In our last letter we wrote about our concern at the tensions in South Africa and in the college at which we are based. We thank you for the many messages of support that flowed in to encourage us, even though things have continued to be difficult. Please keep on praying for South Africa and for the students at George Whitefield College.
Meditation on unity
Our meditation this Christmas is on the unity that we, the church, have in Christ. In Psalm 133:1 David writes, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” We may recall that David’s own family did not live in unity. This verse, therefore, speaks of the gathering of the people of Israel in Jerusalem at the time of festival, united in their covenant fellowship with God and with one another. Paul picks up this image in Ephesians 4:3 when he urges the church to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It is the fellowship with God in Christ Jesus through the power of the Spirit that is the source of unity in the church (1 John 1:3). This is something that we need to hold on to as precious. Let us pray this Christmas festival time for one another, that we will maintain the bond of peace through the power of the Spirit.
Theological Education Development Services (TEDS)
We thank the Lord that despite COVID lockdown in 2020, TEDS has managed to move online and continue the training of lecturers. By the end of 2019 we were excited by the way doors were opening. Our 2020 was fully planned with lecturer training weeks booked for Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania/Uganda, Egypt, South Sudan and Chile followed by home leave in the UK from October to December. Looking at the programme, we were not too sure how we were going to pack it all in. We prayed, “Lord, we don’t know how we are going to manage all this, but you do.” Of course, we had not expected the answer to be, “You are not going to do anything on this list in 2020.”
When South Africa locked down in March 2020, all our training sessions had to be postponed. We did not know how long the lockdown would last but we thought it good to rewrite the materials for online delivery. We were rather optimistic about how quickly we could do this at first. In the end, it took us six months. During that time, most of the institutions we were due to visit had closed and were trying to teach their own classes online. The exception was Tanzania, which reopened its colleges and universities in June. Early in September, St John’s University in Dodoma contacted us to say that they wanted to go ahead with the lecturer training for their hub. As we could not travel out of South Africa, they asked us to run it online.
Tanzania training in October
We were not sure how well online training would go in Tanzania as previous experience suggested poor internet provision in the country. However, we planned blended learning consisting of downloadable interactive materials and group activities in the colleges interspersed with three Zoom sessions per day. It turned out far better than we had expected. The theology lecturers from St John’s University and eight of the diocesan colleges tuned in every day, participated with great enthusiasm and regularly sent their reflections back to us. It was an exhilarating week during which we sensed the Holy Spirit at work. Overall, there were advantages to running the course this way as the materials were more comprehensive and many colleges could attend. However, there were also disadvantages, especially when it came to feedback and getting the lecturers to plan and teach a demo lecture. It is probably not the ideal way to conduct teacher training, but we were thrilled that we had been able to do it online.
Future plans for TEDS
Since the relative success of the Tanzania training, the Anglican Centre for Pastoral Studies in Santiago has asked us to run the programme online from them in the first week of January 2021. In February, we have been invited to run a full faculty training for George Whitefield College. In April we hope to do phase three with Tanzania. If possible, we plan go to Juba in South Sudan in July and back to Egypt to run phase three for Alexandria School of Theology in August.
TEDS offers lecturer training free of charge to Anglican theological institutions that are unable to pay commercial rates. Overseas Council Australia (OCA) aims to raise funds to support costs incurred by the institutions in the local setting but does not cover our mission partner costs. It is you, the churches and personal supporters who make the training possible by supporting our funding needs through CMS. Thank you for all that you have done in the difficult circumstances of this year to continue to support this training initiative. May the Lord meet all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19).
Prayer for 2021
- For unity in our college and in South Africa.
- Planned lecturer training 2021 in Santiago, Cape Town, Tanzania, Juba and Alexandria.
- For OCA as it raises funds for the hub institutions.
- That our mission partner funding needs may be met.
May the Lord richly bless you and your families with the joy of unity in him this Christmas and always.
Caroline and Dick