Bishop Gwynne vs. YDS

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.

2 thoughts on “Bishop Gwynne vs. YDS

  1. Kelly

    My church recently had a visit from a missionary couple who work/teach at a seminary in Indonesia, Merauke to be exact. That’s along the southern coast of the Indonesian part of New Guinea. A lot of what you’re writing reminds me of their situation.

    The husband teaches at the seminary and is having to develop a different way of teaching because a majority of their students have not been taught how to think critically. Additionally they come from a background of evil spirit worship. They are not familiar with the concept of a God who is good. In their culture everything they do is to keep from angering the “gods”, not doing things to please and praise.

    Something the missionary wife talked about reminded me of your time in Itipini. She is teaching the wives of the students to read and write. She’s concentrating on the teenage girls, but it’s a slow process and she only has them for a couple hours a day.

    John Hyatt, a member of my church who is the son of missionaries in this same part of the world, told of a situation where a woman gave birth to twins. The usual response is to leave the second child in the jungle to die because it is an evil spirit. His parents rescued one of these babies and raised it for a few years.

    John’s mother also battled the tradition of not bathing a newborn for two weeks by bargaining with the mothers. She’d give them a blanket for the baby, if they’d let her wash them. As these changes take place, maybe the villagers will see that nothing bad happens to the twin that’s allowed to live or the washed babies and their families. From that, hopefully, comes some trust in the words and actions of the missionaries.

    I’m becoming aware of what a different world there is out there, beyond our little sphere here in the USA. What a sacrifice missionaries make, but what a challenge to everything they know.

    I don’t know where your varied adventures will take you, but I’m glad you’re my nephew and I can’t wait to read more of your story.

    I love you. Take care.

  2. Pingback: Rarely is the question asked: Is our priests learning? Or, In defense of (my) seminary education | Mission Minded

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