Original Research

We know to whom we belong? The drama of ministerial practice in a postcolonial African context

Ian A. Nell
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 39, No 1 | a1822 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v39i1.1822 | © 2018 Ian A. Nell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 October 2017 | Published: 31 May 2018

About the author(s)

Ian A. Nell, Department of Practical Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


We are busy celebrating 500 years of reformation and one of the basic convictions of the reformers was that we know to (W)whom we belong. During the student uprisings that we experienced in 2015 and 2016, it became clear that the notion of ‘belonging’ was deeply contested. Students still experience that black people are socially, economically and psychologically abused by the white systems, including university campuses.

In empirical research conducted in 2016 with colleagues from five other faculties, these feelings and experiences of exclusion, of not belonging and of injustice among theology students and even some lecturers, were confirmed. This led to the basic research question focused on the subject field for which I am responsible at the Faculty of Theology: how do we work together as lecturers and students to help create such spaces of human dignity in the training of students who are busy preparing for ministry practice in a postcolonial African context in which they experience belonging? This article endeavours to provide an answer to this question.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The empirical part of the research was conducted by colleagues from five different faculties including Arts and Science, Engineering, Law, Education and Theology. In that sense, the research was not only intradisciplinary but also interdisciplinary.


Reformation; belonging; decolonization; practical theology


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