Elijah Mwitanti will be using his longtime pastoral experience to assist the church.
Lord of Life Lutheran Church welcomes Elijah Mwitanti as its interim pastor after the retirement of longtime pastor David Jones.
Mwitanti was born and raised in Zambia, Africa, and traveled to the United States in 1993 to study divinity. This path first led him to an associate pastor call for a Baptist church in Texas, followed by a move to New Jersey to assist a missions organization that would recruit people for short-term missions overseas.
During his time at the missions organization, he found that his passion of becoming a pastor still remained within him. As a member of a Lutheran church, he decided to pursue the candidacy process of becoming a pastor at a Lutheran church.
He received a regular call as an associate pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Marlton, where he remained for about five years.
When an opportunity for growth in his ministry arose, offering him a senior pastor position in Utah, his wife and four children jumped at the chance. After a few years serving in Utah, he and his family decided to move back east. He accepted a position in Virginia and then the Metro-D.C. area before returning to New Jersey as an interim pastor at Lord of Life.
Although Mwitanti traveled nationwide to pursue his passion, he said his view of the United States was shaped around New Jersey, and he always hoped his path would lead him back.
“New Jersey became home for us. It was the place we spent the longest time after I finished seminary. Having come from Zambia, going to seminary for three years, then coming to New Jersey, it was kind of our first major impression about the United States, it’s where we made our friends first and we’ve stayed in touch with most of those,” Mwitanti said. “We had always, even after we left, we knew that New Jersey was going to be home away from home for us. So when things changed where we went, the natural inclination was to come back to New Jersey.”
Mwitanti said his current focus is to find the best way to prepare the congregation in the transition to the next pastor they call, and for him to prepare himself through this interim process for his next call.
Along with traditional pastoral duties, such as preaching, teaching and performing sacramental ceremonies, his responsibility is to keep the momentum of the church going and to lead the congregation to consider new ideas that can lead to growth.
“I’m coming in with some new ideas, with a new energy, maybe a new perspective on certain things, so my role is to be here, keep the stability and keep the momentum,” Mwitanti said. “I’m most looking forward to just being able to keep the congregation growing both in numbers and vitality. Growth in vitality means quality worship and a variety of programs.”
He hopes to use his experience and connections from Africa as a bridge for the congregation to venture internationally to complete missions.
With Lord of Life being made up of primarily Caucasian members, he wants the congregation to become more diverse and well known in the community as a place people can come to find different programs to meet their spiritual and social needs, regardless of their background.
Mwitanti expressed gratitude toward Lord of Life for looking at his pastoral experience, as opposed to his ethnic background.
“Every congregation has a choice in terms of who they call either as a pastor permanently or interim pastor, and the fact they chose I should be the one to come is a humbling thing for me, but it also speaks to their character,” Mwitanti said. “They looked at my gifts and said this is what we want. It mattered to them that I possess the skills that they were looking for.”