The first female SMMS President, Dr Rowanne Marie, was inducted by the Presiding Bishop of the MCSA, Rev Zipho Siwa, on 15 August.

In her acceptance speech, Dr Marie expressed gratitude to the Methodist people for their confidence in her.

“I express deep gratitude to the leadership and the various organisations within the MCSA, the Board of SMMS, colleagues from academic institutions, family, friends and fellow pilgrims of the faith. I celebrate and honour those leaders who have gone before me, each of them leaving a legacy built on integrity, innovation, valour, creativity and diligence. I honour the ‘people called Methodists’, for the courage they have offered me to take the seminary into its future. As I take on the position of the President of SMMS, I do so mindful of the great responsibility entrusted upon me.

“Presiding Bishop, whilst many write and speak beautifully about church unity, about gender justice and equality and about other such pertinent matters, I note that under your leadership, the MCSA lives this out and models it, thus becoming a prototype for many to emulate,” she said.

Having been the very first staff person to be appointed and having served the institution for a decade, Dr Marie said SMMS has taught her many great lessons.

She said, “SMMS has become close my heart. Since the day of my appointment on 1 October 2008, I have watched it grow from its moment of inception into this strong establishment that it has become. This year, we celebrate 10 years, and we never cease to be amazed at the grace and favour of the Lord over SMMS. Within the decade, we have accomplished much, such that we now occupy a recognised space within the academia and amongst various theological platforms. This great institution has, over the past decade, witnessed great women and men come and go; many of them now impacting church and nation tremendously. I have journeyed with SMMS through its tears and joys, its mountains and valleys, and each of those encounters live on as a thread in our tapestry and our story will not be complete without any of these experiences.”

Dr Marie also expressed gratitude to the student body and acknowledged the great sacrifices that they make to come and study at SMMS.

“You are the main focus of SMMS. This place is about you and for you and the 320 distance learners out there. Over my years of being a part of the SMMS family, I have appreciated the respect and support from the seminarians – each one of you brings uniqueness to this village. The sacrifices you make, leaving the comforts of your home, of your family, and the security of your good employment are commendable. You are women and men who have taken the risk of leaving much behind so that you can be on the journey of becoming a formed and transforming leader for the church and nation,” Dr Marie said.

She also admitted her admiration of the leadership style of her predecessor, Rev Vido Nyobole, and wished him well in his return to retirement.

“You are my Father in the faith, my role model, my encourager, my strength and my inspiration. There are moments when the selfish side of me fears not having you around. Your gentle spirit became the wind beneath my wings. But I realise that both you and Mrs Nyobole need some well-deserved rest. Thank you for being part of our journey,” Dr Marie said.

In his message, the Presiding Bishop described Dr Marie’s appointment as a “special moment in the life of the church.”

He said, “Dr Marie was here before the seminary was here. We are grateful that you allowed the church and the seminary to use you in this way. Be assured of the prayers of the Methodist people as we accompany you on this journey of forming transforming leaders in such times as this.”

In congratulating Dr Marie, MCSA General Secretary, Rev Charmaine Morgan said Dr Marie has shown herself to be dedicated, steadfast and a prime leader.

She said, “We congratulate you Ma’am on your appointment as President. We place a huge trust in you. In effect, the future of the church is in your hands together with your colleagues – and thanks be to God – you are in God’s hands!”

Meanwhile, Rev Nyobole was acknowledged for agreeing to come out of retirement and be at SMMS when he was needed the most.

The Presiding Bishop thanked Rev Nyobole for standing in at a time “when the church and the seminary needed you the most.”

SMMS Board Chairperson, Dr Phumla Mnganga said Rev Nyobole brought harmony and stability in the seminary community.

“Your leadership was exemplary. Your leadership style focussed on team-work and you used a collective approach. You are both a visionary and a pragmatist. Thank you for sacrificing your quality time with your family to spend these two critical years with us,” she said.

In response, Rev Nyobole acknowledged the support he got from the leadership of the church during his time at SMMS. He also acknowledged the support he received from staff and the Board.

“It has been my joy to serve. I am happy that Dr Marie has been given the mantle to lead. She is a formidable leader who will be able to take SMMS to another level. I have no doubt that she is the right person for SMMS at this time,” he said.