By Buhle Andisiwe Made
High-profile Methodist Church speakers including former presiding bishop and head of the All Africa Conference of Churches, Reverend Dr Mvumelwano Dandala, have paid tribute to Makhanda’s retired minister, Reverend Otto Nkululeko Ntshanyana, describing him as one of their own stalwarts and unsung heroes in the church.
An elegant circuit fundraising gala dinner was held at the Monument in Makhanda on 9 September, filled with glitz and glam. It was a night for Methodist Church congregants to show up in style and dress for a cause. Dandala, his friend and former colleague was the keynote speaker and extolled his fellow clergyman, reminiscing about the times spent in Gqeberha (then Port Elizabeth) at the PE North Circuit 218 churches.
Dandala also mentioned Ntshanyana’s fight against the Apartheid regime, even though it was unconventional at the time for the clergy to involve themselves in politics. Dandala highlighted that men like Ntshanyana stood firm in their belief in inclusion and freedom.
Ntshanyana was also a teacher and his Grade Six class of 1974 spoke about his humility and remarkable teaching techniques, his standards and selflessness as a teacher and true Christian. The former learners emphasised the words of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” They recapped an incident in their year where Ntshanyana saved a child from drowning in sewage when a toilet had fallen in on them. Ntshanyana’s former learners said he had significantly changed their perspective about helping others, and they had gained immense respect for the person he was – a man of faith, driven to serve God’s word.
Ntshanyana’s son, Nkosinathi Ntshanyana, spoke highly of the man his father is and the role model he has become now, not only to him but to others as well. He captured the audience with cheerful anecdotes and hearty memories. He also shed light on the certain complexities he faced as a child of a preacher – dealing with moments of dissociation and jealousy based on feeling as though he and his siblings had to share their father with others. Growing up, he saw and understood that his father’s purpose was to serve the church and assist where he could. “In church, we found family”, he said.
Ntshanyana began by thanking his dearest wife, saying that he was grateful to have had such a special woman by his side. He further commended the kindness she had shown him and her support throughout their marriage and his career. Ntshanyana acknowledged Dandala and recalled a time when they and another young man were ordained as young preachers and dubbed “amakwenkwe amathathu” (the three boys) by the church.
Speaking of the privilege of becoming a priest, Ntshanyana said “Umnta nxa emvumile uThixo kufuneka ungamqomfi”. Acceptance of faith may look different amongst different people, but as people of faith, we cannot dismiss others due to their unfamiliar practices. Ntshanyana said he felt comfortable and driven to become a priest, a sort of ‘calling’ for him, concluding, “I was content being a minister of the church.”
Those in attendance wished Reverend Ntshanyana well for the rest of his career and life, expressing gratitude for his service and commitment to the Methodist denomination.