Perkins School of Theology in South Africa 2015

Eleven students from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology with faculty leader Dr. Evelyn L. Parker, associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of Practical Theology, are participating in a May 17-31 South Africa immersion course through the Perkins Global Theological Education Program (GTE). During their time in South Africa, they will explore ministries of Christian hope “in practice” via engagement with the people of South Africa in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town.

Members of the group will share their experiences, including reflections and photographs, here on the SMU Adventure blog during the trip.

The Perkins Global Theological Education Program (GTE) prepares Christian leaders for complex cultural experiences through seminars and significant immersion experiences in other cultures. Students learn to build intercultural relationships, resolve cultural conflicts and guide intercultural ventures.

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Extraordinary Day of Worship and Wonder

Today’s reflection is from Perkins student Kantrice Robinson, a Master of Divinity degree candidate (2016, Pastoral Care and Women’s Studies Certificate Programs):

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-5.)

On Sunday, May 24, 2015, the Christian church celebrated its birthday, a day on which we remember when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in the Upper Room. The South Africa Immersion Course remembered this day in worship with the Langa Methodist Church of South Africa.

Worship at the Langa Methodist Church of Southern Africa in Langa Township, Cape  Town, South Africa.

Worship at the Langa Methodist Church of Southern Africa in Langa Township, Cape
Town, South Africa.

Africa is known for its lively worship experiences, and the Methodist Church in Langa Township affirmed this. From the beginning of worship, we were moved as the pastor, choir, and church leaders processed into the sanctuary singing in their native tongue, Xhosa, the hymn of the church, “Praise the Lord.” There was great beauty in this experience for Perkins students. Many of us know words of greeting in Xhosa, a language known for its clicking sounds, but do not speak the language fluently. We began to sing the hymn with our faith family in English and with one voice we worshiped our God. This occurred throughout the service as we sang “Blessed Assurance” and “I Surrender All.”

Each song invoked a dance as children played djembe drums and ladies beat what appeared to be leather travel pillows. “Every time (they) beat that pillow it seemed as if chains were being broken,” said Phyllis Harris, a Perkins student. There were a number of surprises, particularly during offering when the children and youth led the congregation singing “Njalo,” which many of us recalled from Perkins Seminary Singers. We sang with the congregation and danced to the altar to give our offering.

We remained standing after our offering and mimicked the hand movements of the children. The congregation was intrigued and they stood and danced with us and the children . We actually started something, it was true corporate worship!

A lay person delivered a message, the children’s choir sang, and Professor Evelyn Parker shared words of greeting from Perkins School of Theology. The congregation was very welcoming. Then Pastor Njezu preached. His sermon was mostly in Xhosa, but occasionally throughout the service he spoke in English. The experience was amazing! It felt like a true Pentecost experience. Although we did not always understand the words, we connected with the people, and were on one accord in the same space in unity praising God.

Many parishioners ate snacks and drank water toward the end of the service. Some offered snacks to us, as well. It was the consensus of our group that we normally do not eat during worship service, but we made an exception today.

We were overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit during the four-hour worship experience. Many of us have never attended such a long service and are proud to have been a part of it.

The church fed us following the service. The menu included grilled chicken, french fries, chicken wraps, salad and rolls. In fact, Perkins was fed first. What a blessing to be honored in this way! The food was phenomenal, and everyone wanted to eat more. One stewardess referred to it as, “The best of Langa.” It was certainly delicious!

We went to Table Mountain after the service and experienced one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature. The view of the Atlantic Ocean from the mountain was incredible! We experienced God on a number of levels today. Being atop Table Mountain bore witness to the vastness of God’s power and creativity. I hope to never forget this day—it was extraordinary!

The view from the top of Table Mountain overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, South Africa.

The view from the top of Table Mountain overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

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