An African clergyman told SPbDA students about the liturgical traditions of Orthodox Christians in Tanzania - Exarchate of Africa
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An African clergyman told SPbDA students about the liturgical traditions of Orthodox Christians in Tanzania

On September 19, 2023, the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy hosted the first lecture hall of the Students Society for Liturgical Study in the new academic year.

The guest of the event was a cleric of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa from Tanzania, a student of the theological and pastoral faculty of the Academy, Archimandrite Zaharia (Mulingua). He made a speech on “Orthodox services in Tanzania”.

Father Zaharia talked about the history of the development of the Orthodox Church in Tanzania. For clarity, the speaker showed photographs and videos depicting church life on the African continent.

“There are about 700 thousand Orthodox Christians in Tanzania. There are also 121 tribes in Tanzania, each with its language, culture, and dances. But all the tribes and languages form one culture – Swahili. As for missionary work, it is necessary to keep in mind the cultural differences between the tribes,” Father Zaharia started his report.

The participants of the meeting were especially excited by a video showing Tanzanian parishioners dancing after the Liturgy. Father Zaharia clarified that it is not allowed to dance in the church during the service. This usually happens outside after the service.

And rarely this is possible during the service: if it is performed outdoors under a canopy: “We do not have such a culture as in Russia – to eat or drink tea after the service. We go outside and dance. A considerable part of evangelization, especially in Tanzania, is carried out through singing and dancing.”

After the report, Father Zaharia answered the questions from the audience.


– Mikhail Ryzhov, first year of Master’s degree: Who writes Christian hymns in Tanzania?

– A lot of different people do it. They usually take the texts from the Psalms and rewrite them a little following the musical tradition of the country. Sometimes they take the texts from the Sunday gospel reading.

– Hieromonk Gennady (Polyakov): What do you like better, when they sit or stand during the service?

– In Tanzania, before Christianity, there were their own faiths, and people usually came to a place and stood there. We prefer everyone to stand because it should not be easy. We are trying to revive the tradition of everyone standing. Now, when we pray, we stand. After colonization, the tradition of sitting during the service appeared. For me, it is wrong to sit during the divine service. It is better to stand and bow. Because getting closer to God should not be easy.


After answering the questions, the moderator of the lecture hall, the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of the Academy, Archpriest Vladimir Hulap, thanked Archimandrite Zaharia for the opportunity to learn more about the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church in Tanzania. Father Vladimir expressed hope for the continuation of the dialogue and further joint activities.

At the end of the event, the African students performed The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili.

The event was attended by students and teachers of the theological school of the Northern Capital and other theological educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The conversation was held in English and translated into Russian. The translator – a 2nd year undergraduate student Vitaly Demin.

SPbDA Press Service

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