MCSA General Secretary, Rev Charmaine Morgan, has urged new seminarians not to weep over the life they have left behind in order to pursue the difficult path of following Jesus, but to remember that ‘the joy of the Lord is their strength.’

Rev Morgan was welcoming the first year seminarians to the seminary on 27 January.

“You have all answered a call from Jesus in your lives. You have heard him speak to you in one way of the other. Now is the time for your response. This is the time for action. It is not the time for weeping.

“You could weep over a job you have given up, or a lifestyle you have lost choosing to go into ministry, you could weep that this or that is not like you want it at the seminary. You could become depressed about the idea that you are not worthy to be called to minister to God’s people, or that the job of a Minister is a very difficult one. You could weep that you did not answer the call earlier in your life. This is not the time for weeping, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength,’” Rev Morgan said.

Reflecting on Nehemiah 8 where the Jews who had just returned to Jerusalem from decades of the Babylonian exile wept as they listened to Ezra reading the Word of God, she said their leadership was not impressed with their weeping. It was time for rejoicing at the word of God, and it was time for action, not for weeping

Rev Morgan said the message that Jesus brings to the congregation in Nazareth in Luke 4 and to us, calls for the same response as the message of Ezra. She was quick to add that the response is not to weep but to act because ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’

She likened Jesus to a stone that causes ripples in a pond and urged seminarians to do likewise.

“If you can imagine the stone in the pond, representing Jesus who comes into this world and he causes a ripple in the waters because he doesn’t toe the party line. He pays more attention to sinners than to saints. But soon, the stone cannot be seen any longer. Jesus has ascended to the Father. And the ripple he caused, setting the world on a new path, needs to continue. Someone must carry on pointing people to God who loves them. Someone must give hope to the poor, and free those who are downtrodden. Someone must continue announcing that God is our Saviour and inviting them into the household of God.

“The church, the Body of Christ, is here to continue the ripples in the pond. We do not generate the ripples ourselves; Jesus is the generator. Ripples in a pond always travel outwards; never inwards. The only time you might see ripples that move inwards, is if you pull the plug out of the bath, and the bath runs dry. The church that only looks inward, that only spends money on itself, that only looks after its own members and no one else, that forgets about the poor and the oppressed, and those who need to hear the Gospel of salvation has pulled the plug on itself, and it will run dry. Because Jesus imagined the church for the purpose of continuing his mission in the power of the Holy Spirit, so, the ripples will always go outward,” she said.

Rev Morgan likened the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to a huge pond and added that if all its members participate in sending out those ripples together as a response to the call and Ministry of Jesus, the impact will be massive.

She said, “There are more Societies of the MCSA than there are branches of Pep Stores or Spar in this country. We can touch every single community, school, hospital, prison, and municipality. We can have a transforming impact in every town and village in southern Africa, if we hear the call of Jesus and act on it in unison, if we understand that for all of us, the joy of the Lord is our strength. We are not here for the status quo. Stagnant water is dirty water. Let those ripples ripple. That is what we are called for.”

Meanwhile, SMMS President, Rev Vido Nyobole has urged seminarians to put all hands on deck as they begin the academic year so that SMMS can become the preferred centre of learning on the continent. He urged every disciple of Christ in the entire MSCA to play a role in the formation of ministers. “It is said ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ In the same vein, it takes a country of disciples of Christ to form ministers,” he said.

Welcoming students on behalf of the SMMS Board of Directors, the Chairperson, Dr Phumla Mnganga shared her board’s vision that will make SMMS sustainable and an institute of excellence.

She said, “This institution has a board that is passionate and committed to the mission of the institution, a board underpinned by a strong intent of governance, ethical leadership and working cohesively to ensure that this institution performs its objectives. I therefore urge all members of the SMMS stakeholder community to work with us as a team to ensure that this institution achieves its objectives.”

The Secretary of the South African Synod of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Rev Thulani Ndlazi expressed gratitude to SMMS for training his denomination’s ministers. He added that some of the best ministers in the UCCSA were trained at SMMS.