Cars and motorcycles skidded while the security detail attached to the president struggled to control the masses that had turned up. Welcome to Liberty Worship Centre International’s new 15,000-seater church opened last Saturday amid pomp and fanfare. Situated in Lugala, Lubaga division, the church led by Pastor Imelda Namutebi Kula, is arguably the biggest Pentecostal church in Uganda.
“Congratulations for the big achievement in finishing the church and preaching the word of God,” said President Museveni, who was the chief guest at its grand opening.
Museveni told the believers he had been asked by some of his friends from traditional churches to stop some preachers who were “misleading people”.
“I have realised that born-again churches are doing a good job, especially in transforming the young people with the energy they use on stage,” he said.
Pentecostal worship is favoured by the youth because of its flamboyance and emphasis on dancing for the Lord and modern instrumentation. This was reflected in an energetic creative dance by the Liberty mass choir. Clad in orange jumpsuits and white sneakers, the choir charmed guests who had the massive cathedral overflowing into seats in the gardens.
Museveni, who gave the church Shs 20m, urged them to engage in income-generating communal activities and to become commercial investors in the country. Already, Liberty is running a community health centre popular with the locals for its free services.
The president advised them to construct hotels, buy maize mills to be owned by worshippers, since born-again Christians have got a spirit of giving as opposed to feeding their own pockets.
Another Pentecostal church, Watoto, for example, is in the process of transforming its savings cooperative society into a fully-fledged bank. Namutebi assured Museveni that the church would support him and continuously guide youths to avoid involving themselves in unconstructive matters.
“Museveni is a real father. When I met him in Mbale, he embraced me and showed that I was his daughter,” an excited Namutebi said.
She gave the president two Friesian cows among other gifts, which he graciously accepted, contrary to tabloid reports. While dedicating the church, Lubaga Miracle Centre’s Pastor Robert Kayanja, also Namutebi’s spiritual father, said she was the only woman who had built a debt-free cathedral in Uganda.
“Nations can build factories but without churches, the nation remains bankrupt. I am proud of Namutebi,” Kayanja said.
In August 2003, construction of Liberty cathedral began. The church has a professional sound system, video studios and administrative offices. Sitting on 17 acres, Namutebi said, the Shs 7bn church was built with no foreign assistance but by the congregation.
Namutebi often preaches about her humble beginnings as a Muslim who worked as a housemaid before finding salvation and joining Lubaga Miracle Centre and studying in the church’s bible college.
During a lunch-hour fellowship last year, Namutebi told believers how her best friend had given her life to Jesus Christ, but she [Namutebi] was so in love with her religion and could not consider converting.
“But one day as I knelt on my mat to say my Islamic prayers, I burst into strange tongues! My life never stayed the same,” she told the fellowship gathered in Kiyembe, downtown Kampala.
Liberty Worship Centre was carved out of Pastor Isaac Kiwewesi’s Kansanga Miracle Centre, where Namutebi was co-pastor after the two were commissioned into ministry by Kayanja. The church then set up home at Mengo, Bulange, in the Kisingiris’ family courtyard.
It is from here that Namutebi moved her congregation to a makeshift structure made of wood and mabaati walls in Lugala. The church also houses Liberty medical outreach centre II that offers free treatment to residents of the area. It is open to the public on weekdays.
On the vast land available, the church also plans to set up a home for disadvantaged women and a recreation centre for the youth. Before Liberty, Lubaga Miracle Centre was the largest Pentecostal church in the country, with a seating capacity of 10,500, followed by 8,000-seater Kansanga miracle centre.