Founder: Johane Masowe Country of origin: Zimbabwe

The Apostolic Church of Johane Masowe can be classified as one of the African Charismatic movements. It was through their Zion Churches that the Shona peoples produced their most powerful and creative independent movements. M.L.Daneel (1971, 1974, 1988) has comprehensively documented the legacy of these Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches in his three-volume work, Old and New in Southern Shona Independent Churches. These Independent Churches have endeavored to incorporate African traditional worldviews into Christianity and have also provided Africans with a place to feel at home and exercise their spiritual creativity.
In the early 1930s, Shoniwa Moyo, a young Shona from Southern Zimbabwe claimed that he had died and had risen to life again. This resurrection experience occurred near Marimba Hill, where he had gone to pray and meditate. After this incredible religious experience, he was no longer Shoniwa, but Johane Masowe, the Messiah, Johane from the wilderness, or Johane the Baptist. He went around wearing a white robe and holding a Bible and a staff with a crucifix. Within a short time, he was able to attract many followers. Women followers wore white gowns and turbans, while the men went around with long beards and shaved heads.
The essence of his message revolved around the apocalyptic end of the wicked world. The day of judgment was near and people must repent. His most popular Bible verse was Revelation 4:5: ‘And before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.’ He was a spiritual maverick. He moved from one country to another creating an aura of mystery around himself. For much of his life, he could not be located. Even after his death, his radical ideas were still sustained by his followers. His popular appeal was rooted in the message of hope, deliverance, healing, and abundant life he offered his followers. He preached a message of a new age of freedom, justice, and self-sufficiency, which he described as the year of jubilee for African Christians. He rejected all Christian sacraments except Baptism. His followers believed in Jehovah, observed Old Testament dietary laws, kept the Sabbath, and practiced polygamy. Johane was often described as the word, spirit, or star of God.
The poor and the oppressed were particularly attracted to his message of healing and holistic spirituality. The movement also included many celibate women, who were described as a ‘collective ark’. Masowe’s followers, known as the vahosanna (the hosannas) or as ‘basketmakers’ lived in their own separate communities and were self-reliant. They made baskets, furniture, and metalwares for sale. They were able to install their own electric generator. The industrial genius of the vahosanna was a remarkable phenomenon. They created independent financially viable communities.
Johane Masowe represents a bold affirmation of African agency in the transmission of Christianity. African prophets have been able to add unique perspectives to the shape and form of Christianity within the African continent.

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