The first group of African ministers to study at the Aberdeen University Centre for Ministry Studies have been awarded their degrees.
Fourteen ministers from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe began studying part-time two years ago, taking courses in spiritual formation, leadership, preaching and Christian practices before writing a 20,000 word dissertation. Eleven have been awarded an MTh in Ministry Studies, two received diplomas and one suspended studies due to personal circumstances.
The programme was introduced in 2017 after a Draft Agreement was signed between Aberdeen University and Zomba Theological College; and sponsored by the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church of the USA.
It was co-ordinated by Church of Scotland minister the Rev Dr Ken Jeffrey, senior lecturer in church history. He said: “It has been a joy and a privilege to have this opportunity of working with our friends in Malawi and to support the church in the theological education and training of their leaders. We are delighted by the achievements of this first cohort of students and look forward to starting work with a new class of students later this year."
One of the students, Falitsani Kansilanga, said: “The Masters in Ministry Studies programme has transformed the way I do and perceive ministry. It has really been a lot of learning and unlearning. In a nutshell, this programme is not only a course for the mind, but for the heart as well. The mind has been enriched, the heart has been refreshed.”
A second cohort of students, including four women ministers, will start the programme at Zomba Theological College in October.
The 14 students who began the class are pictured with Dr Jeffrey and Dr Leon van Ommen, who helped to deliver the programme in Malawi: the Rev Innocent Chikopa, the Rev Maxford Chilindeni, the Rev Moses Chitawo, the Rev Moffat Garnet, the Rev Paulo Joao, the Rev Pofera Kalimbuka, the Rev Helmart Kaliza, Falitsani Kansilanga, the Rev Hudson Kaseko, the Rev Watson Kazembe, the Rev Mizeki Mndola, the Rev Donnex Ngalande, the Rev Cosmas Pamaso, the Rev Maurice Sabuni.
When the Centre for Ministry Studies was created three years ago, the Business Plan included the suggestion that we would explore the idea of delivering short intensive programmes in Africa and that we would investigate the existing connections between the Church of Scotland and Malawi. Finally, after many meetings, countless emails and a visit to Malawi last August, a Draft Agreement was signed in December that created a new, collaborative partnership between the University of Aberdeen and Zomba Theological College.
The first partnership of its kind, it provides the opportunity for church leaders across Africa to join the MTh Ministry Studies programme that was created two years ago and which has already become a popular and successful course at Aberdeen University. Staff from the University will travel to Malawi where they will teach the four module, part-time programme in Zomba. We expect to welcome between 15 and 20 students onto the programme each year. In addition, Aberdeen University will invite three members of staff from Zomba Theological College to apply to join our distance PhD programme. In this way we hope to contribute to the development of the College as it seeks to provide ministerial training for ministers.
Previously, church leaders in Malawi who wanted to pursue postgraduate studies had to travel to other African nations or come to Europe or the USA to further their education. Now, and for the first time, they are able to study for their Masters and Doctoral degrees in their own country. The Draft Agreement commits Aberdeen University and Zomba Theological College to this partnership for five years in the first instance. At the end of this period, we hope that the increased capacity in Zomba, provided by the staff who have gained their PhDs from Aberdeen, will allow them to develop their own postgraduate programmes of study.
In the meantime, the IT department at Aberdeen University are collecting and recycling old laptops which we shall give to our new Malawian students so that they have the means to study and research online. Approaches have been made to several publishers who we hope will donate course textbooks to the students.
Discussions are also taking place with the Church of Scotland and Aberdeen Presbytery about creating a scholarship programme to support church leaders from Malawi who want to join the course. Aberdeen University has reduced the fees for this particular programme, but it will still cost a Malawian minister more than 1000 pounds per year, over two years to complete the course. Therefore, if you, your congregation or Presbytery are interested in finding ways to support this new initiative and contributing to a scholarship programme, then please contact Rev Dr Ken Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The photos below were taken during the first teaching session of the Malawi MTh Ministry Studies programme.
Rev Dr Ken Jeffrey leads the students in a class session.
Dr Andrew Clarke leads the students in a class session.
Students on the MTh Ministry Studies programme with their laptops donated by the University.
The second cohort of students.