Scott Couper, Long-term Volunteer
How would you describe the mission of our partner in South Africa?
Vision: Inanda Seminary seeks to equip its members for higher education by providing strong academics and Christian leadership under girded by its core values.
Mission: Inanda Seminary provides a Christian educational environment with an African ethos for its members to develop holistically in leadership, life skills, integrated technology, critical thinking, social development and sport.
Bethel Congregational Church, UCCSA
Vision: We fellowship in the ‘House of God’ where God’s love for all people is revealed, to discover and nurture our gifts of the Spirit and commit our lives to go out to serve in the way of Christ.
Mission: Bethel Congregational Church, UCCSA strives to “show our faith by what we do” [UCCSA] and to “go out” and share “God’s love for all” by preserving God’s Creation as the focus of our church ministry to our community.
I also teach at two of the nearby universities, Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary and the University of KwaZulu Natal.
How do you fit into their mission?
I am a resident historian at Inanda Seminary with which Global Ministries shares a historic relationship. As a historian, I assist the Seminary capture and proclaim its history and its heritage. The heritage of the Seminary is arguably its greatest branding asset after its alumnae and enables the school to raise funds and increase its public profile.
Bethel Congregational Church, UCCSA
I am the minister of Bethel Congregational Church, UCCSA. I preach on a weekly basis, celebrate the sacraments, provide pastoral care and visitations, strategic planning and fulfill the constitutional requirements of a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I consider the role of an ordained minister, intimately accountable on a day to day basis to a local faith community, the most substantive form of ministry in a context where there is a shortage of ordained ministers as compared to churches.
What led you to engage in this calling?
Since I was 19 years old, I have living and working experience abroad (Chile, Nigeria, Ghana, Kingdom of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa).
Since I was 19 years old, I have had pastoral experience leading local churches. I was ordained in 1999 and have served white, black and “colored” congregations both rural and urban, both limited and well-resourced in Africa.
My degrees in International Relations (BA), Theology (MDiv) and History (PhD) and over twenty years’ experience in the field have been fruitful and fulfilling. For over twenty years, my contribution to the ministry of the church has been affirmed by those whom I have served.
I believe God has fused my passion for ministry and academics to enable me to contribute to the training of future African ministers.
Is there a Bible passage that has special meaning in your daily work?
“For I have given you an example [foot-washing], that you should do as I have done to you” - John 13:15 (RSV, illustrated).
The role of being a servant is the calling of one who works with partners in Christ.
The role of being a servant is one to which I cling. How long one is able to cling is determined by the degree of one’s selfishness and wounded-ness. I pray that I may be self-less, healed and transformed so that I can serve without counting the cost. I pray I avoid the stinging rebuke Simon Peter received from Jesus. If I do not allow Christ to work in my life (wash my feet), how can I expect to serve others (wash their feet)? I pray that I allow Jesus to transform me so I can have a part of Jesus’ ministry.
What lesson have you learned working alongside the staff and students of Inanda Seminary that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
After some 300 years of colonialism and a half century of Apartheid where white supremacy ruled the day, it is no surprise that many black South Africans suffer from an inferiority complex. The image portrayed of Africans in the international press is unfortunately negative more often than not. Black South Africans themselves often believe that anything from ‘overseas’ is superior to anything from home.
In South Africa, there is a new movement afoot, and its mantra in Afrikaans among all race groups is “Local Is Lekker”, meaning ‘Local Is Awesome’. The saying is especially true at Inanda Seminary. As a historic, Christian (Congregational), private, boarding school for black females, Inanda Seminary has produced South Africa’s best and brightest women since 1869.
There will be no shortage of competent, intelligent and promising Africans if Inanda Seminary continues to educate! That is for sure. In 2012, Inanda Seminary received its best graduation results in its long illustrious history. 100% of the students passed. 100% of the students received marks high enough to allow them university entrance. The 73 students received an unprecedented 190 subject distinctions, almost doubling the previous high. Inanda Seminary is allowing South Africans to say of their own, “Local Is Lekker!”
When Jesus demonstrated wise and competent leadership, many said, “Nothing good can come from here”. Many say of Africa, “Ah, nothing good can come from there”. Yet, like Jesus, Inanda Seminary girls prove the pessimists wrong. Inanda Seminary’s motto is “Shine Where You Are”, whether at home or abroad!
What is a common phrase used in the local churches?
Ngiyanibingalela egameni likayise neNdodona noMoya oyiNgcwele!
I greet you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in South Africa?
- A World of their Own: A History of African Women’s Education and the Politics of Social Reproduction in South Africa, by Meghan Healy
- ‘Shine Where you Are’: A History of Inanda Seminary 1869-1969, by Agnes Wood
- Not Either an Experimental Doll: The Separate Worlds of Three South African Women, by Shula Marks
- The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa, by Margaret McCord
- Albert Luthuli: Bound by Faith, by Scott Couper
Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work in South Africa?
- "The Mission"