Zion Christian Churches Churches Liturgy Prophets Services Members

© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

B.U.C.Z. 's Moruti's sister-in-law died. Before the burial there was a wake that lasted the whole night (this was exactly like a non-Zion one except many more Zion hymns were sung.) The body was brought in the same way from the mortuary at sunset the night before the burial, and laid in one of the houses for the night, surrounded by candles and sheltered by temporary curtains. The burial was also the""normal” kind, except that, as the dead girl was a woman, the body was taken care of by women (according to Zion practice). The six women carrying the coffin were all members of either B.U.C.Z. or Kanana and all dressed in their special church uniforms. The Bishop of Kanana led the procession from the house and the Assistant Moruti of B.U.C.Z. Followed. The coffin was put on two chairs in front of the entrance to the yard.

Then followed the usual preliminary service of hymns, prayers and preaching. The Mma Bishop of Kanana was asked to pray, which she did in SiNdebele. Then the Zion Church members (Kanana and B.U.C.Z.) Carrying lighted remains of the candles that had been standing around the coffin during the night, walked as an escort of honour around the mortuary car bearing the coffin to the nearby Pentecostal Church. (The Church is attended mainly by Maburu who live near by). We all entered first, then the church members and Baruti escorted the coffin. The Zion Baruti and other Baruti attending including the Leburu Moruti of that church sat together on the platform. The church members stood around the coffin holding their lighted candles,throughout the service. Then we went to the cemetery where the procedure followed the usual pattern.At the cemetery the usual men took over carrying the coffin.

When we returned to the home, where the people were served with the funeral feast, many church members were helping with the work, as they had been ever since the death had taken place.

Funerals and Death

Matshediso Service and Kanolo (to sympathise and to take off mourning clothes)

It is believed that those who have been closely related to death pose danger to other people, livestock and crops and at the end of a period of mourning (after the new rains have fallen) they must be cleansed and purified, during which the signs that show they are connected with death are removed. In the case of a widow the traditional signs are the black clothes, and the other relatives wear black patches pinned on the left sleeve above the elbow. I did not have the opportunity to attend the cleansing of a Zion widow but did witness the special Kanolo and Matshediso Service held for a brother and sister whose parents had both died the year before. Zionists wear blue instead of black for death so they had been wearing blue patches of cloth to show their connection to the deaths, and the woman was also wearing a blue head scarf.

This service was held in August 1978 and started on a Saturday evening like other special services. It was held by Episcopal at the home of the bereaved son, and other churches were invited to attend. This was an all-night service.

During the services the main celebrants were obviously the brother and sister. The Mookamedi's introductory address demonstrated that this did not seem to be a very usual service which supports the idea that Zion ritual is dynamic and although it was originally introduced from South Africa, the Kanye churches are still developing their rituals for the various Tswana ritual occasions. Presumably without such a Zion service~ Zionists would have to be cleansed by a traditional doctor, as if untreated they would remain ritually hot and therefore endanger livestock, crops, the ritually weak etc.

The Biblical justifications that were used and were read as the brother and sister had their signs of mourning removed,were Zechariah 3 v 3-4, which refers to Joshua's filthy garments being removed from him by the Angel on the instructions of God. Also Exodus 40 v 10-13 was read to justify the celebrants being washed. Job 42 v 11-16 was read prior to the part of the Matshediso Service where the offerings were made by each Church. This latter reference is to the time when people came to Job with gifts as a sign of sympathy for his problems.

Following the service food was served (tea and fat cakes) provided by the brother and sister who hosted the service.

Further evidence that this service appeared to be very rare, was demonstrated during the part of the service where the gifts were to be presented  when there was a long interruption and "argument" as to the correct procedure for the correct method for offering the gifts. This discussion shows that "correct procedure" is very important to Zionists and if mistakes are made they try to correct them so that the service can fulfil its function - in this case to cleanse after death thus preventing potential harm especially  to the ritually weak, livestock and crops etc

Badimo Service

As is seen in the Matshediso Service, there is some evidence to support the theory that members not only believe in Badimo but Badimo are given a place in Zion beliefs (This is unlike “orthodox” Christian Churches where such beliefs and associated practices have to be covert) (see the owner of the Matshediso's speech and the thanks for the money'~ Volume 2, p. ]11).

I did not attend a Badimo Service at this third type of Zion Church, but such a service was held in June 1982 by B.U.C.Z. near my home. The son of the home had for some time been having a lot of problems where he works in the mines in South Africa. He was told in a prophecy at his church in the mines that he needed to make a Badimo at his home in Kanye for his dead father as that was the cause of his troubles. Subsequently he came home to Kanye to make this service, and on the Friday afternoon the cow was killed in his yard in the Zion way, i.e. Holy Water was sprinkled (see Setlhabelo Service below) and Zionists began to collect for the service. Parts of the animal were burnt on the fire during the all-night service. However on this occasion no drums were beaten at this service as they had a Motsetsi in the house and did not want to disturb the baby. Zionists were fed at sunrise on the following day, Saturday.

Later that day people of the Kgotla were called to eat all the meat and food as in a traditional Badimo Feast (see Chap. 8

(This man was from a Kgotla already mentioned in Part I, where all the men are dead - the wives have bewitched them

When all congregations have arrived the bereaved are seated in the centre, and the congregations dance around them whilst the church choirs sing hymns. Prophets receive Holy Spirit enabling them to prophesy. The signs of mourning are then removed and the bereaved sprinkled with cleansing Holy Water

Holy Water for cleansing the bereaved

The visiting congregations arriving take their assigned places - clergy with clergy, Secretaries with Secretaries, Door Keepers with Door Keepers etc.

A congregation arriving. They start to sing a hymn outside and then enter following their Moruti, bowing respectfully to those already assembled, before intermingling in correct positions with the other congregations

A written record  is kept of each Church’s contributions

Praying on the contributions to give thanks to God

Prophets dance around the bereaved whist the congregations clap and sing hymns.

Prophet revealing what he was “shown” by Holy Spirit

Church Choirs sit together

Clergy sit together by “altar”

Evangelists sit together

Women and men sit separately

The special candles

The bereaved brother announcing the purpose of the service

Whilst awaiting the arrival of other churches, hymns and prayers