The Inside Story

Though the very first cases were reported in April it is in July that the coronavirus has really made its presence felt in Malawi. A number of high profile people have died from the illness and we have begun to hear sad stories of fatalities from different neighbourhoods and institutions in the city of Zomba where I live. The preventative measures that have become familiar are being stepped up as Malawi meets the advance of the pandemic.

For me it means a continuation of my rather secluded life of working from home. Like many others around the world most of my interaction is now digital. Most of the plans made for the year have been cancelled or deferred. The flip side is that writing projects that might have taken years to mature have speeded up.

One of them is a new edition of Christianity in Malawi: A Sourcebook. I published the first edition in 1996 and it has had a good life supporting the teaching of Malawi church history by making available primary texts culled from various points in history. The texts are distinguished by having mostly Malawian authors. As Malawians had the opportunity to become literate around the turn of the 20th century they began to put their thoughts on paper on many different subjects but particularly regarding the Christianity which many were embracing.

Gathered together, the texts tell the story of Christianity in Malawi with a Malawian voice. They allow Malawian Christians to speak for themselves and offer the inside story of their experience with the Christian faith. I have always enjoyed seeing students engaging with the primary texts and drawing their own conclusions.

Being back in Malawi has given me the opportunity to expand the book, including some texts that reflect dimensions of the story that were missing in the first edition. The new book has been published this week and, thanks to a generous grant from the Pollock Trust, class copies will be made available to the greatly expanded number of institutions that are teaching Malawi Church History. At a time of many disappointments, frustrations and anxieties, it is a great joy to see such an exciting development.

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