You are welcome! Karibu! We have never heard these words more often before coming to St. Philip’s Theological College in Kongwa, Tanzania.
We were blessed to get to spend four days at St. Philip’s, where men and women who are priests or ordinands (people preparing for ordination) in the Anglican Church of Tanzania receive training for ministry. You are welcome! is used as a greeting (as in, you are welcome here, we’re glad you have come), in response to Thank you (Asante in Kiswahili, also known as Swahili, the official language of Tanzania), and as an invitation to participate (including by teachers indicating to students that they may give their response or comment or ask their question). It’s a lovely greeting and we were made to feel very welcome indeed. We were also very happy to visit the place where one of our Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (EVIM) colleagues, Peter Bak, has been serving. (Check out Peter’s blog. Peter isn’t here right now, but we did see some of his handiwork. More on that below). We also got to meet Wendy Broadbent, another Episcopal colleague who is doing wonderful work here (more on that as well).
Here’s a little about the college, their programs, and our experience. We found out about some very interesting connections with people and places in North America and some innovative programs they have developed to equip clergy and their families for their ministries. Some programs (like training for clergy wives) aren’t new, but they are interesting to us as they help us understand expectations of clergy families that are somewhat different from our own experience.
St. Philip’s is located in Kongwa, about 90 km (55 miles) from Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania.
We stayed in Westgate House in guest rooms on the upper floor.
Our view from Westgate House:
On the building was a plaque that told us a little about the history of St. Philip’s.
The site for this center for training African clergy was chosen in 1913 and the college was founded by the Rev. Dr. Westgate in 1914. Westgate was trained at Huron College in Canada (in London, Ontario) and raised funds to build the college from his fellow Huron College alumni. The connection between Huron in Canada and St. Philip’s was recently rediscovered (the interesting story about the rediscovery is told here. There isn’t an active connection or ministry link at this time).
The first class of students started study in 1914 but the beginning of the first world war meant an end to classes for the next six years. Tanzania was part of German East Africa and war meant an end to cooperation between the local German administration and the British Church Mission Society. At first, missionaries were confined to their mission stations. Later, Westgate and others were held in a prisoner of war camp until they were freed by Belgians in 1916. The college building had been used by the German army, but wasn’t damaged. Tragically, the translations that had been made of the New Testament into the local language (Gogo) were burned by the Germans. Classes resumed in 1920.
The college was named for St. Philip in 1951 (and became St. Philip’s Theological College in 1954).
As we are learning in a big way during our time in South Africa, here too, the presence of water is crucial for the viability of the college. St. Philip’s and the nearby village is possible because of a nearby spring. In a few weeks, the rainy season will begin and the college will catch rainwater and add to the water supply. The Rev. Christian (Chris) Ntyamagwa took us on a walk up to the source of the water. Along the way we saw the pipe that brings water from the spring down to the college and village.
We wondered if naming the college for St. Philip’s came from the story of St. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (see Acts 8:26-40), where the Ethiopian Eunuch, after learning about Jesus wants to be baptized. Despite the fact that they’re in a desert, the Ethiopian man sees water, and Philip baptizes him.
One of the things we found very interesting about St. Philip’s is that, in addition to training in theology and English, students receive training in agriculture and keep gardens, chickens, pigs, cows, and bees. The Rev. Can. Capt. Agripa Ndatilahe, principal (in other settings, he would be called rector or president or dean) of the college decided that instead of purchasing their food, they would grow it all here. That way the school would save money and students would learn something that helps them feed their families here and will help support their families when they are working, as their stipends are very low. We enjoyed all the meals we had, which used fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit, all from the college.
In addition to agriculture, students also learn a trade such as plumbing, welding, or carpentry. This is the project Peter Bak is involved in, in addition to helping with maintenance at the college.
People at the college also make their own bricks, used to build and repair college buildings. Rev. Chris explained that making the bricks is not difficult, but firing them is because it takes three days, around the clock, of tending to the firing.
Students spend time before the morning chapel service, which starts at 7 a.m, and about an hour at the end of the day taking care of the gardens and other tasks.
St. Philip’s offers a 3 year diploma in theology (taught in English), a 3 year certificate in theology (taught in Kiswahili), and a 2 year certificate in theology for students’ wives. Some certificate students come without having completed secondary school, so the college also offers and opportunity for students to study secondary school subjects and then take the examinations that will show they have completed and passed those subjects. Several students were away taking those exams while we were there. In the Eucharist on Sunday before they left special prayers were said for them. So, in addition to their college diploma studies, students who wish to complete a secondary school education have classes in those areas for an additional two hours a day.
Married men attend the college alone for their first year and their wives and two youngest children (sometimes more depending on the ages of their children) can join them for their second and third years. Wives may obtain a certificate in theology (offered in Kiswahili), which is helpful as clergy wives are often expected to teach and lead in the church. Their courses are meant to help prepare them with theological knowledge to do that. There are women studying at the college in the diploma and certificate programs and some dioceses in the Anglican Church of Tanzania (the Diocese of Central Tanganyika has 50 (out of 400 total active) ordained priests who are women), but we didn’t hear of any priests’ husbands participating in the special 2 year program. They also offer a program in Christian Education (which is part of the public education in Tanzanian primary and secondary schools) and English Language instruction. In Tanzania, students who go to secondary school start learning English in school at that level, and students who continue after that do their schooling in English).
We got to attend classes in Old Testament, New Testament, and English, and a Bible study. The Rev. Peter Hezron Chiyeyeu (dean and tutor in New Testament) showed us the Library and Resource Centre.
In addition to the innovative programs of teaching students agriculture and trades, the school also provides training for helping priests and people in the local community support people with disabilities. The Disabilities Program Director is Wendy Broadbent.
Students take a course in pastoral care with people with disabilities, co-taught by Wendy, and Wendy and the college principal, Agrippa lead a program working with students and church groups in the community to do empowerment projects to support people with disabilities. Wendy is an Episcopalian volunteer who started coming to St. Philip’s five years ago to start and lead this program. She comes for two months every spring and fall. Wendy is a compassionate dynamo who holds an MBA and a JD. We are so glad to have met this inspirational leader, fellow Episcopal volunteer, and new friend. (Plus, she and Joe are both from New Jersey and it was really fun to get to listen in on two people from New Jersey talking together). If you are in the Episcopal Church (or beyond), invite Wendy to come tell you about what she’s doing.
We also got to attend chapel services. Sunday Eucharist is always in Kiswahili. Weekday services alternate between English and Kiswahili, one week at a time. Music highlights for me, singing “Shall we gather at the river” in Kiswahili and “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” and “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee,” in English, in harmony, a cappella.
At the offertory, people came in procession to offer their gifts in front of the altar and at the conclusion of the service, everyone sang and danced out of church, beginning with the altar party, then from the back of the nave (nave is where the people sit). As you sing, you shake the hands of the people who are now standing in a line outside the church door, and take your place in the line, and the greeting continues until everyone is outside in the line. Everyone has greeted and been greeted. The singing ends, a prayer is said, and a dismissal is given. After one of the services there was also an auction to add to the offering. Students may bring something (in this case it was vegetables a student had grown) to be auctioned and the money is added. In this way, everyone can contribute something.
St. Philip’s currently has 64 students (I think that’s the correct number). Most students are Anglican, but students also attend from the Lutheran and Mennonite Churches. They have room for about 120 students and hope to increase their enrollment. In addition to their current programs they also hope to add Intensive Theological Education (courses in 6 week blocks twice a year), Church Music (writing and reading music and instrumental music for use in churches), and language study in Kiswahili as well as English.
Fees for a year of study at St. Philip’s are currently the equivalent of about $1000 USD, not including transportation to the school and home again during breaks and stationery.
We were so warmly welcomed by the faculty, staff, and students of St. Philip’s College and it was exciting to see what they are doing to prepare clergy and others for service in the church. We are very grateful and will keep St. Philip’s in our prayers, that the work they are doing may bear good fruit.
The featured image on this post is from St. Philip’s Theological College’s website https://www.stphilipscollegetz.org