An enduring symbol of Duke Divinity School’s partnership with John Wesley College and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa is a tall white candle wrapped in black barbed wire.
Made by unemployed residents of the impoverished Ivory Park settlement outside Johannesburg, each candle includes the name of the craftsperson who made it and a message about the ministry, which is part of The Nehemiah Project: Helping People Help Themselves. Each candle “celebrates the truth that the light of Christ shines through the darkness, pain and violence in the world.”
These candles are used in daily worship at Duke Divinity School, by spiritual formation groups for all first-year students, and by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, including seminary students and staff at John Wesley College.
The Rev. Simanga Kumalo, who founded the candle ministry while pastor of Ivory Park Methodist Church, was an exchange student at Duke Divinity School last semester. Kumalo shared stories about the challenges of The Nehemiah Project, a joint venture between Ivory Park and Calvary Methodist Church, which is in a nearby predominately white middle-class suburb. Kumalo and Calvary’s pastor, the Rev. Alan Storey, exchanged both pulpits and parishioners in an innovative attempt to model racial reconciliation in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Kumalo is now a doctoral student in Christian education at the University of Natal.
In other developments:
“Each year of the partnership we are making better connections,” said Marley. Through visits from South African scholars and pastors, both the divinity school community and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa have benefited tremendously, she added.
“I sat in on Richard Hays’ lectures at John Wesley and the students’ enthusiasm and engagement with him was amazing. This partnership is a radical thing—an opportunity for listening and story telling that can lead to racial reconciliation. Hopefully we are transformed by those stories.”
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