At the foot of Soche mountain close to where the current Chimwankhunda Dam is today there was a Presbyterian prayer house called Kapeni. It was in a village called Manja. The inhabitants of this area were the Yao under the chieftainship of Kapeni. The church had a handful of farmily members. Most original members of the church are no longer living today. However, the remnants can be traced. In the absence of documented information the remnant farmily members have been a valuable source of this information in the document.
As indicated, this church was at the foot of Soche Mountain. It was built in 1932 and had a small membership from a handful of families. Among them were the Munyenyembe's Kufoti Banda's, Changata's Tsamwa's, Nyangamira's. It operated under Blantyre Synod. As the wind of political change began in the colonial era, this church became involved. Operating in the area of a strong supporter of political change, ie Chief Kapeni, the church became involved. In order to silence the church, the colonial masters under Robert Armitage and Roy Welensky decided to disrupt the operation of the church. They relocate Chief Kapeni and all the inhabitants of Manja from the foot of Soche Hill to Namisu and Nansegwe on the Zalewa Road. Driving past the Ngumbe MBC transmission station to Lunzu, one sees a brick sign of Nansengwe School , just before the turn to Kaphuka Private School.
The colonial masters compensate the church with 700pounds. This money raised controversy as to its use. Blantyre Synod internened and directed that the money be used to build a church at Nansengwe where the people had been relocated to. The church that is today called Nansengwe CCAP was built with these funds.
THE BIRTH OF ST COLUMBA
When Kapena had been moved, the few people that had remained managed to identify a place at a school within the vicinity of Manja for their congregation prayers. With the passing of time membership grew bigger and bigger. This grouth raised the need to have a better place to meet for prayers thus the birth of the structure the congregation is moving out from now.
The church building which is now being vacated, was constructed by the Christians. At the same time that work on the church had started, standard Bank was demolishing the old Henderson Street Branch building. Attrcated by the activities at the site, the Bank got interest and decided to donate some reuseable material from the demolition works to help in the construction of the church. The material so donated can vividly be located when you examine the framework of the building now being vacated. This is notable in the structure framework and trustees. The foundation was laid by Rev Jonathan Sande on 29th July 1959. A commemoration plaque for the occasion is seen on the western wall as you enter the church through the main entrance. Work progressed as the wind of political change gathered momentum. At the time of independence, a memorial pillar was constructed to mark the occasion. It was constructed by Mr Edwin Julius Kuchilowa, who was a member of Chigumula CCAP. There is some information that can be read on the pillar itself. Additional information on the pillar reads.
Due to increased number of members the church has one of the biggest Sunday-school pupils in Blantyre City Presbytery and has 40 teachers. This is posing another challenge as there is a need to have more teaches. Were are therefore in a process of discussing with women guild members who promise when joining Mvano that they shall teacher Sunday school. We are also planning to have Sunday-school teacher training where certificates will be issued and to have refresher courses for Sunday school teachers. We do hope that this will help to increase number of people joining Sunday school as teachers since Sunday school is the future church.
The church is blessed with visitors every year both local and international particularly who come to sing. We have plans to buy full equipment to have our own band so that we should keep our young people in the church and improve our singing groups.
When the church was constructed, the Blantyre Office wanted to send Rev Ross ,a missionary to occupy the Manse. This did not please chief kapeni who was still influential in the area. Chief kapeni recommended that the church be led by Rev Cedric Nkunga than a "Mzungu" Rev Nkunga was serving kapeni church from the base at chigumula church hence the recommendation to have him stationed at St Columba. Rev Cedric Nkunga moved to St Columba in October 1961. During his early days at St Columba, he mobilized the families of Mawere's, Hankies, Namuku's, Nyang'amira's, Changata's, Mzembe's Snr and the Kufota Banda's on a church door to door campaign. The campaign involved going house-to-house asking the inhabitants, which church they belonged to. Those who responded that they belonged to a certain denomination were left but those who indicated that they belonged to the CCAP or they did not belong to ant church were invited to join St Columba. We are told that this is the process that indentified Mr Elton Machinjiri, who was later a prominent church member.
On issues of finance the church has been in a forefront to contribute to Presbytery's activities and to synod as the demand may be. Now our church has been asked to help financially in organizing parish meetings where church leaders will be training on how to look after their pastor, church finances etc.
St Columba church had the following prayer houses; Chilobwe now Naotcha church, Zingwagwa now St James church, Nselemu now Mpachika and Maone.
As of 1960 the cottage concept was not there early 1970s. The concept of cottages was introduced during the era of Rev Nkunga. He enjoyed visiting members of the church home to home in the campany of church elders and decons praying for them and congregating them to keep the faith. The church now has thirteen cottages. Every aspect of the church has kept growing.
The old church was constructed so that people could have a proper church. As said earlier on, when kapeni church was moved , the people that had remained were worshipping at a school. Another reason for the construction of the church was that there was an increase in number of worshippers that could not be accommodated at the temporal prayer house.
The building of the church raised the need to have a residential pastor, hence the idea to construct a manse. It is said that at that time when there was Holy Communion and Baptism, Rev Nkunga could sleep in the church vestry on Saturday prior to conducting the service the following Sunday. During that time Holy Communion was preceded by Kirk Session on Saturday. Since the only means of transport that time available to the church was a bicycle, it was impossible for Rev Nkunga to cycle from Chigumula to St Columba for the Kirk Session on a Saturday, return home later in the day and come on a Sunday.
THE CHURCH HALL
The church Hall was constructed primarily to service the Sunday school. The building now being old church was sufficient to accommodate Christians before Nkolokosa and Soche East townships were constructed .When two townships were constrcted, the church became too small for one service. During that time the first service was for Sunday school, which was convening from 8:00am to 9:30am. The main church service was from 10:00am to 12:00 noon. It was then decided that an English service be introduced. This meant moving the Sunday school outside church building. When a decision was made to introduce English service, the Sunday school was relocated to community to community service premises about half a kilometer from the church. This worked in dry season, but became a problem in rainy season, hence the idea to construct a church hall in order to accommodate the Sunday school. The project cost at inception of the project was estimated to be MK70,000 but was completed at a cost of MK81,000. Construction work commenced in 1983 and was completed in 1990.
THE NEW ST COLUMBA CHURCH
With the passing of time membership continue to grow to an extent that even with two services, some people had to still sit outside the church building during services. A decision was then made that a bigger church be constructed to comfortably accommodate people.The foundation stone for this magnificent building was laid by the late Rev Cedric Simuja in 1993. The estimated cost at that time of planning was MK3.5 million. Construction work commenced in 1996 and at that time of completion, the building has cost MK20 million. In order to raise money for the new church building, several activities were carried out.
In terms of membership, traceable records show that as of 1960 the church had no more than 300 members. As of now the church has no less than 10,000 members. Out of the membership as of 1960 it had 7 elders 50 members of women guild and about 100 Sunday school students. By the time of this inauguration the church has 232 elders, 168 deacons, 588 members of the women guild. The church has evolved an enviable Youth Program for the young ones.
Membership of the youth program is irrespective of sex. Boys and girls are actively taking part in the activities of the church. As of now there are 3000 Sunday school children.