By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell*
Lake Junaluska, NC – In support of Lake Junaluska’s 100th birthday celebration, the Africa University Choir will give two performances on Sunday, June 16, at Stuart Auditorium. The first performance will be during the Lake’s Summer Worship service at 10:45 a.m. The second will be a free concert at 7:30 p.m. An offering will be accepted to help offset expenses.
“They are wonderful,” said Lawrence McCleskey, retired bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. “They sing a combination of familiar gospel songs and African music, and they sing in a variety of languages.”
Africa University opened in 1992 in Mutare, Zimbabwe, with major support from the United Methodist Church, and is home to more than 1,200 students from 22 African countries. The average student speaks four languages said McCleskey, including some tribal languages, with English, French and Portuguese being other major languages.
“This grew out of the United Methodist Church at the request of two African United Methodist bishops,” said McCleskey, who serves as the school’s executive vice president for development, a part-time, volunteer fund-raising job. “They requested back in the late 1980s that the United Methodist Church establish a university on the continent. One of the bishops was from Angola and one was from Liberia. The school was envisioned as a Pan-African school from the beginning and it has fulfilled that vision.”
The choir performs and travels year round, often to places where the university is well supported. Since 1996, according to the university’s Web site, the choir has toured the United States, an annual event organized by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville. The choir last performed at Lake Junaluska in 2005.
Lake Junaluska is a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind, and body.
* Melanie Threlkeld McConnell is a freelance writer, former AP newswoman, editor and media consultant based in Waynesville, NC.