"Living as a Methodist minister in the late twentieth century" : an oral history of Methodist ministers ordained between 1980-1999, with particular reference to clergy serving in the Natal West District.
Very little has been written on the lives of Methodist ministers in Southern Africa. Even less has been written about ministers using oral history as the primary source of information. This paper will seek to capture the stories of some Methodist ministers and then to reflect on their experiences of ministering in the late twentieth century. In order to maintain focus this paper will hone in on the clergy who were ordained in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa between 1980 and 1999. A considerable portion of the initial analysis has been taken from personal interviews with the ministers, focusing mainly on what they have encountered in their ministries. Most of the interviewees are currently serving in the Natal West District, however further valuable feedback has been received from ministers living in other communities around Southern Africa. These thoughts and comments were gathered by means of a questionnaire. This research is further complemented with information gathered by means of a database. This database deals exclusively with all ministers ordained between 1980 and 1999. Making use of simple statistics and comparative figures, a number of results will be reflected upon. This paper will also examine what impact ministerial training has had on the formation of the ministers, as well as their thoughts on further training. Chapters on the burdens of being in the ministry, the effect of politics on the clergy, understanding the reasons for ministers leaving the church and the impact of clergy moving into other forms of ministry have been included. The negative aspects of ministry have been countered by considering the number of blessings of being called into the ministry. This paper will also reflect on what lessons can be learnt from these clergy in order to leave a legacy for future generations of ministers. The ultimate aim of this paper is to give voice to the stories of men and women who have been called to serve God, through the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. It is hoped that the readers of this paper will dignify the oral histories of these ministers and will indeed find them challenging, refreshing, insightful and powerful.