The University of Venda’s Department of Human Sciences, Theology Section under the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education has on Thursday, 19 August 2021 hosted a successful virtual Annual Lecture series under the theme: ‘The Church in the Midst of Covid-19 Pandemic: Theology of Lamenting, Healing and Hope’. This lecture series took place on Microsoft teams.
The three speakers who were drawn from various theological backgrounds critically reflected on three sub-themes.
Prof Christina Landman who has a systematic theology background that includes interests in Church Polity and Pastoral Counselling, presented the keynote address on the Theology of Lamenting.
Prof Gordon Dames from a Practical Theology background and whose academic interests include African contextual transformational practical theology, ethnographic ecclesial studies and life narrative and practice-oriented research in leadership and spirituality, presented on the Theology of Healing.
Dr Kelebogile Resane who has researched broadly on New Apostolic Reformation, Pentecostal theology, and public theology in general presented on the Theology of Hope.
Prof Christina Landman from the University of South Africa, who is the first woman to become a Professor of Theology from a South African University and a C2 NRF rated researcher, addressed the issue of how the church is to deal with the Covid-19 during this devastating period of national catastrophe, Covid-19 pandemic. Prof Landman outlined the church’s role in lament as one that gives a voice to those who weep in silence. Through lament the church starts the process to listen to God’s voice for those who experience God as absent, and it is through this theology that the church seeks to recover communion with God. She further elucidated that the church should not only lead in lamenting, but also in jubilance, rejoicing in the God of Possibilities.
Prof Landman illustrated the Theology of Lament through five Sermons that identify features of lament and rejoice. The Sermons were based on Exodus 31:1-5 – the story of Bezalel; Psalm 91; Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 43:1 and Genesis 8:1-12. Through these sermons, she emphasised the need for people to have an opportunity to lament the deaths of their loved ones.
This was followed by a presentation by Prof Gordon Dames who is a full professor in practical theology at UNISA. He is a C3 NRF rated researcher. His presentation was based on an academic point of view. His talk was around the church in the midst of Covid-19: Theology of Healing. In his presentation Prof Dames indicated that he saw a need for a multidisciplinary approach to address challenges posed by Covid-19, that we need a ministry praxis of care and Africa is ideally poised to reframe the values of society. He spoke about a need for the prophetic voice of the church to address socio-economic challenges.
He added that there is a Kairos moment for the church during this pandemic to develop gender-based violence ecclesial public pastoral interventions. He revealed that focus should be placed on Jesus Christ as the medicus/healer.
“Covid-19 brought a traumatised culture to the people”; hence, the people were faced with a Eurocentric challenge: the commercialisation and corporatisation of medicine and healing. He went on to convey that we need to expose religious leaders who exploit the poor. The church needs to regain the urgency to proclaim the Gospel as the good news. To offer an integrative and holistic theology of suffering and healing; so that an authentic Africanised contextual theological praxis of healing and wellness may be developed.
When expounding on the Theology of Hope, Dr Kelebogile Thomas Resane from the University of the Free State spoke about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences on various sectors and religious spaces. Dr Resane said the church government trust level is at its lowest ebb; however, the church will struggle, experience trauma, and find new hope. He affirmed that there is always a crisis that precedes hope. Further to this, he illustrated through biblical history how hope is not a new theme across the disciplines and that hope implies a progressive increase in knowledge, setting aside superstition and prejudice. Dr Resane continued to express that hope is not irrational and that human life is impossible without hope. The church has the responsibility to exercise Kerygma (the proclamation of the word), Koinonia (fellowship) and Diakonia (the acts of service/love). Theology of hope is audible through preaching, exercised through service and experienced through fellowship.
Dr Resane explained that pandemics are not permanent, we will in the end conquer and go back to our normal way of life.” He advised attendees to be resilient because perseverance comes from resilience. “Resilience means bouncing back from a difficult situation to a normal situation.” The church always survives cosmic challenges, and we should maintain theocratic focus. He imparted the significance of the virtue of Huponeno (steadfastness and patience) and that as a communal ecclesia we must embrace the Theology of hope. In his conclusion, Dr Resane stipulated that the theology of hope holds a substantive message that rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Theology lecture series was declared officially open by the Executive Dean Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, Prof Bongani Bantwini. In his opening remarks, Prof Bantwini started his talk by wishing a happy women’s month to women. He touched on the issue of Covid-19 and how at first people were very sceptical, to the extent of believing that the virus only kills a particular race. He indicated that Covid-19 has severely disrupted everyone’s life. “Life for many of us has made a 360-degree turn. We all need to know the role of church during this difficult time. I believe the power of knowledge has the potential to save a lot of people’s lives.” Prof Bantwini thanked Theology section for organising this significant lecture series during this difficult time.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning, Prof Jan Crafford conveyed words of appreciation to the speakers, leaders of faith-based organisations and all the attendees. He noted the need of decolonisation and Africanisation of the curriculum as expressed by one of the guest speakers. He concluded by expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education for arranging a well organised Annual Lecture Series.
Prof Mokgale Makgopa, Dean of the School of Human and Social Sciences had a privilege to propose a vote of thanks to this prestigious august occasion of the 2021 Annual Lecture series. The School of Human and Social Sciences annual lecture series were launched in 2016 under the auspices of Professor Mokgale Makgopa and resulted in three books publications.
The Head of the Department of Human Sciences, and a senior lecturer in the Theology section, Dr Lufuluvhi Mudimeli acknowledged the participants and chaired the session.
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Date: 20 August 2021