Most people associate the Shembes with KwaZulu-Natal, but as the largest Christian denomination in South Africa, the Zion Christian Church also has a big following in KZN. Both the Shembes and the Zionists can trace their roots back to the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM). Isaiah Shembe was a member of the AFM for about a year in the Orange Free State, when the Ethiopian church that he preached for joined the AFM. In 1911 Shembe left the Free State and moved to Natal, where he formed the Narazeth Baptist Church, the largest Zionist congregation, until it was eclipsed by the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) in the 1950s.
The ZCC was founded by Engenas Lekganyane who is said to have received a revelation from God on the top of Mt Thabakgone in Polokwane, now the home of the ZCC. The church fuses African traditions and values with Christian faith, often praying and worshipping through Lekganyane, who is believed to be the mediator between man and God. Faith-healing includes the laying-on of hands, the use of holy water, the drinking of blessed tea and coffee, and the wearing of blessed cords or cloth. Like other Christian denominations, the ZCC holds Sunday church services, but women are not allowed to attend, instead taking part in services held on Wednesdays.
The Zion Christian Church Easter Festival is the largest Christian gathering in South Africa with church members from all across the country making their way to Zion City Moria in Polokwane. The church doesn’t keep a record of how many people make the annual Easter pilgrimage, but estimates are that between three and five million worshipers visit Moria over the Easter weekend.
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