(Bishop of Kotido, Uganda)
The Small Christian Communities (SCCs) or the Ecclesial Basic Communities as Pope John Paul II calls them in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio n. 51 are communities where the common, simple people seek to live the Christian message to the full in the daily, concrete situations of their lives. They are the means of evangelisation through which the Church in Africa tries to meet Christ's command to evangelise all nations (Mk. 16,16; Mt. 28,19-20; Lk. 24,47-48; Jn. 20,21). They sprang up as a result of a new insight into the understanding of the nature of the Church as communion, a word that has become a key concept in ecclesiology especially after the Second Vatican Council.
The command of Christ to evangelise all nations is still as urgent today in our times as it was at the beginning of the Church. Through the centuries many approaches to evangelisation have been tried, even in Africa. Some have worked, others have not. That is why in the last few years the Church in Africa and especially in the AMECEA countries has opted for the establishment of the SCCs as a valid option for evangelisation.
Through the SCCs Christ, the centre of our evangelising mission, is brought "as close as possible" to the people of the grass-roots level. It is hoped that these communities once fully established will eventually become a place where God's love and mercy are experienced and lived at a deeper level and in the same way the early Christian communities did (Acts 2, 42-47). But that is not all. Once established these communities will also in turn foster the growth of the local Church which they are, so that in the long run it can become self-ministering, self-propagating and self-supporting. This means that the local Church will have its own evangelical ministers, it will be missionary unto itself and to others and will be self-sustaining. Once evangelised the SCCs will become evangelisers themselves.
But SCCs are not just a means of evangelisation. They are also a means of human promotion especially of the disadvantaged peoples of the African society. Hence the SCCs have the integral development of all its members at heart.
Certainly, the SCCs as a pastoral option is a beautiful idea. But this idea is not always easy to implement. That is why we look expectantly to the present Synod of Bishops for Africa and are hopeful that the insights from it will certainly be an enrichment to the SCCs which though forging ahead with difficulty are indeed a right step in the right direction.
Original text: English