You might have seen the Nazareth Baptist Church or Shembe members assembling at their white painted stone temples along the coast every Saturday and have asked yourself what the Shembe church is all about.
The white stones around their temple, symbolize the presence of God – it is holy ground and you are required to remove your shoes before you enter. There is no altar, no stained glass windows, but it is as much a place of worship as any other.
Preacher Jabulisa Ngubane describes Shembe as an African prophet from heaven who was sent by God to Africa. Shembe came to tell the people to praise the Lord, but without abandoning their traditions and culture.
“That is why we wear our traditional clothing and do the traditional dances to praise God,” said Ngubane.
He said that the Bible teaches that the seventh day of the week is a day of praising God and not doing any other work. The Shembe seventh day is Saturday.
“It is called a day of Sabbath,” said Ngubane.
Followers of Shembe believe that when God comes to earth he comes through a human being.
“He first came through Moses, then Jesus and now he is in Africa as Shembe.”
Prophet Isaiah Shembe founded the church in 1910, which now has more than a million followers across the country.
Ngubane said they are guided by the Bible, which gives them the rules of Nazareth. He said that they are not and will never be against Christianity.
Followers believe there is no difference between Shembe and Jesus.
“God sent Jesus to earth and also sent Shembe. These prophets are the sons of God and we as people need to understand that and stop comparing the two.”
Ngubane described how when Jesus came to Israel he did not change their culture and traditions but he preached the ‘Word of God’.
“The same could be said of Shembe. He said we should never abandon our traditions and customs, however we should use them to praise God and thank him as our Alpha and Omega.”
Shembe is on earth to help those who are in need of help, irrespective of which religion or race you belong to.
“Everyone is welcome to go to Shembe if he or she needs help. There is nothing that Shembe cannot do, when he is asked,” said Ngubane.
The face of Shembe also has major significance to the religion’s followers.
Izwi Lomzansi FM radio presenter Sizwe Majola said the reason they wear badges with the face of Shembe is that it is believed that this brings special healing power.
“You will even see people putting stickers with the face of Shembe on their cars. We believe that when we have these stickers or badges we are protected,” said Majola.