Paul Verryn 2009


Paul Verryn was born in Pretoria on 26 February 1952.  He received his calling to the church as a child of five years old at Sunday school, through the inspiration of a Sunday school teacher. He attended St Stithians College in Johannesburg, where he completed his schooling.  Through UNISA he completed his BA, while working part time in a panel-beating shop in order to gain experience in normal everyday life.  But the calling to devote his life to the church remained strong, and at the age of 20 this calling showed him what his life’s purpose was: to serve the church. He decided to enrol for a BA in Divinity at Rhodes University and subsequently serving various congregations of the Methodist church.

From the early seventies to the early eighties he saw to the spiritual needs of congregations in the Eastern Cape, working in the Methodist church in Uitenhage (1973), Southern Transkei (1974-1975), and Grahamstown (1976-1978). In 1978 at the age of 26, he was finally ordained as minister of the Methodist church in East London. This to him was a memorable occasion in his life: “I had a sense of this piece of the journey being accomplished”. His last congregation in the Eastern Cape was in Port Elizabeth where he ministered from 1979 to 1983.  At the time his caring for the good of society reflected in his wide involvement in the National Cancer Association of the Eastern Cape, his chairing of the Detainees Parents’ Support Group, and his chairmanship of Interchurch Aid as well as the Standards Generating Body for Christian Theology and Ministry.

In 1984 he moved back to the then Transvaal, first to the Methodist congregation in Roodepoort where he stayed until 1987, then in 1988 to Soweto, where he went to reside in Orlando West amongst the members of his congregation. At the same time he taught in divinity at the John Wesley College from 1994 to 1997.

Living in Soweto during the turbulent political time of the apartheid years, the Reverend Peter Storey remarks, “Paul won the hearts of the Soweto community through his identification with their struggle”. 

In 1997 Paul Verryn was made Bishop of the Central District of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. This vast congregation stretches from Vryberg in the North West through Midrand to Ennerdale, in South Johannesburg, and contains a group of 60 000 people. Paul Verryn runs various programmes in the congregation, most importantly the “Paballo ya Batho” (meaning “caring for the people”) which consists of an outreach programme for homeless people in the inner city. There is also a night feeding scheme and one which cares for sick street people.

Paul Verryn is or was involved in a wide variety of activities including teaching and training of ministers and most importantly, his spiritual and humanitarian work in caring for people offering shelter to orphans and refugees. His ministry is one of empowerment and encouragement. "The poor are quite robust despite the dissolving of their sense of worth," Bishop Verryn is quoted as saying. He tries to change the economic paradigm, and give people back a “sense of the value of themselves”. The challenge to society he states, is a stronger focus on the poorest of the poor and to “have an emphasis on what Christ did”.

In recognition of his commitment to humanitarian values and the promotion and teaching thereof it is an honour for NMMU to confer the degree of Doctor of Education (honoris causa) on PAUL VERRYN.