This year, SMMS – the flagship project of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) – celebrates ten years of producing leaders and architects of a better future for the church and the southern African region.
In 2004, MCSA Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, concerned by the standards of the ministry, set up a commission to review theological education and ministerial training chaired by Rev Dr Donald Cragg. The commission engaged with the current MCSA theological training community, conducted surveys of clergy and laity, examined what other denominations were doing and then distilled their findings in a report presented to the 2005 MCSA Conference.
The central finding of the commission was that the desired outcomes would be better achieved by an immediate return to a full three-year residential “in community” training regime. It was also determined to place as much emphasis on the inculcation of the Christian disciplines of piety, worship, compassion, justice, personal and social holiness as on academic study.
It was recommended that the new seminary be located in Pietermaritzburg because of its accessibility to what was then the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and an opportunity for ecumenical engagement with the Pietermaritzburg Cluster of Theological Institutions.
After much planning and resource mobilisation, the pioneer seminarians entered SMMS in January 2009. The new R64 million campus was declared open in September 2010.
The decade has been one of struggle and triumph, joy and sorrow, many successes and of course, some challenges.
“We have been hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; troubled, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We have not allowed challenges to weaken us, but rather we drew strength and hope from them and soldiered on. We have always understood that our mandate requires resilience and endurance; the courage to press on in spite of the real challenges on the way. We have stretched ourselves to the limits to ensure that we keep the institution’s head above the water.
In spite of the challenges it has faced, the seminary has proved that it can hold its own. It has developed rapidly since it opened its doors to students.
SMMS boasts competitive academic and formation programmes that are irresistibly attractive to prospective students from far and wide. Over the years, hundreds of students have graduated proudly at this institution and now, with great determination and competence, serve the southern African region as transformational leaders both in the church and in the secular world.