The 1960s were an exciting time in Lesotho and throughout Africa. Across the continent countries were throwing off their colonial bonds and embracing the future in a new spirit of independence and hope. At last the time had come for black people to regain control of their destiny and take their rightful place in the world, with dignity, pride and confidence. Certainly such a time had arrived in Lesotho.
What was true for the Basotho and other African people in general was also true for the African Church. Here to there was a new spirit of independence and hope. Believers everywhere were embracing a new reality. Clergy and Laity alike were eager to prove themselves. They knew that their moment had come, that this was their “thuthuho’ (coming of age, time to stand up). At the same time, many missionaries in Africa believed the time had come to begin in earnestness the process of handing over the churches and instructions they had nurtured for so long. For many, it would be an uncomfortable experience to relinquish control and journey into unfamiliar territory. Yet their old role had to change, increasingly their new role would need to be defined, not by themselves or their mission headquarters, but by local churches and councils. Gradually, the mother-daughter relationship would need to be recast as a relationship between sisters, a partnership between equals.
Along with the enormous changes from mission to church came new ecumenical opportunities. In part, these arose from an emerging sense of oneness among Christians around the world due to new global realities. Perhaps even more tangible for African Christians, however, these opportunities arose from a sense of new beginnings and possibilities in the African Church itself. Many felt it was unnecessary to continue carrying the historical baggage of the missionaries’ divided Church. A new opportunity to forge new relationships based on distinctive African values was at hand. For some, there was even the daring possibility for a reversal of roles: an opportunity for African Christians to lead others into a new ecumenical future based on their own profound experience of humanity and community in Christ. For Basotho Christians, it meant new possibilities for the realization of botho and khotso.
With hindsight, the road ahead proved much more difficult than expected. New forms of injustice and inequality dashed many hopes. The road from colony to free and prosperous state was full of potholes. The change from mission to church was beset by new forms of dependence and corruption. Eventually even the ecumenical fire would burn less brightly as African Christians themselves found new ways to continue old divisions. Despite early signs of these negative tendencies, however, they did not define the period covered by this chapter. This was primarily a time, not only of great change, but of great celebration and hope. The Christian Council of Lesotho was formed. The 1960s were enormously important for the ecumenical movement in Lesotho and around the world. Possibly no other decade since the era of the apostles was so helpful in its expectation or so energetic in its work for that unity of believers prayed for by Christ Himself. It was a true ecumenical ‘kairos’.