by Mary Lou
I teach at a small seminary outside of Jos, Lawna Apostolic Theological Seminary. It is owned by the Apostolic Church – a church that is part of the Pentecostal movement and has been in Nigeria for over 80 years.
The unique thing about this seminary is that the Provost, with his doctorate in Theology and Conflict Management Studies, decided to set up an undergraduate degree program in Conflict Management Studies (Peace Studies) as an option among other programs that one would expect in a seminary. There are very few undergraduate programs in Peace Studies in any tertiary institution in Nigeria so it is exciting to see this commitment and initiative and be part of supporting it.
I enjoyed teaching my first course in what we would call the Winter semester and anticipated the opportunity to teach the same topic again in the Summer School Programme. The Summer School Programme is intensive. This means I teach every day Monday – Friday for 2-1/2 weeks for three hours a day to fulfill the requirements.
Coming from Ontario, I know the need for a course syllabus, and enough solid material to fill three hours of class time. The syllabus is vetted and I have to make sure it is serious enough academically to pass muster. Even if students don’t show up all the time, the “course must go on.”
This week – the first of the summer program involved student arrivals. I planned to teach all week – for three hours per day. Well and good. Thankfully, I was told that I should not bother coming the first day because students were just arriving and registering. I came the second day and had a great class with solid committed students. Things were well in order for the next two weeks until my teaching time was complete…or so I thought!
Spiritual practices of worship and prayer are very important to this seminary community. In the regular fall and winter semesters, there is a one-hour chapel everyday. In the summer programme, it is scheduled for 1/2 hour everyday. I arrived on Wednesday morning and was in time for chapel. I like to participate sometimes in this sincere and energetic service as an expression of solidarity with this community even though the worship style is not the way I would choose to honour God.
Chapel was scheduled for 30 minutes from 10:15 – 10:45, after which my class would begin. Upon arrival in the chapel hall on Wednesday, I was handed a schedule that outlined a plan for a three-day series of Spiritual Emphasis that would extend chapel for one hour until 11:45 for each of the next three days until Friday. Hmmm. Okaaay… I tried to mentally adjust what I had planned and roll with it. I became somewhat miffed though, because 11:45 didn’t end until about 12:15. I ended up with about 75 minutes to teach that day.
The second day of the three (Thursday) – I was prepared – arriving in time for 11:45 with plans for two hours. The class went on and I completed my modified plan and I was proud of my ability to adjust.
Friday, the third and last day of the Spiritual Emphasis program, I also arrived at 11:45. By 12:45 the session’s last prayers were said. In what I hoped was a jovial manner, I asked the Dean what I was supposed to do with my plans – 3 hours, then 2 hours squished into 45 minutes. He responded with a sincere apology for the changes of the week I had been unaware of and told me seriously, “The Holy Spirit will help you.”
Indeed! While I believe in God’s presence and ongoing creative energy/power with us as The Holy Spirit, I don’t have as lively a sense of God’s ability to work miracles as my Apostolic colleagues. I’m sure! I’m quite convinced, rather, that God/The Holy Spirit works as well or better through good and well-implemented plans rather than constant spontaneous rearrangements of the same.
Humbled — especially as I consider myself to be flexible after 14 years in Africa…already — I must admit that in the end he may have been right. That 45 minutes was a rich time for me with these pastor-students reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” We discussed the multiple (biblical) visions of a new world it contains. An appropriate way to end the week thinking about our main theme…the moral imagination!