Today had a very "Africanist" flavour, starting with our chapel service this morning in which Kevin Zondagh was sharing on how being in Christ should transcend our skin colour, culture, language, likes and dislikes, political affiliation, etc. His telling words - ones that should cause us to look very deeply within ourselves were the statement: "We live the truth, but we sing lies", whic basically reflects how our songs of unity reflect themselves (or, rather, DON'T reflect themselves) in our lives.
Then it was into our Missiology course, in which we started discussing the impact of colonialism on mission. At one point things got a bit heated as we reflected on modern-day "colonial" practices that still exist, even within our church - areas such as probationers / junior ministers being treated as "empty vessels", as though they have nothing to contribute and should therefore remain silent; the culture of not wanting to raise issues or ask questions for fear of possible recrimination, and similarly evil practices.
Straight from there was our Systematic theology class, in which we looked at liberation and feminist theologies from an African perspective. While I'm fairly comfortable with feminist theology (in fact, I regard myself as a bit of a "closet male feminist theologian"), and understand liberation theology from a textbook perspective, I am really struggling, as a Westerner, to get to grips with the nuances of African theology.
Then to cap a tiring day at seminary, it was off to the Zulu class, in which we are trying to understand how the number 898 comes to be represented by the word "amakhulu ayisishiyagalombili namashumi ayisishiyaga lolunye nesishiyaga lombili" (I kid you not!).
As a result of all this, it dawned on me today just how inadequate I am to be a minister in an African context - not because I have a problem getting to grips with things academically, but because I know so little about African culture. Looking back on Phase One, I realise that my presence was merely tolerated with much shaking of heads, "ag shame - the whitey doesn't really understand us", and "at least he's only here for a year". Add to that the "walking on eggs" feeling that my every question, every honest cock-up, and every challenge will be viewed as being motivated by racism, and I end up with serious doubts of my ability to be an effective minister. If I were to be placed in a black rural context for five years after my stint at seminary, my fear is that it would not only be the death of my ministry, but that it would also have a detrimental effect on the local congregation who would effectively be "guinea pigs" for me to "experiment" on.
And so right now I'm feeling quite overwhelmed - in fact, shit scared, to be blunt...
Arrogance will let you down - Proverbs 3 - When we think that we have all bases covered and we are confident in our own ability, that is when we are walking on thin ice. The wisdom of our own 'eyes'...
5 days ago