Coming together at AICMAR

The Second AICMAR* Graduation took place on Friday 20 January in Butere, western Kenya. Quite apart from the vibrant gathering of people, important elements in the development of BUILD came together at the event. These included the completion of studies by BUILD trainees (despite difficulties posed by Covid-19), the presence of provincial officers of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), and formal recognition from St Paul’s University, Limuru (SPU).

At the heart of the event, opened by Bishop Rose Okeno, were 26 BUILD graduands and 57 from the Lay Christian Education by Extension programme (LCEE). The BUILD students received an AICMAR Diploma in Bible, Theology and Leadership, having attended a day-release programme that began in late 2019. The cohort actively organised and supported themselves, with an appetite for learning together that sustained them through the trials of the pandemic (they shifted to WhatsApp-based learning at times, and navigated the various lockdowns and restrictions with grace and determination). What an achievement.

The LCEE certificate students are part of an ACK-wide initiative under Revd Walter Omudokolo’s leadership, described in an earlier post.  Congratulations to them, too. And from a BUILD perspective they represent a well-prepared pool of learners in ten centres across Kenya who can enter the BUILD programme as trainee-trainers: LCEE and BUILD have a ‘Working Together’ MOU designed to feed and strengthen both of these ACK capacity-building initiatives. Walter was there at the graduation proudly introducing the programme.

So, too, was Revd Sammy Atsali Mangu. Sammy is Missionary Clergy of the Diocese of Butere, released to BUILD in the ACK both as a Regional Coordinator for western Kenya and as an itinerant BUILD missionary to Gambella Diocese, Ethiopia, described last month. Sammy explained the work of BUILD, applauded the achievements of the students, and thanked all those involved.

Sammy also acted as Chaplain to Guest of Honour, Rt Revd Prof Joseph Galgalo. Prof Galgalo’s presence was apt: he recently left SPU and has taken up the role of Provincial Secretary for the ACK (and begun his work as Assistant Bishop of All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi). How wonderful that he could witness the event, with two ACK key programmes coming together at a significant regional centre that has such promise. He spoke clearly of the need to train people deeply in the word of God, and of the fact that “there is no better way of doing it than through strengthening theological education”.

On both those aspects – Province and University – it is important to mention two other guests: Mr Wilberforce Wangalwa and Prof Esther Mombo. Mr Wangalwa is the ACK’s Provincial Director of Education and Training: it was wonderful to hear his speech with his clear passion for practical, transformational learning that will “impact the people”. And Prof Mombo is based at SPU as a Lecturer in the Faculty of Theology, as well as being the Chairperson of AICMAR’s Governing Council. Prof Mombo gave a particularly significant speech for BUILD, which is worth quoting from at some length:

“I have good news for the BUILD course, as I speak as one representing St Paul’s University. That the BUILD course has now been accredited by St Paul’s University. [Applause.] Accreditation is important, very important in this era of not only fake news, but also fake certificates. Fake certificates do not take us anywhere but they destroy our communities; St Paul’s University has accredited the BUILD course. It is going to be important because you will then walk proudly knowing you are carrying a certificate that is recognised and that is accepted and that is accredited… And because it is accredited we do hope that it will attract more students. Not just to make the name of AICMAR but to ensure that there are people learning… those who work with us in our churches, working from a position of knowledge not ignorance.”

This is a significant breakthrough for both AICMAR and BUILD. While there had previously been a collaboration with a local university, SPU is a centre-piece for theological education in the ACK: recognition there opens up possibilities for accredited, BUILD-based courses at other institutions and colleges. There were immediate signs that this recognition will indeed attract new students from other churches, strengthening the mission of the church locally. It was encouraging to see Pentecostal bishops and other leaders at the event, and to hear of their intentions to send students to the BUILD course at AICMAR, which is, after all, an interdenominational evangelical institute.

*African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research