In February, I had the chance to teach and learn in a part of the world that I had not yet visited: Nigeria. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach a masters-level course in Methodist Theology and Discipleship at the Methodist Theological Institute in Sagamu. About one hour outside of Lagos, MTI is preparing Methodist leadership in a part of the world where the Church is seeing significant growth.
I had a delightful class of seven students, all of whom are currently serving in ministry in Nigeria. The course is designed as an intensive study. We had seven days to cover all the necessary lectures, readings, exams, papers, and discussion. I enjoyed learning their stories and challenges as we explored our rich common heritage of the movement started by John and Charles Wesley. My favorite story from the trip demonstrates not only our commonalities, but also some of our differences.
Two or three days into the course, a student asked me why I do not wear a clerical collar as all the other lecturers do. Very briefly I explained that it is not common in United Methodist churches in my part of the United States to find clergy who wear clerical collars. While I am not opposed to them for others, it just is not common for us–so much so that I do not even own a clerical shirt and collar. She stepped out of the room and made a phone call. I thought this was quite odd, but chalked it up to a cultural difference.
Ten minutes later, there was a man standing at the door of the classroom. When I asked if he needed some assistance, he pulled a tailor’s measuring tape from his pocket. My students explained that this was the local tailor. They had called him to come and fit me for a clerical shirt and collar, so that I would fit in with the other lecturers on campus. My first properly tailored shirt!
I enjoyed my time of teaching, and learning, in Nigeria. I am thankful for the connections we made there and look forward to our continued growth together. May God richly bless them in their work and our mutual service.
I also had the opportunity to preach at Emmanuel Chapel, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos. It is a vibrant and growing congregation that is embracing its call to ministry in the city. The people were particularly taken with my illustration of the Jubilee that is unique to the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. What a joyful group!