By Rev Luvuyo Sifo, SMMS Dean of Chapel and Head of Formation

The journey to becoming a minister of Word and Sacrament in the MCSA is long and painstakingly hard.

Think about it…

One wrestles with the call to a point where one eventually accepts that one is called.

One goes to the resident minister and shares what one feels with her.

The resident minister then refers the person to the Superintendent minister who has to listen as well and interrogate the call.

The Superintendent minister presents the person to a Circuit Quarterly Meeting (CQM) that listens and votes for the person to be nominated as candidate.

(In between – before, after or during – the person has to engage in studies towards becoming a fully accredited local preacher. Assuming that those studies are complete and accreditation has been received, the Superintendent minister then nominates the person as a prospective candidate for ministry.)

The nomination of the person by the Superintendent minister after the CQM should reach EMMU by the 31st of July each year.

EMMU then informs the candidates through their Superintendent ministers of the outcome of the nomination.

The candidate prepares for a theological education examination that takes place in October.

Should the candidate be successful in the theological examination, s/he may proceed to the screening committee that takes place in the district of his or her origin. Should the candidate fail the theological examination, there is no further progress.

At the screening examination which takes place at the beginning of the following year, the candidate is further listened to, asked questions about the call and his or her readiness for ministry. This is coupled with psychological assessments and examination and suitability for ministry is then determined.

After the screening examination, the candidate is presented to the Synod to be listened to and voted for.

(In-between, there were trial services that were conducted and certain reports submitted to the supervisor of studies that will be presented at the synod so that the synod can vote on them.)

Should the candidate succeed at the synod level, his or her name is forwarded to the Connexional Executive for acceptance.

Once the CE accepts the name, the candidate is informed accordingly and then directed by the church to SMMS for further theological training and ministerial formation.

After three years of successful study and ministerial formation at SMMS, the candidate is then placed in circuit for further vocational training and assessment.

After a minimum of two years in circuit, the candidate may be nominated as an ordinand.

(In-between, there are further studies, IST projects, reports, retreats etc that take place.)

At successful completion of the ordinand period, the church then ordains the candidate to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

I am looking at these brothers and sisters of mine who are writing their exam today and thinking to myself that this is just but one of the steps on the journey. They have yet more to do and the journey is hard. I also am thinking about my own journey. In 2004 I sat for the very exam they are sitting for today and many years later I am invigilating an examination that I did not imagine I would be invigilating then. I have had the privilege of listening to many sisters and brothers articulating their call over the years. I have even guided and mentored many people in the past. I have examined others as well.

All I have learnt is that ministers make too many sacrifices and that we should appreciate and support them.

Next time you meet someone called a Methodist minister please be grateful, be kind, be supportive and be hospitable. They have gone through much, all in the name of responding to a call. This does not permit them however to claim entitlement or abuse people’s hospitality. It just indicates their obedience and humility