New Chaplain shares personal aspirations and expectations for Uganda Christian University community

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The Reverend-Engineer Paul Wasswa Ssembiro
The Reverend-Engineer Paul Wasswa Ssembiro

The Reverend-Engineer Paul Wasswa Ssembiro is no stranger to Uganda Christian University (UCU). A mechanical engineer, teacher and preacher, his careers have taken him different places, including UCU. He has been an Assistant Lecturer at Makerere University and Kyambogo University, has worked as a Provincial Secretary to the Church of Uganda and served as National Team Leader of African Evangelistic Enterprise. With his education and experience, he emerged in the new role of University Chaplain at UCU, Mukono, when the previous Chaplain, Rev. Nyegenye Rebecca Margaret Ajambo, left for another position at All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala, earlier this year. His official, full-time appointment is effective November 2019. Uganda Christian University Partners spoke with him to learn about his inspiration in the role, his background, and expectations for the larger UCU community.  The interview is edited for clarity.

By Brendah Ndagire

What inspired you to accept the role as Chaplain at UCU?
I have been ministering to UCU since 1999, visiting this campus as a speaker during “Mission Week,” for the student/staff community worship and during chapel time. I have specific gifts, such as oratory skills, leadership, Christian ministry, and my general experience working with a university as it relates to its community. I have preached at Makerere University, Kyambogo University, and at UCU. Comparing audiences at public universities, I think that UCU is a wonderful fit for me.

The Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro outside Principal’s Hall
The Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro outside Principal’s Hall

What does your role as Chaplain entail?
It is a broad role. Primarily, it entails spiritual formation for the university community. Whatever we do as a ministry team within the chaplaincy falls into a wider umbrella of spiritual formation. We pray and believe that as people come to UCU to pursue their studies, they would encounter Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Savior, and find wholeness. We pray that they would grow fully because that is something that is hard to realize in our Christian development.  Spiritual growth is not about information but about formation, and becoming more and more like Jesus. But we also have a resident community among staff members. The chapel ministry serves this community, and the community outside UCU.

Is that an institutional or personal view of the role?
It is a personal view which interfaces with the general institutional view.

What is a scripture that defines your work as a Chaplain?
That is a difficult question. One will be Ephesians 4:11-13, with text that talks about the fact that God appoints ministers for the sake of equipping other people and what other people would do in the ministry … and the goal of ministers God appoints is that people come to the full stature of Jesus Christ. The particular scriptures talks about apostles, teachers,  pastors, prophets, evangelists, and to me, chaplaincy fits into that.

What do you anticipate would be the most difficult part of being a University Chaplain?
The most difficult part would be the fact that the audience (young adults) is trying to discover what God is calling.  I think spiritual stability for  young people enrolled at UCU is a unique challenge that would make walking with them towards spiritual formation an uphill task. This is particularly (challenging) because young people are independent and they want to try out different things before they discover themselves.

The other challenge is that for now we do not have a chapel structure for community engagement throughout the week in terms of organizing activities related to spiritual development.

What do you think are the solutions to the above anticipated challenges?
Inevitably, Uganda Christian University needs to think about coming up with a comprehensive development plan for the chapel. That would include a sanctuary, that is, a place to worship, and hopefully with some outside space where students or staff can meet for other chapel activities. For now we are using Nkoyoyo Hall, and we are grateful. But in terms of a larger place where students or staff can come for prayer meetings, seminars in large or small groups, that is still lacking.

What do you find rewarding about your new role?
The most rewarding aspect of this role is recognizing that UCU is a great gift to Uganda and Africa at large, and it is rewarding to be a part of this community. Secondly, when God gives you the opportunity to pastor a community,  it is important to recognize that you are responsible for sending out people in the community as agents of transformation. Thinking about UCU in particular, it is important for me to recognize that I will be part of the process of three or four years forming the spiritual nature of its students. I think that is truly a great great reward. Part of our work as a Chaplaincy is participating in the training of Anglican priests in Uganda through Bishop Tucker School of Theology, and I consider it a privilege too, to be a part of that process.

What do you think are the major needs of the people (students and staff) you serve at UCU?
First, the staff at UCU needs to recognize that part of the work they are doing here is aiding students to integrate professional development with spiritual formation since UCU is primarily a Christian institution. For example, if I come to teach mechanical engineering, how I train students at UCU matters. The values and ethics I pass on apart from the scientific aspect of the program, would ensure that I am developing an engineering student who is primarily God fearing, a graduate who honors God, with the sense of mission, and who go in a job environment to make a difference and be different in a job market. Thus, UCU staff need to appreciate that calling to make a difference in the lives of the students they are teaching. I hope we walk that journey together.

To the student community, the need is that they are able to find/discover their purpose and calling in God, and also solidify it. There are so many opportunities for serving God in our country, and I hope that we if students are able to participate in spaces we organize at UCU, they would be better equipped to serve our nation fully.

 With your background in engineering, are you hoping to take on the role of teaching in that area at UCU at some point?
I have  a passion for teaching. That is why I call myself a teaching evangelist. I also love my engineering profession but as to whether that would translate into teaching within UCU’s engineering department, is dependent on how stretched I am in the chaplaincy role. But if I got that opportunity to teach engineering, I would see it as a platform for mentoring and supporting someone to develop professionally and rooted in Christian principles and ethical values.

Since you are based at the main campus in Mukono, how are you planning to reach out to students studying at UCU’s regional campuses?
The chaplaincy takes a central role in programming and setting up spiritual programs for students who are not studying at the main campus. We plan that Tuesday and Thursday community worship hours are available to all students through their deans, and/or an appointed chapel representative.


More information about UCU’s Chaplaincy and Bishop Tucker School of Theology and Divinity at Uganda Christian University can be obtained at:

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