Note: While we were there we had four days with limited access to wifi making posting to this blog more difficult. The blog posts starting with this one will come out of chronological order as I reflect on the trip we took to South Africa.
Now, on to the visit to the seminary: While we were in Durban, we made a trip up to Pietermaritzburg to visit the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, a relatively new center for theological education started by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Roger Scholtz, a professor in the seminary, drove us there. We had the opportunity to meet with Mvume Dandala, president of the seminary, Pete Grassow, Chaplain and the Dean Rowanne Marie. The seminary was named for the first black president of the church who was elected just three years after the Sharpeville Massacre, a sign of the church’s commitment to remain one and undivided in a nation torn apart by the policies of apartheid.
The seminary operates under the mission statement inspired by the words of Peter Storey who was instrumental in guiding the building of this school:
To form transforming leaders for church and nation by providing the spiritual formation, academic and practical training required to develop skilled Methodist ministers of integrity, faithfulness and excellence.
Today the Methodist Church of Southern Africa requires all pastors to obtain their theological degree from this seminary.
Following lunch with our hosts, we had the chance to tour the facilities. The architectural beauty of this campus and especially the chapel where these large doors open to the courtyard was inspiring. While touring the facilities, I saw the link with Florida United Methodists with two rooms, side by side that were dedicated to Hyde Park United Methodist in Tampa and St. Luke’s United Methodist in Orlando. A further link to Hyde Park was nurtured by volunteers, Doug and Cheri Roland, who worked there for three years and John Dormois and Joanie Mellen who were there for three months several years ago.
As an aside, Roger took us to the seminary along the route of an ultra-marathon he has run five times, the Comrades Marathon. Having Brett Opalinski in the car, who was training for his next Boston Marathon during our trip was fun as they commented on every climb and sighed at the halfway mark in unison. There was something special about going to visit a seminary that is part of the long run toward a bright future for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa while taking the route of one of the most exciting ultra-marathon courses in the world. I’m trying not to milk this metaphor for too much meaning but I think you get my point.
The next biggest challenge the seminary has is to build dormitories within walking distance of the campus. Right now most students live more than 3 km away and commute in to the campus.
Once I’ve gotten the chance to edit a video I took from our visit there, I will post to a future blog post.