United Methodist Worship and Music in Cameroon, West Africa

by Dean McIntyre

There is good news to tell about what is happening in The United Methodist Church with worship and music in the African nation of Cameroon. In 2009 with the cooperation and support of Discipleship Ministries, The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), and 140 churches, groups and individuals in the U.S.A. and Great Britain, GBGM's Cameroon Mission Initiative published a bilingual French-English United Methodist hymnal for use in worship and music in Cameroon. Titled O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing: Hymns and Praise of the United Methodist Mission in Cameroon (in French: Mille Voix Pour Chanter Tes Louanges: Cantiques et louanges de la mission Methodiste Unie au Cameroon), the hymnal includes 165 hymns and choruses from Cameroon, Africa, and around the world, as well as orders of worship, rituals for baptism and Holy Communion, a Psalter, creeds and prayers, and indexes, all in English and French.


The ongoing work of the project was accomplished by a local team that worked on editorial and production needs, greatly assisted by the former director of the United Methodist Mission in Cameroon, the Rev. Wesley Magruder; the current mission director, the Rev. Nkemba Ndjungu; Bishop Benjamin Boni; and especially by the Rev. John Thornburg of Dallas, a respected hymn writer, congregational song leader and enlivener, former President of The Hymn Society, and now Senior Area Consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation in North Texas. Thornburg served as the overall coordinator for the project.


Since publication and distribution of the hymnal, the team has recorded some of the music for demonstration and training purposes and has traveled around Cameroon, holding events to train and support local worship and music leaders. The latest efforts to strengthen the worship and music life of Cameroon United Methodist congregations are already bearing fruit. Mission Director Nkemba Ndjungu has organized the work of the mission by hiring and training national directors for education, youth work, and prison ministries. The latest addition to the staff of national directors is Jean-Pierre Mviana, the national director of music. He is a young man in his early thirties. He attended the Reformed Theological College in Kampala, Uganda, on a GBGM (General Board of Global Ministries) scholarship to study music. An excellent guitarist, Mviana was able to greatly increase his skills in playing keyboard and learning musical notation while in Kampala. He also has benefited from recent travel with Director Ndjungu to meet and work with more advanced musicians in Côte d-Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa.


To facilitate the work of the national directors and to train local leaders and musicians through a Course of Studies or internship model, Nkemba Ndjungu has built a new church in central Yaoundé, the mission's location in Cameroon, and he is acting as the pastor. The new church is called Jordan Parish (Paroisse Jourdain, in French). Ndjungu brings in pastors to Jordan Parish one at a time for additional mentoring and instruction. At the same time, music director Mviana brings in song leaders, musicians, and worship leaders also for teaching, mentoring, and training. Most recently, Mviana has accompanied Director Ndjungu on his trips to different parts of Cameroon conducting local charge conferences and working with musicians as Ndjungu works with the church leaders.


Publication of the O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing hymnal was a major step that enabled the greater ministry in worship and music now being accomplished in Cameroon. It is an exciting model for ministry. In Thornburg's closing words from his preface to the hymnal, "May God bless all those who use this book. May God bless The United Methodist Church. May God bless Cameroon."

Categories: Multicultural/Global Worship