When I use the word “seminary” or phrase “theological college,” certain images might pop into mind. When thinking about Bishop Gwynne College, I’d get rid of most of those right away. They’re not helpful in picturing this place.
This week I’ve been continuing to sit in on classes, worship, and meals with the students and pondering the differences between my own school, Yale Divinity School, and Bishop Gwynne College.
At Bishop Gwynne, we haven’t had electricity the whole time I’ve been here and the water has been out the past few days. The former has turned me into an outlet nomad to keep the computer charged enough to write these posts. The latter has made me a sticky, sweaty mess. Such is the life.
The library at Bishop Gwynne has about 200 volumes total, though it is growing rapidly. I take it as a sign of divine providence, however, that as I was browsing the shelves I came across An Anglican Turning Point by Stephen Bayne. I spent a lot of time with this book last semester for a paper and liked it so much I went in search of my own copy. It is long since out of print but after much searching I found one. All that time, however, there was a copy sitting here, likely having survived much of at least one of Sudan’s civil wars.
There’s no chapel so the four daily services are outside in the courtyard. Since there are several tribes represented here, each evening there is rotating choir. One evening a song is Dinka, another evening it’s in Nuer, and so on. It’s kind of neat to compare the musical styles.
There are only a handful of faculty – four, really, at the moment – with one or two more on the way, God willing. They all work really hard and each teach a wide variety of subjects. And the students work really hard as well. They are in the library or in the courtyard, working on assignments and sharing the limited books with each other.
One of the courses I sat in on this week was Agriculture. I’ll have a longer post about this at some point but agriculture is a huge opportunity for south Sudan and the Episcopal Church of Sudan is helping to lead the way. ECS is one of the only NGOs in the country with a presence in virtually every village. If its priests could teach people to farm in a sustainable way, the possibilities are endless, addressing hunger, poverty, and economic growth all at once.
Not only was it neat to learn about agriculture with a bunch of priests, but I learned lots of fascinating things as well. Did you know there are male and female papaya trees? And that if you “shock” the male one, it can become female? When it comes to papaya, males, it turns out, are pretty useless.
More pictures, especially of the agriculture class, are online here.