The Three Musketeers

Last year Ben Motlhalamme, the diocesan secretary, names us the Three Musketeers. He means Fr. James Amanze, me, and himself. We are the three, he says, who have a passion to sustain the ministry of the St. Augustine Theological School. There are others, of course, but he likes the Musketeers.

Today he is giving a welcome at a fund-raiser for the School. It’s held at Trinity, the Lutheran church in the city centre. They have the best fellowship hall, complete with a stage, a good feature since our event is a choir competition.

He declares that today he is the One Musketeer. Fr. James is out of the country at an academic conference. I am just late.

Our students have worked hard at planning this first effort. They have made the rounds of local congregations, trying to encourage choirs to compete on a Saturday. We end up with three: St. Simon of Cyrene Parish in Tlokweng, St. Paul’s in Molepolole, and Holy Cross, the cathedral here in Gaborone.

                                          Bashie Tsheole

A professor, suitably professorial, gives an address about the call to ordination. It’s a fine message, but some of the young people become restless. Bashie Tsheole, one of our third year students, revives them with a lively Setswana song. He’s accompanied by someone on drums and another on keyboard, an import from the local Baptist church.

Then it’s time for the choirs. The first round has each sing an identical hymn, a Setswana version from Hymns Ancient and Modern. The second are Setswana songs of their own choosing. Two judges sit in the front, writing away on their evaluation forms.

To my untrained ear – and in ignorance of what they are actually singing – all of the choirs seem quite good, and the audience cheers them on.

Rra Ben, seated next to me, leans over and says. ‘As diocesan secretary, I am supposed to be neutral, but since I worship at the cathedral, they are the ones I think of as "ours".’ My situation, I suppose, is similar, as I am also placed at the Cathedral. After Holy Cross’ second number, I lean over to him. ‘Ours are the best,’ I say.

The judges think so two. The other two are naturally disappointed. I ask Bonny Bashe, another of our students who worships in Tlokweng, to tell them at church tomorrow what a fine job we staff at the School think they did, and how much we appreciate their coming.’ He promises.

It is a good afternoon. We apparently raise a bit over 3,000 pula, not a lot, but a fine first effort.

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Return

It feels as if I never left.

It’s time for the Daily Office. Leading Morning Prayer is one of our ordinands, George Moshapa. Fr. James Amanze, the Principal, is nearby, his smile, his energy and his passion as strong as ever. There are Jacob Modisanyane and Samuel Moraloki, from ‘up north,’ at Matsiloje, east of Francistown on the Zimbabwean border; and Ford Gaogane, from Serowe, the historic town in the center of the Gaborone-Francistown corridor; and Western Medupe, from west of Molepolole, out in the Kalahari – all gathered (among others) around the table at the St. Augustine Theological School.

It looks a lot like 2013 to me.

‘Mo Leineng la Modimo, Rara, Morwa le Mowa o o Boitshepo,’ George begins. ‘In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

This is an overwhelming week for me. I arrive on a Thursday, and in the next day or so I deal with such priorities as jet lag, groceries, and a broken toilet seat. Sunday I am at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, with the bread – ‘Mmele wa ga Kreste,’ ‘The body of Christ’ – and blessing the children who come forward to the altar rail after Communion, an action that always touches me. ‘Know that God is always present with you, and loves and cares for you.’

Today, Monday, I am beginning an intensive week of classes. We have our students from ‘the north’ here in Gaborone for the week, with classes throughout each day. I am anxious to begin with the local students as well, who come at night, so I commit to teaching them too. This works out to 5-7 classes each day.

I am teaching four courses this term: Liturgy and worship, and history of the Reformation, to the new intake of students, who are just beginning their first year; and the Pauline letters and Liberation theology, to the third years, the ones I know.

Having a second ‘intake’ of students is very encouraging to me. It means that the St. Augustine Theological School is not a ‘one off’ thing, in which we train one group of ordinands and then close shop. It is, I think, a sign to the Diocese of Botswana that the School has a future, that there are students to come and the School will sustain its commitment to ministerial formation so that they will have a place to prepare them.

Not everyone agrees. Some think we should have waited another year, finishing with the first intake first. And it is a challenge. After all, there are only three lecturers: Fr. James, Fr. John Hamathi, and me.

There are four women among the ten new ordinands. They have been told that Botswana may not be able to ordain them. Last year the Church of the Province of Central Africa (of which the Diocese of Botswana is a part) voted down a resolution to permit dioceses to ordain women, which Botswana has wanted to do for some time. Bishop Metlha, speaking to students and staff later tonight, expresses hope that in 2017 – the date for the next provincial synod – the province will decide that now is the time. If that happens, our female students at St. Augustine will have completed their third and final year. It will be time.

I look at the notes I have. I taught Reformation last year, so much of that is in good shape. I taught liturgy and worship at Wake Forest, so there are some things I can use from those notes. Liberation theology I have studied, but I have never taught, and Paul, well, I’ve never taught such a course either.

We can make the excuse that our courses are taught at a ‘basic’ level, but we have to honor our ordinands, and our ministry, by doing the very best that we can.

It is to be a formidable week, but these ordinands are a joy. And it wonderfully feels as if I never left.

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