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Church Times Train-A-Priest Fund Africa: Ministry training in the midst of war

13 March 2020

This Lent’s Train-A-Priest Fund appeal is focused on Africa. This week, Stephen Spencer describes the life of ordinands from South Sudan

Stephen Spencer

Ordinands sing praises at Kajo-Keji Christian College, in exile in Moyo, Uganda.

Ordinands sing praises at Kajo-Keji Christian College, in exile in Moyo, Uganda.

HOW should a Church train its ministers when the society around it disintegrates? This was the sharp challenge faced by Kajo-Keji Chris­tian College, an Anglican theo­logical college in Kajo-Keji diocese in South Sudan.

During the war between north and south Sudan in the early 2000s, it relocated to Uganda, but it re­­turned to Kajo-Keji in 2008, three years before the independence of South Sudan in 2011. It had nine good years of growth, putting up new buildings, stocking the library, and gaining academic recognition with the higher-education author­ities. In 2012, those authorities gave permission for the college to be­­come part of a new Anglican uni­vers­­ity across the country.

But, at the start of 2017, disaster struck. Fighting between tribal fac­tions spread into the Kajo-Keji area, and the college found itself in the middle of a war zone.

Staff, as well as the general popu­lation, fled south across the border to Uganda. The Principal, the Revd James Lule, stayed behind to hire a truck and load it with as many of the college’s re­­sources as he could grab: solar panels, a few desktop com­puters, some furniture, and as many books from the library as he could carry.

In the end, about one third of the collection was saved. He then had to abandon the site to the fighting, the weather, and looters. It was dev­astating.

A couple of years later, I visited the college in exile, in the small Ugandan market town of Moyo, on the border with South Sudan. A Mission Aviation Fellowship plane brought me from Entebbe in the south to the airstrip at Moyo.

Uganda has been hospitable to the exiles, providing land for a series of refugee camps and, for the college, some buildings in the town centre. This was where the college opened its doors once more, with its meagre resources, to train South Sudanese men and women for lay and ordained ministry.

It was where I met the staff and students who had arranged a morn­ing of speeches, songs, refresh­ments, and a “skit”: a lighthearted mimicking of the whole occasion, in which students played themselves and a visitor arrived ceremoniously to give a speech. It was bizarre and hi­l­ari­ous, a moment of pure grace within a context of struggle and suffering — a token of hope for the future.

There was much to celebrate. From reopening in March 2017, with 20 students, the college had now grown to about 100 students in three faculties: theology, education, and business studies.

The Principal had provided strong and inspiring leadership during the traumas, and sponsors had been found to provide initial funding to enable the college to recruit and support the students.

But this is only the start. The college, like so many across Africa, needs to expand, so that it can educate and form enough priests and lay ministers for the growing Christian population.

It is often said that Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep. Good-quality theological edu­­ca­­tion, form­­­ing the hearts as well as the minds of those who will lead the Church, is needed to deepen that faith.

And one of the biggest bar­riers to this happening is a lack of funding to pay the college fees and accommodation costs of the future clergy.

The Church Times Train-a-Priest (TAP) Fund appeal is a wonderful opportunity to address this need for the Anglican part of God’s Church in Africa.

A generous re­­sponse to the appeal will make it possible to support a swath of Anglican ordin­ands across East, Central, West, and Southern Af­­rica, and will allow institutions such as Kejo-Keji Christian College to build God’s Church for God’s world.

Canon Stephen Spencer is director for theological education at the An­­glican Communion Office.


How to donate to the TAP Fund

Every penny you can give goes to ordinands in Africa who face financial difficulty, to support them as they complete their training. Nothing is retained to cover administrative expenses.

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