What you need to know:
Every year on September 1, the Zoe Fellowship congregation holds what is termed the honour service. One wonders what this event’s origin is and how relevant is it to the faith. Zakalia Nangai explains why it is important to honour our church elders.
In 2017, a photo of Joseph Kabuleta, a former sports journalist kissing Prophet Elvis Mbonye’s shoes went viral. Some people were astonished at the act given Kabuleta’s stature.
However, this shock would neither last nor deter the followers’ loyalty to Zoe Fellowship (the fellowship of Prophet Mbonye). Six years down on every September 1, the fellowship members who identify themselves as Remnants, hold a glamorous event and dedicate an honour service to their leader. This is normally headlined by iconic gospel artistes, renowned religious leaders, political figures and celebrated personalities.
The most recent featured Nobert Mao, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Pastor Simeon Kayiwa of Namirembe Christian Fellowship. There have been questions about what honour entails.
Honour by tradition refers to the respect accorded to an elder in society, from family to the highest ranking elder such as the cultural leaders, political leaders, corporation leadership and it would extend to even best performers as recognised by society in various disciplines.
Rev Stephen Bamutungire, says honour is a function of the person giving it, not so much the person receiving it. Unlike respect that is earned, honour is given. The Rev Bamutungire believes honour can be in form of titles, gifts in kind for example, society or subjects would gift kings or give recognition in form of paper, accolades, crowns, and references.
Who is worthy of honour?
The Rev Bamutungire says, God wants us to honour Him, our parents, elders, and also calls His messengers. Such include evangelists, teachers, pastors, Apostles, and prophets. So in honouring a prophet, one also receives a reward of a prophet. This he refers to Matthew 10:41.
“Since time immemorial, church has practiced honour. When Jesus was born, the three wise men from the East to in the Bible moved for a long distance to honour the newly born king with gifts. Their honour was so remarkable that King Herod desired to know who that newly born child worthy of such honour was. 1Timothy 5:17-18 emphasises honouring elders that labour in God’s name.
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.”
In Islam, Christianity, and traditionalists among other sects, we see honour in order of leadership hierarchy. The Catholic faith refers decision of church to clerical leadership up to the Pope as the holy of holiness which symbolises honour and respect among believers, the same applies to the other religious denominations.
Sharon Kyomugisha, a news anchor is one of the Remnants that honour Mbonye. Kyomugisha believes Mbonye is a spiritual authority and her spiritual Father, and that is enough to make him deserving of honour.
How it is done
The Rev Bamutungire says honour is expressed through action in substance.
“We honour by giving gifts not empty words. Jesus taught that where your heart is, there your treasures will also be,” Bamutungire says, while Kyomugisha believes honour should not have limits. “Honour ought to let people go out of their way to express love and respect for those they hold in high regard.”
When we honour Prophets of God, Rev Bamutungire says, we receive a reward that is determined by Christ.
“Also, when we give honour; we receive what we have sowed. For example, when you honour your parents, you live long. For society, honour attracts rewards in kind from the honoured and those honouring. Families or society leaders accorded honour may return the favour in a different form. For example, kings give titles such as sir and Owekitiibwa,” says the cleric.
In other disciplines, honouring performers boosts individual self-esteem and confidence to know that society appreciates and recognises their efforts and this leads to better performance and attracts others to the same discipline. Imagine a scientist recognised for a discovery, or a sports personality for outstanding performance, this inspires some and others learn some values.
For the church however, the impact may be through strengthening of faith and belief, for example the honour of Prophet Mbonye is attributed to signs, miracles and wonders that glorify his God performed before them by their spiritual leadre. This strengthens their faith to call him worthy of honour.