Abeba Kiflegzy

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Life and ministry

Abeba Kiflegzy Yedigo [Yihdego?] (1929-2011)

“She was the sixth of ten children of Kiflegzy Yihdego [?] and Amete-Tsion Kaleb, who moved from Eritrea to Addis Ababa a few years before Abeba was born. ‘Blatta’, later ‘Dajjazmach’ Kiflegzy served as a prominent judge in Addis Ababa and later was appointed to the Higher House in Parliament. The family was an early member of the Lutheran Church [of Ethiopia] and later of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY).

Upon reaching school age, Abeba was enrolled at the American Mission School for girls in the Gulale area of Addis Ababa. Later, she entered Empress Menen School for Girls and the private Sandford English School until she reached Grade 12.

She taught at the American Mission School for a year before she married Emmanuel Gebre Sellasie, an upcoming leader of the Evangelical congregation in Addis Ababa, who later became the first President of the EECMY.

Abeba was an active member of the Mekane Yesus church and increasingly played a leading role among the women, serving as President of the Women’s Service from 1955-57, 1960-62, 1967-69 and 1975-77. […]

In later life, Abeba tailered her contribution to the musical development of the [Addis Ababa Mekane Yesus] church. In charge of the Music Committee, she led the senior choir in her congregation for years, conducting young and old alike. Her sterling contribution is believed to be her editing and translating of 501 hymns, and author others now included in the church hymn book ‘Sebhat LeAb [i.e., the 1997 edition of Sebhat LaAmlak]’.

A motivated musician, Abeba spent countless days over a period of years painstakingly reviewing and revising the hymnbook with the support of members inspired by her determination to complete the formidable task. Her name appears below the words of many hymns in the book, which also includes the name of her older sister Yemissrach, and in at least one case, the name of her father. She was a familiar figure on many a Sunday, directing the choir, playing the organ, and ensuring that all practised adequately the day before performing in front of the congregation. […]

[I]n 1994, Abeba, now a grandmother, received a Theology Certificate after completing a course of study at the EECMY Seminary in Mekanissa, Addis Ababa.”

Hiruy Amanuel [her son], in: Ahrens / Ebise, eds. (2020), In Memory of Them, p. 120-122

Abeba Kiflegzy had many gifts, one of which was a musical talent, which she put to the service of her congregation. She composed, translated and wrote many songs for the hymn book. She played the organ and taught many choir members how to play the organ. We did not worry about the music of the congregation because she was always there.”

Rev. Markos Hadero [Pastor at Addis Ababa Mekane Yesus Church], in: Ahrens / Ebise, eds. (2020), In Memory of Them, p. 123

Songs in Hymnbook

Səbhat laʼamlak (2007 A.D.)

  • There are 20 hymns written by Abeba Kiflegzy:
    no. 12, 53, 111, 112, 136, 137, 165, 167, 190, 209, 215, 216, 283, 289, 474, 490, 497, 508, 509, 517.
  • In addition, there are about 47 hymns that were translated by her:
    no. 13, 23, 32, 36, 74, 77, 92, 117, 118, 119, 123 [co-trans. Hagos], 202, 223, 224, 227, 228, 229, 230, 232, 234, 249, 251, 257, 277, 288, 304, 309, 317, 339, 341, 343, 346, 360, 364, 375, 383, 385, 391, 411, 416, 436, 441, 460, 479, 481, 496, 518.


adapted from Ahrens/Ebise, eds. (2020), p. 121

For further reading

Ahrens, Christel and Ebise Ashana, eds. (2020). In Memory of Them: Women witnessing to Christ in Ethiopia (1870-2019) (Contributions to Mission Studies/Intercultural Theology 48). Zürich: Lit Verlag.