Training Clergy in Tanzania
The Finnish Orthodox Church has many decades of experience in mission and development work in East Africa. Our Church, and the Foreign Ministry of Finland, have both chosen Tanzania as one the countries to which priority is be given for aid.
Tanzania is a fast-growing and dynamic country with a population of 50 million. Orthodox mission in the area has a strong foundation thanks to the active role of His Eminence, Metropolitan Jeronymos of Mwanza. The Orthodox Church in Tanzania is small, with about 50,000 members and some 40 priests. Training for the priesthood is still in development, but when the Orthodox Theological Academy in Mwanza will be completed, the situation will improve significantly.
Orthodox Church Aid and Missions organization FILANTROPIA and the Association of Orthodox Priests in Finland decided last year to go to Tanzania to assist in clergy training. In January 2014 two Finnish priests, one deacon and a FILANTROPIA worker traveled to Tanzania. The task was to organize a five-day training workshop for local clergy. The themes, such as the Biblical and Early Christian roots of the priesthood, the relationship between a priest and the bishop, the priest’s family life , youth work and certain specific issues of pastoral theology were all suggested by Metropolitan Jeronymos. Instruction was also given in AIDS / HIV issues.
At the beginning of the week clergy were divided into five groups, which met several times a day to discuss a given subject. Then the groups reported back to the whole audience. In this way, the clergy were encouraged to reflect on many things, while, for us teachers, a clearer picture of the Tanzanian clergy and their pastoral and practical problems, joys and sorrows was formed. Finally, the priests offered feedback on the workshop anonymously. A preliminary glance through their comments suggested that our visit was considered useful. Already during the week it became obvious to us that the priests truly appreciated the opportunity to discuss matters with us and each other.
On behalf of his diocese H.E. Metropolitan Jeronymos expressed his readiness to continue this kind of training. FILANTROPIA and Association of Orthodox Priests in Finland must still to decide about any future events – positively, we hope. In this instance FILANTROPIA covered the Tanzanian priests’ travel, accommodation and meal expenses during the workshop. Otherwise, such a training would have been an impossibility.
The Finnish trainers included priests Rauno Pietarinen and Michael Sundkvist, Deacon Jaso Pössi and project manager Aino Nenola of FILANTROPIA. The Group prepared all lectures in advance and the texts were translated by the local diocese into Swahili. Preaching tips for the Great Feasts and the preparatory Sundays for Great Lent were given in between other lectures as “snacks”. These were also well received.
East Africa is in many ways an area of the future. Tanzania’s population is about one-third Christian, one-third Muslim and one-third various nature religions. The population is growing at a rate of 1.5 million persons a year, while the economy grows by 8% per year. Education and health care are being developed.
The Orthodox Church has a huge potential in the country. But success depends on the Tanzanian clergy: their commitment and expertise. Offering continuing education to local clergy is certainly one of the best ways to support the Orthodox Church in Tanzania. FILANTROPIAs investment in girls’ education is also a great choice, because it is precisely the education of girls in developing countries that is a guaranteed way to raise the standard of living and quality of life.