Rev. Maudy Muchanyereyi likes to say that her career in higher education “found her.” A member of The United Methodist Church’s Zimbabwe Episcopal Area, Muchanyereyi stepped into the role of chaplain at Africa University after serving as pastor at a community church, and faith guided her again when she decided to take the first steps toward a Ph.D.
She is one of 13 students in the inaugural class of the new joint doctoral program between Africa University and Wesley House Cambridge.
“This Ph.D. program will help me realize my dream to become an effective researcher,” said Muchanyereyi. “The challenges and uncertainties faced by the 21st century Church not only calls for theologians who just interpret scriptures but dynamic individuals who can market the Church and make it competitive to draw souls to Christ.”
Muchanyereyi, like her fellow students in the program, works in a career where faith and higher education intersect. Now that she is preaching on campus at Africa University, she wanted to be better prepared to grapple with that intersection and shape it into the future.
“As a university chaplain, the position in itself calls for one to be academically advanced as a way of inspiration, and as a role model to the community that I lead,” she said.
For Muchanyereyi, it is particularly important that female students see her serving in this pastoral role and earning her doctorate.
“Few women in my church have attained this level of education. Therefore, this could pave the way for women clergy to further their studies. The program offers me the opportunity to try new things and prove that as a woman, gender is not a limiting factor,” she explained.
Muchanyereyi also feels that this unique program will create a forum for African theologians to share their insights and build a strong pipeline for disseminating their knowledge in schools and communities.
“I’m passionate about creating forums where Africans gather themselves to carry out critical dialogue on different theological issues specific to our context,” she said. “Who else, but the Africans themselves, would give the proper interpretation and analysis of their own theological experiences?”
Muchanyereyi plans to focus her dissertation research on the African theological experience.
“I am attracted majorly to African Christian Theology, bearing in mind that as much as the UMC is a connectional church, theology is never done in a vacuum but is influenced by its context. It is my desire to explore how contextual matters have impacted the Church in Zimbabwe,” she said.
Muchanyereyi sees Africa University as the perfect place to launch her studies because of the great diversity on campus. Students come from all over the content of Africa, and while there are many Christians, there are also students of other faiths including Islam and African traditional religions. She plans to dive into the multifaceted community with her research and use comparative analysis to show how different faiths can coexist, share ideas and collaborate.
Although it is still early in her studies, Muchanyereyi already expects the joint doctoral program to have a high impact.
“The dialogue and interactions are invaluable in making one a better theologian or student in Christian religion,” she said.
Stay tuned for more “Meet the Scholars” profiles of the first Africa University-Wesley House doctoral class.
About the joint program: The Africa University-Wesley House joint doctoral program is designed to expand the teaching and research capacity for United Methodist institutions in Africa by increasing the number of educators with doctorates and a deep knowledge of local needs and contexts. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Central Conference Theological Education Fund (CCTEF) have both provided financial support to make this possible.
About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.