It was a pleasure last week to be back at the Ekwendeni Mission on its stunningly beautiful site in the north of Malawi. The Mission is a busy place, with a major hospital and a girls’ secondary school among its facilities. Added to these longstanding institutions today, is the new and fast-developing campus of the University of Livingstonia.
Like almost every institution, the progress of the University of Livingstonia has been somewhat stopped in its tracks by the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, it continues to expand both its programmes and its facilities. The Ekwendeni campus was a perfect venue for our national theology conference, providing a huge auditorium where we could hold plenary sessions, and spacious, well-ventilated classrooms for the break-out groups. Ample verandas allowed for good social distancing when it was time for tea-breaks and chat.
The conference is being hailed as a resounding success. It was worthwhile in itself as a forum for research to be presented and discussed. But its lasting value might well lie in the foundations that were laid for the “Society” that is expected to unite and coordinate the efforts being made throughout Malawi to develop theological education.
The conference theme, “Decolonizing the Theological Curriculum in an Online Age,” put the onus on us to ensure that the event was online as well as in person. On the whole, it worked well on a “hybrid” basis with those at Ekwendeni and those online enjoying one another’s contributions. I suspect we will not look back. The decolonizing theme struck a chord, as it seems to be doing in many places right now. The colonial experience has cast a long shadow. As we seek to “build back better” after the pandemic, will we be able to step out of it?