Striding 30 years of music

Three decades can be such a long time. If it were a child born, he or she would be married and perhaps with a child or two, if that child progressed with education, he or she would be pursuing a PhD. Such is what makes the Anglican Youth Fellowship Choir such a success.
Last Sunday, the Anglican Youth Fellowship Choir celebrated 30 years of existence at UMA Hall, Lugogo in a concert that started at 3pm.

It is three decades of transformation, changed lives and winning many souls. It is through this group that some prominent Christians like Rt. Rev. Nathan Ahimbisibwe the Bishop South West Ankole Diocese, Bishop Hannington Mutebi, Paul Serunkenya, Rev. Allan Sonde and Martin Lagala got saved.

The making
Abraham Owino, the group chairman and first group leader says the choir was started by Namirembe diocese in 1984 to attract the youth to the church.

Its ultimate mission was to revive worship in church and develop young people’s skills and leadership potentials. This was an answered prayer to the youth’s cry in the 1983 National Youth Assembly where they didn’t feel the church’s relevance to them.

Back then Namirembe diocese head hunted for 12 committed youths from different Anglican churches to form Anglican youth Fellowship Choir in August 1984.

“Starting was difficult because we were picked from everywhere. We didn’t know each other and let alone our vocal abilities. We started learning each other and harmonising our voices and who plays which instrument,” reminisces Owino.

Unlike today where churches invite and facilitate them in form of accommodation, meals and transport then, they relied on their contacts in other churches to know about church events and then would meet in either the taxi or bus park at an agreed time and travel as a group.

Taxis were scarce as Petrina Kawooya a member who joined in her first year at Makerere University in 1985 recalls trekking half the distance before reaching the taxi park. “I used to walk from Ntinda to Bukoto, then board a taxi up to Kamwokya and then walk from Kamwokya to the taxi park as there were no taxis in the remaining distance.”
She recalls the early years being so dramatic.

“Most of the music we sang was our original composition. We used to focus more on the voices and use less moves. Vigorous dancing wasn’t allowed but even then we didn’t know how to.”

Fitting in society
Kawooya vividly recalls negative reception from most churches when they started using instruments like the guitar and drums.

“Sometimes we would be chased from either the church or school saying that we had brought a disco,” recollects Kawooya.

Rev. Canon Benon Mugarura-Mutana also known as Uncle Ben, one of the group founder members used to offer his home as the meeting place for the members.

But the music has changed over time as Arthur Mutesasira says they do different types of music to suit different audiences.

“When we go to perform somewhere, we first study the audience so that we present the type of music that relates to them,” he explains.

But there are no strict guidelines as and when to join as Grace Kyomuhendo, a group coordinator explains. “When getting a new member we look out for a born-again Christian with a testimony. Religion is not a big deal because if someone is Anglican but not born-again then we cannot allow them to join the choir.”

Doing about two missions every month, the group can’t ascertain how many missions they have done since 1984. They have been to almost all secondary schools and Anglican churches in Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America and several African countries.

To join..
Seeing them perform, one could think they make a lot of money. In fact some people attempt to join for monetary gains only to be disappointed that there is no single pay whatsoever. Mutesasira, a member who joined the group 20 years ago says the group is built on the Paul’s Tent Maker’s ministry.
“All members are professionals and are encouraged to get jobs so that they don’t turn into beggars.”
This is explained to people who express interest.
“We have had people who when told there’s no pay change their mind about joining. This ministry is not income-generating but done out of love for Christ.”

Due to the need for money to go for missions, the group sells out their music CDs to enable them foot the bills. “We sometimes contribute from their side salaries to keep the ministry going,” reveals Mutesasira.

The group, which has 20 active members, has mentored other groups like All Saints Choir that ministers in the 9.30am service and other groups outside Uganda. As Owino says, this is part of their strategy of extending the reach of what they believe in.

“Whenever we go, we try to mentor and [plant] a group there. We have some in the UK, USA and many more.”

The choir is worried about its future because today students have a tighter schedule. “Then we had a term system and no Saturday classes but nowadays students even have Sunday exams meaning they never had time for practice and ministry,”says Mutesasira.

What is AYF?
Anglican Youth Fellowship Choir was started by Namirembe diocese in 1984 with 12 members. Now with over 50 members, the group has 20 active members and other groups around the world .

Members come from different churches including Kakumba Chapel. in Kyambogo, St.Francis Chapel in Makerere, Namirembe Cathedral, Makerere Full Gospel Church.

Although they encourage students to join, embracing career is a must because AYF is not an income-generating venture. The current members are professionals from different sectors.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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