A little less than two years ago the foundation stone of St Andrew’s Church, the first Romanian Orthodox Church in Africa, was blessed on a site in Glen Austin, Midrand. Today the congregation gathered to celebrate the Holy Apostle Andrew, and give thanks for the almost-completed temple.
A brief doxology service was held in the open air next to the temple, to which people from other parishes in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria had been invited.
Of the clergy who attended, each one represented a different nationality, thought we weren’t able to get a photo of all of them together, as Fr Athanasius arrived a bit late and Fr Daniel had to leave a bit early.
In the 1990s there was a visiting Romanian priest in South Africa, Fr Ioan Risnoveanu, and the first regular official priest was Fr Mihai Corpodean, who came in 2002. As there was no church building, and the Church of St Nicholas in Brixton had no priest, the bishop asked Fr Mihai to look after both communies. St Nicholas, which was intended to be multi-ethnic from the start, was happy to add Romanian to its liturgical languages, and still uses Romanian in some parts of the services. A piece of land was bought in Midrand.
In 2008 Fr Mihai left and went to New Zealand, and Fr Razvan came to take his place, and with his encouragement the parish started to build its church, which they hope will be blessed next year. In the mean time the community hold services in the Archbishop’s chapel at the Metropolis in Houghton.
After the service lunch was served in a tent, and Fr Razvan thanked everyone who had contributed to the building of the temple and the building up of the church, including the Patriarch of Alexandria and the Archbishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria, His Eminence Metropolitan Damaskinos, without whose encouragement such progress would not have been possible.
This weekend there were two visitors from the USA at church events we attended.
The first was the patronal feast of St Thomas’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Sunninghill, which was attended by Bishop Mitrophan from the USA, and several clergy from nearby parishes. We were a bit late for Vespers, having got the time wrong.
Bishop Mitrophan is Professor of New Testament at the St. Sava School of Theology in Libertyville, Illinois, USA. After Vespers the congregation had supper in the church hall, while the parish choir sang Serbian folk songs, and then Bishop Mirtophan briefly addressed the people.
Bishop Mitrophan studied in Romania, and has translated several Romanian theological works into Serbian, and among the clergy who attended the celebrations was Fr Razvan Tatu of St Andrew’s Romanian parish in Midrand so they were able to converse in Romanian.
This morning, Sunday, we had another visitor, in more humble circumstances.
Kaycie (Xenia) Simmons, a lay missionary from California, who is working in our diocese for a year, came on the train from Johannesburg to visit our small mission congregation in Mamelodi East. We used to meet in a school classroom, but when they put up the rent to an unaffordable level, we started meeting in the houses of parishioners.
As usual, we had the Hours and Readers Service (Obednitsa), and, in honour of the visitor, a rather sumptuous lunch prepared by Grace Malahlela, in whose house we met.
Kaycie has begun work among children in Brixton who attend St Nicholas Church there, and hopes to start something similar among the children in Mamelodi, and possibly arranging some meetings for women.
The visitors arrived at a beautiful time of the year — late spring, when the jacaranda trees are blooming, and turning the steets and hills blue. We took Kaycie to see some of them, and she returned to Johannesburg in the car wehich our son Jethro helped her to buy, and has just fixed up so she can travel around for her ministry in various places.
Church planting in Madidi
About 18 months ago Fr Markos Manyeke started to build himself a house in Madidi, on the remote north-western edge of the City of Tshwane (actually beyond Klipgat, in North-West Province). He also started to gather a group of people, neighbours, and started to teach them about the Orthodox Christian faith. They worship in a small tin shack just down the road from his house. Last Saturday Fr Athanasius Akunda and I visited them.
The land belonged to a member of the congregation who allowed them to use the land, but he has since died, and there seem to be some problems in settling his estate, so they are looking for a new place to worship.
Fr Markos told us that there were about 15 families involved in the new congregation, and there are more in another place, Mokau, still further away.
One of the members of the congregation had died a couple of weeks earlier, so we had a memorial service for her.
Later this month we are hoping to have a visitor from the USA, Xenia (Kaycie) Simmons, and we hope that, with the blessing of our Archbishop Damaskinos, she will be able to do some catechetical teaching at places like Madidi.
We went to have a look at a piece of land that was for sale, and might be suitable for building at least a temporary church. There is about half a hectare of land available, but we are thinking of perhaps getting one or two 20 x 40 metre plots, since the land is leasehold, not freehold, and so might not be suitable for erecting substantial permanent buildings.