in 1988. It was therefore he and his wife Margaret who welcomed us when we arrived. We spent our first few days in the guest wing of their house. Their children, keen to raise pocket money at the time, provided our first laundry service.
During our entire time in Malawi we always benefitted from the encouragement and good counsel that Silas and Margaret would unfailingly offer. Many years later nothing has changed. A morning with Silas on his veranda – over a plate of fresh mangoes – left me with a clearer sense of my current assignment and with renewed motivation to meet its challenges.
It was therefore a great joy to hear the news of his upcoming celebration. Silas is truly an evergreen character. After occupying a series of senior leadership positions with both church and government, he is now throwing himself with gusto into local congregational ministry at Chuluchosema, not far from Zomba.
He is also the embodiment of the holistic ministry that has distinguished the Blantyre Synod at its best. As well as the new 1,000-seater church at Chuluchosema, there is now a clinic and secondary school. And all this has been achieved with the support and blessing of the Muslim chiefs of the area. In fact, when the Synod was considering moving Silas from Chuluchosema it was the Muslim chiefs who led the protests. After 50 years he continues to be – in the biblical language – “a tree planted by streams of water”.