My time with the St. Augustine Theological School begins when four of our students come down from the north, around Francistown, for a week of intensive study. It has proven difficult for tutors to meet with these students frequently, and now, as the second term begins, they have come to Gaborone.
We meet in a small duplex that houses the School. It consists of a small classroom, an office for the head of the School (where the copier donated by the Diocese of North Carolina lives), another office for the second tutor, James Hamathi, and me, and a small kitchen. Nothing fancy, but it works.
I am teaching three courses: Reformation history, Biblical interpretation, and Sacramental theology. Only the latter have I taught before. I spend the week trying to organize my thoughts, organize the courses, and do a few things in our hours together that may be helpful in these students’ ministerial formation. All the while we are no doubt sizing up one another – they as to whether I will be able to teach anything relevant to their ministry, me as to what their particular gifts and their academic strengths and weaknesses are.
At the end of the week they go home – ‘it is time to tend my farm,’ one remarks – and the next week the students from here in the south, around Gaborone, arrive. There are seven of them. They work during the day, then come every weekday evening for classes.
The next week one student from Lobatse, maybe an hour’s drive away, arrives. He finds it hard to come each evening, even when he is in Lobatse, and presently he is working on a project in the Kalahari, perhaps 700 miles away. When he is home, he comes up to spend several full days with us.
The final student – there are thirteen in all – is doing some theological study through a South African institution. We are evaluating the courses he is taking, and plan to augment them with areas where we see a particular need. Pastoral studies come to mind, Fr. James Amanze, who heads the School (as well as the companion link committee), indicates.
I am impressed with the investment in time and energy and travel these students make. They have jobs, family demands, and church responsibilities. And yet, they are here, at a new school named for the patron saint of theologians. Their academic levels vary. But it is clear that they are committed, serious about this journey they – and the Diocese of Botswana – have begun.
There is then something to celebrate here, already. The Diocese of Botswana now has an institution to prepare persons for ordination and lay leadership, something it has sought for literally decades. Earlier postings in this Botswana Diary date from 2010, when I was part of their reflections upon how the Diocese might provide ministerial formation locally, and… how it could support and sustain it. Now, they – we, thanks to encouragement from North Carolina – have begun.