Patrick Matsikenyiri (July 27, 1937–January 15, 2021) was born in Biriri, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and died in Mutare, Zimbabwe, near his home village a few kilometers from the border of Mozambique, as a result of complications due to the COVID-19 virus. His career included virtually all aspects of church music: singing, choral directing, composition, hymnal editor, festival leader, professor, and enlivener of global songs in venues around the world.
Patrick was a headmaster for schools for many years, and he was deeply involved with the leaders of Zimbabwe’s movement for black majority rule. A Methodist layman, he was an active contributor to United Methodist church music in Zimbabwe. Among his most important contributions to the church in his beloved country was involvement in the hymnal, Ngoma: dze United Methodist Church Ye Zimbabwe (1964, 1995), where, given his encyclopedic knowledge of hymns, he was acknowledged in the Foreword for “noting mistakes in some songs and missed lines and verses in some songs.” John Kaemmer and Robert Kauffman, groundbreaking Methodist music missionaries to Zimbabwe during the 1960s, recognized and cultivated his musical, compositional, and leadership gifts. Thus, Patrick’s ministry in Zimbabwe expanded to include organizing annual Methodist choir competitions and directing Wabvuwi—a Methodist men’s group whose repertoire included hybrid styles that combined western and traditional music—composing many songs himself. He served as conference music director for The United Methodist Church (UMC) in Zimbabwe from 1968 until leaving in 1990 to study in the United States. (…)
Patrick gained international recognition through his work with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the United Methodist Church in the U.S. In 1979, just before the civil war for black rule ended in Zimbabwe. He was invited by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to Geneva to plan music for the 1980 Mission and Evangelism Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Continuing on the WCC worship committee in 1982, he served as animateur (music leader) with his friends I-to Loh and Pablo Sosa for the WCC Sixth Assembly (1983) in Vancouver, a watershed event in the history of WCC gatherings that fully integrated non-Western Christian song in the assembly’s worship. A reprise of this event was held by the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada at its annual conference in Vancouver in 1999. In 1998 Patrick Matsikenyiri prepared the conference choir for the WCC Eighth Assembly held in Harare, Zimbabwe, and served again as animateur.
Read the full obituary by C. Michael Hawn, professor emeritus of church music at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
The Legacy of Patrick Matsikenyiri and The United Methodist Church by Diana Sanchez-Bushong.