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Featured: Preparing pastors to care for spirit, body and mind

The Rev. Beauty Maenzanise (left), dean of the faculty of theology of Africa University, speaks with Clara Masiyazi, deputy registrar, during the 20th anniversary celebration of Africa University in 2013.

UMNS/KATHY GILBERT

The Rev. Beauty Maenzanise (left), dean of the faculty of theology of Africa University, speaks with Clara Masiyazi, deputy registrar, during the 20th anniversary celebration of Africa University in 2013.

Missionary Larry Kies checks on dairy cattle at the Africa University  dairy in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

UMNS/MIKE DUBOSE

Missionary Larry Kies checks on dairy cattle at the Africa University dairy in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Mercy Nyirongo, alumna of Africa University, plants maize with orphans in a field in Malawi.

COURTESY MERCY NYIRONGO

Mercy Nyirongo, alumna of Africa University, plants maize with orphans in a field in Malawi.

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Preparing pastors to care for spirit, body and mind

By The Rev. Beauty R. Maenzanise
November - December 2015

African nations are seizing the opportunity to chart a new course for the continent. More than half of the 1.1 billion people living on the continent are under age 19. Many of them are eager to become leaders, which will help shape the fundamental changes taking place.

In many African countries, theological education is being integrated with livestock production, agricultural and other practical trainings. Interdisciplinary training equips students to run and foster self-sustainable, healthy and spiritually thriving communities. Local pastors who come through interdisciplinary programs become stewards of the local economy, as well as people's health and spirituality.

When Africa University opened in 1992, it was the first fully accredited pan-African United Methodist university. Located in Zimbabwe, it has used interdisciplinary programs with the theological curriculum for eight years. The university provides high-quality education for a wide variety of degrees that foster spiritual growth alongside practical skills. For instance, students working toward their Bachelor of Divinity degree can also take classes in agriculture, crop production and agribusiness.

More than 6,000 Africa University graduates serve across the continent. Many are working to improve public health, food security and the economy. Both students and graduates are on the forefront of developing appropriate and sustainable responses to continental challenges.

To learn more about how Africa University is addressing challenges through interdisciplinary programs, Betty Elrod of the Higher Education and Ministry staff, spoke with the dean of theology, the Rev. Beauty R. Maenzanise. She has been dean since April 2005.

Q: Africa University currently offers two programs that relate to interdisciplinary studies for pastors, Theology and Land Praxis I and II. What are these programs about and what do the students learn?

A: Theology and Land Praxis I applies theological beliefs and ethical principles to the theory and practice of crop production. Theology and Land Praxis II is similar, but focused on livestock production. Students learn theoretical and practical agricultural knowledge within a theological and ethical framework informed by African religio-cultural sources.

Q: Africa University is currently working toward offering a Bachelor of Arts and Master's in Theology and Development. What is driving the creation of these new degree programs?

A: We hope to attract students with an interest in bi-vocational ministry, such as students from other majors who wish to add a religious/theological perspective to their training. We hope to have both of these degrees available by August 2016.

Q: What will the curriculum for these degrees look like?

A: All seven faculties at Africa University, together with our partners, will be asked to give courses. We also are developing "short courses" that will be taught either on weekends or during the summer break. To enhance this course of study, we want to utilize an area on campus called the "Dream Farm" — a piece of land that was intended to be a training ground for surrounding farmers.

Q: How have some of the students benefited from the existing interdisciplinary programs?

A: Students who take the Land Praxis courses learn directly from the Rev. Solomon Mawoyo, who teaches by example. He is the pastor-in-charge at Murehwa Mission located in the northern part of Zimbabwe and leads his congregation in crop production. He also domesticates animals (such as) pigs, turkeys and chickens. He trains people in the surrounding communities to be self-sustainable, and the students learn firsthand how he does that.

Q: How else have you seen the local and surrounding communities directly benefit from interdisciplinary studies?

A: Pastors are planting gardens at their parsonages and on their own plots, which demonstrates their partnership and dedication to the community. Some of our international students are building relationships with the new farmers around the school, who then work together to grow vegetables.

The Rev. Beauty R. Maenzanise received her Ph.D. in liturgical studies from Casperson School of Graduate Studies, Drew University. In April 2005, she was appointed dean at Africa University and in 2013 was the first African female to be a plenary speaker at the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. She also holds a Master of Philosophy in liturgical studies, Master of Sacred Theology and Master of Divinity, all from Drew. Maenzanise has shared her knowledge around the world, with attention to African theology, the role of women and children in the church and society, and incorporating African religious practices into Christian worship.