’Where there is a challenge, there is an advantage’ – Archbishop Mugalu
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/08/where-there-is-a-challenge-there-is-an-advantage-archbishop-mugalu/
After his enthronement as the 9th Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda on March 1, 2020, Dr. Stephen Kazimba Mugalu became the Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU) in line with the institution’s Charter. The Rt. Rev. Kazimba was officially inaugurated as UCU’S Chancellor on March 20, 2020. His leadership has been hindered by the Uganda government order closing academic institutions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. In this July 16 interview with John Semakula, the new Archbishop and UCU chancellor discussed challenges and opportunities for education, Christians and the church.
How long have you been connected with UCU?
I am an alumnus of Bishop Tucker Theological College, which trained me many years ago. When the University was beginning, and it was a transition from Bishop Tucker to Uganda Christian University, I was a student. I am grateful to God for how far He has taken us and for the way He has kept Bishop Tucker and UCU. And for all those who have been in leadership like the Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo, Henry Luke Orombi and Stanley Ntagali, my predecessor. These were Chancellors. But we have also had wonderful Vice-Chancellors like Prof. Stephen Noll, who was in charge when I was a student, and his successor, the Rev. Cannon Dr. John Senyonyi.
During your short tenure as Chancellor, can you summarize challenges?
Like any other university because of COVID-19, UCU is at the moment experiencing some challenges. After the government imposed a lockdown in March, the University was very ready to offer on-line exams, but because of one reason or the other, the government discouraged the exams that time. That is why I say it’s not only UCU, but also all the other universities because there are no students, and the income is not there.
Some are concerned that UCU’S Vice Chancellor of 10 years, John Senyonyi, is retiring on August 31 at this critical time. What are your thoughts?
What a challenge! But God’s ways are not ours. God’s ways of doing things are incomprehensible. But where there is a challenge, there is an advantage. I learnt this from a missionary called Hudson Taylor. He said: “Your setback can be a setup for your comeback.” So at the time I came as an Archbishop and Chancellor, immediately the country was locked down. But there are other things we are learning together during this critical time. I am so grateful that I was installed as the chancellor just a few days before the lockdown. We are also happy that we are going to have another Vice-Chancellor who is coming in office almost like myself when the country is still under the lockdown. Possibly by the time he comes, maybe there will be change. I am not sure, but we trust God for His leadership.
What message do you have for Dr. Senyonyi, who is retiring?
He became the Vice-Chancellor when I had already left UCU as a student. But I first met him when he was working with the African Evangelist Enterprise, and he did great work. This is the Ministry that was started by the late Bishop Festo Kivengere, a powerful preacher of the Gospel and a teacher. Dr. Senyonyi, I can say, is the product of Bishop Kivengere and I am sure he would be happy to hear that because of his great heart of evangelism, he has reached out to many to ensure that there is transformation. When Dr. Senyonyi came to UCU from the African Evangelist Enterprise and joined as a chaplain, he found that being a university, there was a lot that was needed especially in the area of the chaplaincy. He is the one who put in place the structure we have in the chaplaincy. He ensured real worshiping among students during community hour fellowship. He is a man with a heart for the mission at the University and at all the campuses. In addition, I think because of his passion for the gospel, the University is the Center of Excellence in the Heart of Africa.
How has Dr. John Senyonyi’s spirituality impacted on the UCU community?
UCU is supposed to be the backbone that produces men and women who can bring about transformation in this country. That is the transformation I call conversion of the head, heart and the hands – the holistic and total transformation. When Dr. Senyonyi succeeded Prof. Stephen Noll, I think the later had done great work of mentoring him. You know what we are lacking in most of our institutions today is mentoring. Some people do good work, but mentoring others to succeed them is not something they prioritize. Some even look at their juniors or colleagues as threats because they think they will take over their offices, but one day they will retire. I am sure all we have achieved in the area of spirituality as UCU is linked to Dr. Senyonyi and Prof. Noll. This is definitely important to all of us because without total transformation, we are doing nothing. Actually when employers are looking for the best lawyers in Uganda, priority goes to the UCU Alumni. This is attributed to the total transformation of their heads and hearts. You can’t work well when the heart and mind are corrupted.
Any other attributes to Dr. Senyonyi?
Dr. Senyonyi encouraged all the workers at UCU to put their marriages right. I don’t know whether they were requested kindly or by force, but they ended up appreciating afterwards. But it started with him. I can’t imagine a University like UCU having immoral people, who are cohabiting. I think Dr. Senyonyi did a great work. Dr. Senyonyi also encouraged people to pursue further studies and now we have well equipped professors. So we are going to miss Dr. Senyonyi, but definitely his successor Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi will do a nice job. I want to end with one thing about Dr. Senyonyi. He is a man of integrity; he is committed to God and is a preacher of the Gospel. He accepted Christ long time ago, and I am happy that he is supported by his wife, Dr. Ruth Senyonyi, a professional counselor. Ruth is a daughter of Bishop Misael Kawuma who confirmed me. She has lived to the standard of a daughter of a bishop. She has supported Dr. Senyonyi. Dr. Senyonyi exhibited integrity while dealing with money; a University like UCU is not getting a lot from government. You hear corruption stories in other places. I can’t say that there are no problems at UCU, but they are normal abnormalities. I wish Dr. Senyonyi God’s blessings in his retirement and I the same to the incoming Vice Chancellor.
How do you compare UCU to other Universities in Uganda?
The University itself is admired by other universities in the area of spirituality. Once somebody is touched spiritually, other areas can follow very well. The areas are interwoven. In the other area of order, when you visit UCU, it’s well organized. I go to other campuses and say really? But at UCU, the compound, the buildings and all these other things reflect a wonderful Jesus.
And what does it mean to be a Chancellor of UCU?
It’s very important for everyone to know that this University was founded by the Province of the Church of Uganda. This was mainly to ensure that there is promotion of holistic ministry, which covers three areas of Jesus Christ: teaching, preaching and healing. And because of that, the Charter indicates that the Chancellor of this University must be the Archbishop and one of the roles of the Chancellor is to ensure that he presides over the graduations, and that the values of the Church in the areas of spirituality, and academics are maintained. The Chancellor is therefore the father figure of the University and ensures that all the interests of the founders, like the bishops, are observed.
The Church of Uganda came up with the UCU Sunday in September to promote and support UCU financially. How do you feel about diocese support or lack of support?
Because this University is founded by the Anglican Church, definitely this is a child of the Church and like any other responsible parent, when you have a child you must ensure that you support him or her. And so the Provincial Assembly, which is the supreme body of the Church of Uganda, decided that at least the first Sunday of September would be a UCU Sunday. This is mainly to ensure that every Church in Uganda talks about UCU, and sensitizes the congregation about what the University offers. But also to have the offertory, thanksgiving go towards supporting UCU. That one was agreed upon and I want to ask all Christians and the clergy to ensure that we respect our own resolution. Those who have done it, very well, we are so grateful, but those who are not yet on board, we need to encourage them. But definitely, this has just started. We want to invite the bishops, all God’s people. Let me also make this very clear, the UCU Sunday is not about money. It’s about making UCU known allover Uganda and outside. This is the Sunday we need to use to mobilize for students, and talk about the contribution of UCU to the community.
As the Chancellor, how do you intend to help UCU raise operational funds?
If we are to raise funds for the University, we must begin with me and you reading this story. It’s our responsibility. The way to raise resources is also to mobilize students to come and pay school fees. That is very important. But since this is a private University, we need a lot more resources. I want also to appeal to the government of Uganda to support these private Universities because the students we educate are not private. They are government students and once they graduate, they serve the government. One way of government supporting these Universities is to waive the taxes or remove them on some of the things they use.
Any appeal to UCU partners and donors, who have done a credible job already?
I want to appreciate the donor communities for the way they support the University and I would like to further call upon our partners, the UCU friends. I know that there is donor fatigue, but I appreciate you so much the way you support us. We are also aware that there are those who do not know how to support us. Please you can do it in any way. You can connect us to someone who can donate a gift to the university. You can support us by giving us scholarships to equip our professors with Masters and PhDs. You can give partial scholarships or help our students who want to study abroad. By doing so you are supporting the University. And lastly, praying for the University. But as you know, prayer goes with actions. Faith without action is nothing, says St. James.
Why should someone study from UCU?
Outside all the other reasons that I have already given, I and all the other bishops in Uganda plus many prominent Ugandans are products of UCU. UCU has wonderful professors. I am inviting students to apply for any course they want, let it be education, law or mass communication, you will be blessed by studying at UCU. We embraced e-learning already before COVID-19, and it’s the way to go so join UCU.
How are you helping to ensure that the Churches that have been closed since March 23 in Uganda due to the coronavirus pandemic are reopened?
I don’t agree that the Churches have been closed since March. It’s the buildings that have been closed. Actually we have many Churches that have been opened during this period. I minister every Sunday to over 10,000 people using live streaming and television and this is the way to go. But sure, we are lacking fellowship, because I preach to many people, I don’t see them. But we have collaborated with other religious leaders to come up with a strategy called spiritual standard operation procedures, which we have submitted to the COVID-19 national task force to study. In the strategy, we have indicated that whoever will come to Church must have a mask. We have ushers to ensure that it’s done. Whoever doesn’t have a mask will not be allowed in Church. So we are organized. We shall also have sanitizers at every Church. And everyone entering Church will be required to wash their hands. In between the services, we shall have to spray before another begins. For the offertory, there will be a stick used to hold the bag where money is put. On the number of services, where we have been having three, we can have five or even six to ensure physical distancing. We are more ready and it will be a matter of sensitizing people. If we tell the flock to sit, it does, and to stand, it does which no politician can do. And we have divine authority.
Some pastors have called for protests against the continued closure of Churches?
We are not supporting things like demonstrations and protests, we are peaceful people and we encourage dialogue. COVID-19 is there and we are aware and what we have proposed in the strategy is to help government to know that we are ready to cooperate because you can’t close Churches and open Kikubo one of the busiest places in the city center. We are more organized than the traders in Kikuboand in the shopping malls and arcades.
How is the Church caring for retired bishops under COVID-19?
Definitely, it’s a very big challenge. The Province has always catered for retired bishops through their dioceses. But due to COVID-19, there some dioceses that have no means of income to ensure that they care for the incumbents and those who retired. It’s a challenge I now have as the Archbishop to ensure that we come up with the income generating activities to address. And the Church must realize that the old tools can’t solve the new challenges. We must do business, do farming, plant trees and this must apply even to our University. We must look for new tools even in the way we communicate. Old tools don’t apply. I am ready to bring more changes.
How have you avoided money temptations as a top Church leader?
Transparency, accountability and integrity are all Christian Values. We must embrace them because it’s the teaching of Jesus Christ in Mathew Chapter 5:13-14. You must be the lamb and salt of the world. It’s Jesus who saved me on March 7, 1984. Ever since I got saved, I discovered a secret in being transparent and accountable. This is what an American evangelist said about integrity: It is something you do at night, and in broad daylight. I want to call upon all God’s people. We must be transparent. Once you tamper with transparency, you block God’s blessings for you, your children and your children’s children.
The interviewer, John Semakula, is a graduate of Master of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies of Uganda Christian University (UCU). He is the supervisor of The Standard newspaper and lecturer of journalism and communication at UCU. John worked as a Senior Writer with the New Vision newspaper for eight years.
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