Pastor Jerome Songolo, a refugee who fled the strife-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, kneeled with his eyes closed and his hands half raised as he received a blessing Sunday as the new spiritual leader of an East Nashville congregation.
Many of its members have followed a similar path to the United States. Those seated in the rows of folding chairs at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene cheered as Songolo and Petronie Karaj, the new associate pastor, were installed as ministers of the church’s African congregation.
The solemn, but joyful moment illustrated just how deeply rooted refugees are in the city’s faith community, not just here in Nashville but across the nation.
The Rev. Kevin Ulmet, senior pastor of the church, recounted the African congregation’s nearly two-year history during his Sunday sermon. Songolo stood beside him translating his words from English to Swahili. While Ulmet praised their past work, he emphasized their future.