Zion Christian Churches Churches Liturgy Prophets Services Members

© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

The services in the Zion Christian Churches I observed followed the same general pattern. All held regular weekly Sunday services during the day and week-day evening services (from about 5.00 - 6.00 p.m. until about 9.00 - 10.30 p.m.) In addition on Thursday afternoons the women held prayer meetings. Attendance at all services varies according to the time of year as people are absent at various times of the year due to agricultural responsibilities at the Lands/Cattle-posts or because of migrant labour.

In addition to these regular services there are Special Services. These may be divided into two groups - those held at the church and those held at members' homes. These Special Services are held for various reasons. For example some are held to celebrate Christian Festivals - Easter and Christmas being the most commonly celebrated), others though Christian based services, have traditional elements, such as Holy Communion, Baptism and Purification, Healing, New Uniforms and Promotion Services, and the Annual Church Conferences. The Seed Service (located at the church) roughly coincides with the traditional  Letsema and its associated activities . (However it should be noted that Western Churches, especially in agricultural communities often hold a similar service - Rogation Sunday, Plough Sunday etc..)

The second group of special services are those held for a special occasion for an individual member. These may be sub-divided into two groups. Firstly are those held to commemorate a particular occasion corresponding with an event in the Life Cycle. Zionists have special services for all the occasions commemorated traditionally, for example, they have a special Botsetsi Service, Wedding/Lomipi, Matshediso, Funeral and Badimo Services. (Baptism could be argued to have certain parallels with Initiation. (This is located at the church not at an individual's home, in the same way that the traditional Initiation was held at a tribal not individual level.)

Secondly are those special services held in times of individual trouble. Here are included the special services held for Ditapelo (Prayers), and/or Setlhabelo (Sacrifice), of which there are many types.

In all of these the individual who hosts the service will be specially prophesied, and then treated. The individual member is not treated as an individual but together with their family even if they are not themselves members.  (This is also the practice when people seek the services of a traditional healer.)

It is usual for churches who associate with the individual's own church to be invited to attend these special services of the second group.

It should be noted that at all services members and non-members with special problems were given the opportunity to ask for help in the form of prophecies (i.e. prophets would divine the causes of their problems), healing by Holy Water, and prayer. Many services included general prayers, generalised healing and generalised protecting with Holy Water.

List of Services

Regular Services

Special Services  

             Services  held at the Church





                      Blessing the Seeds

                      New Uniforms Service

            Services held at a Member’s Home

                     Marking Life Cycle Events



                          Death - Mathshediso (Cleansing)

                    In times of a family’s Troubles

                         Ditapelo (Prayers)

                         Sethlahbelo (Sacrifice)

Fuller details and explanations of these services follow in the following sub sections

The Services