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Historic link with Huron College Canada

Posted by St Philips Theological College on May 6, 2011 at 2:49 PM

The Painting in the Attic: Huron College in Tanzania On the third floor of Huron University College, in what is now our Attic Club, hangs a watercolour of a stately colonnaded building backed by a mountain range. If you look closely at the painting you’ll see at the bottom the words “Huron Training College, Kongwa, E. Africa.” A few years ago Huron Theology professor Gary Badcock, his curiosity piqued, resolved to track down the source of this painting and its connection to our own College’s history. With the help of Theology student Jacqueline Marr and the Huron Diocesan Archives, he was able to recover for our current community a remarkable episode in Huron’s past. The painting, as it turns out, is the work of the Reverend T.B.R. Westgate, drawn to illustrate an article he published in the May 15, 1919, Canadian Churchman about an institution he had recently founded in East Africa. Who then was T. B. R. Westgate, why did he build this College, and why did he choose Huron for its name? Jacqueline Marr’s research into the Diocesan archives yielded answers to all these questions. The book T. B. R. Westgate: A Canadian Missionary on Three Continents, housed within the archives, tells the story of a man born in 1872 in Watford, Ontario, educated at Huron College, ordained deacon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1896 and priested a year later. Westgate went on to a career as a missionary that spanned 45 years and included service in Paraguay, German East Africa (now Tanzania), and finally in Canada as Secretary of the Indian and Eskimo Residential School Commission of the Missionary Society of the Church of England. In 1913, at Huron College’s request and in connection with our Golden Jubilee, Westgate was in fact honoured with the doctorate of divinity awarded by The University of Western Ontario. As I read further about Westgate, I learned that during his 15 years in East Africa he nourished a vision that European missionaries should, as soon as possible, stand aside and let the Africans build and independently lead their own Church. To achieve this vision, he knew that education and theological training were essential, and no less essential was the founding of a college for this purpose. In the lead-up to the celebration of Huron College’s Golden Jubilee, Westgate began to approach his fellow Huron alumni to contribute to a fund for the establishment of a training school for indigenous Christian leaders in East Africa. His efforts bore fruit, and in recognition of the generous Huron graduates who had supported his cause (along with the Rural Deanery of East and West Middlesex), Westgate named the new institution Huron Training College—hence, the painting that hangs in Huron’s Attic Club. The institution that Westgate founded exists to this day, although it now goes by the name St. Philip’s Theological College. Since Gary and Jacqueline completed their research, our faculty and students have reached out by e-mail to their counterparts at St. Philip’s to re-establish a connection. And this past spring, when I was given an opportunity to travel to Tanzania to visit a project Huron University College currently has underway in partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam, I made contact with the Principal of St. Philip’s and was invited to come to their campus as part of my journey. About six hours by bus from the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, St. Philip’s is situated in the Diocese of Mpwapwa, near the village of Kongwa against the backdrop of the spectacular Kiboriani mountain range. It is one of two provincial (national) Anglican theological colleges in Tanzania and, remaining true to its founding, is theologically evangelical and “low Church.” The College offers two three-year programs to prepare graduates for ministry—a certificate taught in Swahili and a diploma taught in English—with the curriculum of each program essentially the same. Altogether St. Philip’s enrols about 70 students, 40 in the diploma and certificate programs and 30 in the Wives’ Course. There has been, for much of the College’s history, a two-year Wives’ Course which the spouses of all male students are expected to attend in order to prepare them to be partners in ministry. Wives in residence are allowed to bring with them the couple’s two youngest children, with older children left in the care of extended family members. Although in the past all students studying for ministry were men, the ordination of women is now allowed by local Bishop’s option in Tanzania, and a small handful of the diploma and certificate students at St. Philip’s are women. The sermon at the chapel service I attended was indeed eloquently preached by a female student—on the subject of women’s power as disciples of Christ. I was delighted to discover, as the centrepiece of the campus, the original building erected by the Reverend Westgate, bearing a plaque identifying it as “the original Huron College.” To this building, over the years, have been added classrooms, a chapel, a library, a “mess” where students and their families are fed, water tanks, workshops, a grain mill, offices, and houses for faculty, students, and their families. The buildings are sheltered by stately baobab trees, with tropical flowers and shrubs abounding in the tranquil campus setting. The campus is also dotted with gardens where vegetables are grown to aid the community in supporting itself. It was apparent during my visit that the College is well cared for but resources are scarce. The one-room Library, for example, is small—there is space for only 18 students at a time to study there, so they use it in rotation—but the collection is tidily shelved and maintained. I saw evidence everywhere both of great need and of thrift and good husbandry. Among the greatest needs, I learned, is for a supply of qualified faculty to teach at the College; salaries are low and there is constant turn-over in the teaching staff. The current Principal, the Reverend John Madinda, taught at St. Philip’s some years ago before leaving to earn his master’s degree at Oxford. On his return to Tanzania he was appointed Principal, but he continues to work on a doctorate from Oxford during the summer breaks. The son of a former Bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanzania, John Madinda is a remarkable young leader, devout, intellectually gifted, and tireless in his work of behalf of the College and its students. He and his wife Marlene and their two children (Cornelie, 11, and Ruel, 3) extended gracious hospitality to me throughout my visit. The College’s students were equally gracious during my time with them. Huron’s Theology students had donated funds for me to present to the students of St. Philip’s, and I was presented with gifts and “love greetings” for our students in turn. The President of the student body sent a letter home with me to their “dear associate students” in which he wrote, “We received the gift that you send for us. God’s blessing be all over you.” While at St. Philip’s I was given a copy of a history of the College published in 2002 by a former Principal, Hugh Prentice. Prentice notes in his closing chapter that “The work of St. Philip’s College is now bearing fruit . . . The clergy in those dioceses who foster the Christian lives and ministry vocations of potential Kongwa students are often men and women who have studied in St. Philip’s College, and whose ministry gifts and knowledge of God have increased in maturity through their student years” (210). Prentice concludes, citing the Reverend Westgate, “This is the purpose for which St. Philip’s Theological College was founded in 1913, and which it is fulfilling to the glory of God in the present generation. The College has played its part in ‘the establishment of a native Church among the Wagogo and Wakaguru tribes, and through them, amongst races still unreached on all sides,’ as Westgate expressed its goal in the language of his day” (212). T.B.R. Westgate’s vision of an Anglican Church in Tanzania led by native Tanzanians, to which he devoted 15 arduous years of his life, has been amply realized. The current Huron community can take pride in this fine work done by an alumnus and supported by fellow graduates of his day. In 2013 Huron College will celebrate its sesquicentennial and St. Philip’s its centennial. It is my hope that we can continue to build our relationship with our sister college in Tanzania and find ways to commemorate our anniversaries to the glory of both institutions. Ramona Lumpkin, Principal Huron University College

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3 Comments

Reply Hugh Prentice
12:13 AM on June 3, 2011 
I thank God for this College and for all who study and teach in it. Thank you, Ramona Lumpkin, for your fine article about St Philip's College and its origins through the vision and work of TBR Westgate. My wife, Dorothy, and I plan to be at Kongwa for the Centenary, God willing. May God bless and inspire all who serve Him in the College! Hugh Prentice (20 years on the College's staff).
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