The school year is underway and I am enjoying being back in the classroom at Zomba Theological College. It is a College with its roots deep in the history of Malawian Christianity now finding its way in the world of higher education that is emerging in the 21st century.
The history goes back 100 years and more to the time when the Presbyterian Missions realised they needed to train Malawian ministers and therefore needed to offer courses in theology. Over time it made sense to collaborate in this effort and pool their resources so shared institutions were developed at Blantyre and Nkhoma. Following Malawi’s independence in 1964 and the choice of Zomba to be the primary base of the University of Malawi, the decision was taken to establish a united College in Zomba. It was a big moment in 1977 when the new College opened the doors of the new buildings on its beautiful campus near the city centre.
It took as its motto “until we all reach unity in the faith” – from Ephesians 4:13. This remains a vital message for the Presbyterian (CCAP) Church itself as geography, culture and politics can easily divide its three Synods. The College is a tangible expression of their unity. Its ecumenical vision has also allowed it to accommodate students from other churches over the years and today a growing number of private students who are not official ministerial candidates.
ZTC has been a pioneer of theological education in Malawi. At first, it was almost alone in this field, at least so far as the Protestant churches were concerned. Today there is a remarkable proliferation of institutions offering theological education at degree level and beyond. As it seeks to find its way in this new environment ZTC has recently been accorded University status by the National Council for Higher Education. Now it is working through the implications of this new status as it seeks to play its part in the next stage of the development of theological education in Malawi.
Meanwhile it attracts able and motivated students and, for me, it is wonderful to be back on a campus so full of vitality.