August 26, 2014
White supremacy through Apartheid undermined education for people of colour in South Africa. Likewise, Apartheid decimated theological education, closing school after school and thus weakening the church’s capability to mould its ministers. Despite the new democratic dispensation, ministerial formation continued to weaken as universities closed theological faculties across the country. Nonetheless, twenty years after Nelson Mandela became President there are signs of a budding recovery. One such place where hope blooms is at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Though I am responsible for teaching at the seminary, the real motivation for my presence is the worship before classes every morning. One worship service, many languages (Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu, English, Tswana and Afrikaans). One worship service, many peoples (Whites, Blacks, Coloured and Indians). One worship service, many nationalities (Rwanda, Kenya, United States, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa). One worship service, many traditions (Methodist, Evangelical, Congregationalist and Anglican, to name a few). One worship service, many styles (conservative, liberal, evangelical, liturgical, keyboard and drums and everything in between). What a blessing to experience the Kingdom of God in all its diversity.
Having attained four years of undergraduate school, three years of post-graduate work and another five years of PhD studies, I am a person of privilege in South Africa. Yet, education makes one neither faithful nor righteous. As Paul stated, “I have not obtained this or have already reached the goal”. Many of the students I teach suffer a great deal for their education and sacrifice Christ-like in the pursuit of their intended vocation. They are examples to me.
In South Africa, theological education desperately needs to recover from many lost decades; if we fail, there will be many lost generations. Each morning in worship, I am reminded of the seriousness of the task, to mould public intellectuals who will shape the growth and vibrancy of the Christian church. The students and I are called together in study, in worship and in practice to “strain forward for what lies ahead and to press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”.
Gracious God, bestow, ten-fold, your blessing, your love, your wisdom and your power on students in South Africa who are called and are preparing themselves to serve in your name. Foster the Kingdom of God on Earth just as it is in heaven, though institutions that fuse mind, body and soul for your purposes in the world. Graft our intellects to our hearts so that your will may be done. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Scott Couper, a member of First Congregational Church, Winter Park, Florida, serves with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). He assists the Inanda Seminary in strategic planning and serve as a management consultant. He also serves as pastor of the Thafamasi Congregational Church (UCCSA).