Name: Julie Jones
From: Born in South Africa, now living in the UK
Course: MA in African Christian Diaspora
“Although I’d grown up in Africa, there was much about the African church and its impact on faith in the UK and around the world that I didn’t know – and here was my opportunity to learn.”Julie Jones
Earlier this year I had the privilege of listening to a talk given by Dr Harvey Kwiyani of Global Connections, entitled “What if we really listened to the African Perspective?” – in which he outlined three ways in which he believes God, through the African church, is calling us to be instruments of peace in a divided world.
As someone born and raised in South Africa – now living in the UK – I found his views on the role of the African church in British and world Christianity fascinating, and felt that it was something I was interested to hear more about.
At the same time, I learned that CMS were launching a new MA pathway, focusing on the African Christian Diaspora – headed up by none other than Dr Kwiyani. While reading up about it I came across this quote by Scottish mission historian, Professor Andrew F Walls:
“If you want to learn something about Christianity in the 21st century, you have to know something about Africa.”
That was my lightbulb moment. Although I’d grown up in Africa, there was much about the African church and its impact on faith in the UK and around the world that I didn’t know – and here was my opportunity to learn.
It’s been 25 years since I completed an undergraduate degree in Business Studies, so the prospect of embarking on further academic study at this stage of my life was a little daunting, to say the least! The Pioneer team were friendly and helpful in dealing with my application and answering questions about the course. I was particularly delighted to learn that the MA would be offered online – making it easier to fit around existing work and family commitments.
Lectures began with a brief overview of nine periods of African Christian history – each one to be covered in more depth throughout the term. In between classes, we are reading and discussing the book “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind” by Thomas C Oden – sharing ideas and reflections with fellow students from an array of different nationalities and disciplines through an online forum.
I am really enjoying the lectures, more than I thought I would. Harvey is passionate, knowledgeable and engaging about his subject matter – also pointing us in the direction of additional books and resources for further research. I’m learning new things all the time: from the importance of African people and places mentioned in the New Testament in the spreading of the gospel, to the extraordinary origins of the Ethiopian Orthodox church… and that’s just in the first two weeks!
And it’s not all ancient history either. Did you know, for instance, that there are churches built by Syrian monks in the highest mountains of Ethiopia in the 5th century CE that are still in use today? Or that, until recently, CMS mission partners helped to lead an Anglican theological college in Western Ethiopia, named after the very person credited with bringing Christianity to that country?
I find it humbling and inspiring to witness the faithfulness of God and of his servants through these fascinating accounts of African church history. Challenging, too – as we wrestle with the reasons why much of this history has remained hidden for so long and what our role, as students on this ground-breaking course, is in bringing that history to light, for the benefit of African and global Christianity.
Click below for more stories of pioneer students from around the world…