It was a great privilege to attend the opening and dedication of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS) in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.
It is a beautiful cluster of buildings creating in its heart a sense of community, space to become, a place of hope and possibility.
There have been complaints about the cost (over R60 million or $8,5 million), there always will be. It could of course have been spent on any number of other worthy causes. The reality is that it wouldn’t have been. Other very worthy mission-oriented fundraising efforts by the MCSA have not succeeded, but this has. Almost all of the money has come in. Why? Is it an idea whose time has come? Is it a tangible project where the results can be seen and measured? Or was its very conception inspired and blessed by God? The latter seems certain, the others probably also.
The celebrations and the service were very moving and very meaningful. I know some were apprehensive but it was not, on the day, about the hype. It was about a real celebration of something exciting God is doing in our midst.
I am excited by the vision statement of the Seminary: “To form transforming leaders for Church and nation.” Ross Olivier, President of the Seminary, spoke of the focus in the Seminary on much more than academic training. He spoke of the balance between academic achievement and spiritual development, between theory and practice, between spirituality and humanity, servanthood and leadership—the shaping of those who will, from the depth of their inmost being, serve and lead in church and nation. Forming transforming leaders……
Seth Mokitimi’s granddaughter spoke eloquently of her family’s pride in their grandfather and of this place that would be an embodiment of his vision for theological training and formation. “If we can inculcate a sense of balance, then there is hope,” she said.
It was a privilege to speak with outstanding leaders whom I have respected and looked up to over many years. One was Mvume Dandala, past President of the MCSA and, until recently, parliamentary leader of the Congress of the People (Cope). Cope seems to lack the very moral and principled leadership the seminary wishes to inculcate, but Mvume said that he was concerned about how Christians tend to reject politics and refuse to get involved at that level. He said that it is precisely in the area of politics that we need the type of leaders the SMMS seeks to produce.
I found the experience and the service itself very meaningful, and I was deeply moved at times. Perhaps it was the calibre of people who have been involved in the birthing of this seminary; perhaps it was the depth of meaning in the Seth Mokitimi name and legacy; perhaps it is a measure of the friendship and respect I have developed this past year for some of the seminarians we have begun to know and love; perhaps it is the strength of character and the depth of wisdom and grace we have come to know in the Seminary’s President, Ross Olivier (of whom the Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, said, “we have given the best we have to the training of the future we need”); perhaps it was, after all, simply the very real presence of God’s Spirit filling this place, claiming both human hearts and physical space as his own?
I was especially moved by one of the last hymns. As the seminarians went to sprinkle various parts of the buildings with water and spices and we prayed for God’s blessing and presence in it all, we sang,
“We love the place, O God, wherein thine honour dwells.
The joy of thine abode, all earthly joy excels.”
I had a deep, deep sense that this is indeed a place in which God dwells, to which God has called his people, and from which God will do his work in church and nation.
- The Changing Face of Seminary Education (beliefnet.com)