Tommie Watkins, Jr.
As part of my formation and education process at The General Theological Seminary, I was able to travel to and spend time among our fellow brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. While working as a seminarian at the Church of the Resurrection, Bonteheuwel, Capetown, South Africa, I was able to experience the land, languages, culture, and Christianity in a wonderful international setting.
This placement was funded by the Seminary Consultation on Ministry (SCOM) which encourages seminarians within The Episcopal Church to explore cross-cultural field opportunities to diversify our religious, political, social, and spiritual experiences by engaging in “programs with a variety of foci, such as youth ministry, church-planting and congregational development, rural and small church ministries, lay formation and education in mission, and ministries to particular language groups (e.g., Hispanic, Asian).”
These experiences are meant to enable seminarians to develop a deep sense of self and relational knowledge by directly interacting with Christians of different races and ethnicities. Such was my experience in South Africa.
I had the unique and privileged opportunity to live in Capetown, South Africa, near the city center. From the window in my apartment, I could see both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, which are two prominent and distinct land wonders that define the city, contrasted with the “Cape Flats,” Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, and Langa Townships, which are also marvels of poverty that define Capetown as well.
The seasonal temperatures and calm city sounds enabled me to reflect daily on life and the blessings I so often forget to remember – food, running water, shelter. Prayer and personal reflection were central to my experience and as such I became enamored with the beaches. There I could experience the “Four-Fold God” – water, wind, sand, and sun – perfectly illuminated at the sunsets. To experience God in others was equally spectacular, as I was able to serve and preach for a parish with a congregation of 2000, and an average Sunday attendance of 550. Perceiving God in others was important in shaping and reinforcing my concept of the awe and wonder inherent in being a part of this “wonderful and sacred mystery” we call the Body of Christ.