Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “South African Orthodoxy”


I’ve been tagged for the 10-20-30 meme by Matt Stone. It has to do with what you were doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago. My story?

10 years ago

Sunday, 26 October 1997

We went to Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Annunciation. They had moved back into the church, and the new ikons by Maria Manetta were beautiful. They seemed to glow with a light of their own.

That was from my journal. The Church of the Annunciation in Pretoria is the biggest Orthodox temple in the Southern Hemisphere, and Maria Manetta was an ikonographer from Greece who had just finished installing new ikons in the dome, and while the church was filled with scaffolding services were held in the hall (hence “moved back into the church”.

I was working at the Editorial Department of the University of South Africa, and was also working on my doctorate in Missiology. Our daughter Bridget had just gone to study theology in Greece (10 years later she’s still there, working on her masters).

20 years ago

Monday, 26 October 1987
I went to work by car, and read Orthodoxy and the religion of the future, which seemed to regard the charismatic movement as demonic and pagan, as Ann d’Amico does. In the afternoon I left work early and went past Bishop’s House, and lent Rich Kraft some of my Foghorn magazines, about Osborne computers. He said Pete & Isobel Beukes were staying with them, and were thinking of coming to work in Pretoria. I went to Makro, where I hoped to be able to buy a cheap microwave oven, but they were all sold out. I bought some envelopes and a tin of coffee instead. We had letters from Theophilus Ngubane and Nora Pearson. Theophilus said that several clergy were leaving Zululand diocese, including the new dean, Father Kow. It sounded quite sad. In the evening I took Bridget to the junior school choir at DSG.

That was my journal entry. Rich Kraft was the Anglican bishop of Pretoria, whom I had known for many years, since he had been university chaplain when I was a student. Pete Beukes was an Anglican priest from Zululand as was Theophilus Ngubane, and Pete’s wife Isobel had been a fellow-student with me at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. DSG was St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria, where our daughter Bridget was in Standard III (Grade 5).

I was working in the Editorial Department at the University of South Africa, and we were about to be received into the Orthodox Church (on 8 November).

30 years ago

Wednesday 26 October 1977

Someone phoned from the Archbishop’s office in Bishopscourt, saying that Cathy Thomas, of the Daily News, was asking what was happening with the SB and the church in Utrecht. I explained that the papers had published half the story, in relation to the opening of my letter to Lawrence Wood by the Department of the Interior, and so I thought they should have the full story, at least as far as I knew it, to keep the record straight. I also had a letter today from the Secretary for the Interior, saying that my application for the renewal of my passport had not been successful. The letter was dated 7 October, and thus after my letter to Lawrence Wood had been opened by the Department of the Interior, so I can only conclude that if one wants a passport, one does not write to opposition members of parliament. I sent a photostat of the letter from the Secretary for the Interior to Lawrence Wood for his information, but felt that he would not do much, as there is to be a general election at the end of November, and he will not be standing, but will be stepping down for his son Nigel, who will stand for the New Republic Party in his place. I don’t think the New Republic Party stands much of a chance in the election. They are too new as a party, and will not have had time to get themselves organised. Wynand Rautenbach is the local leader in Melmoth, and Doris Leitch is also involved, but they did not seem to be at all well organised, and the announcement of the general election had obviously caught them on the wrong foot.

I had recently moved from Utrecht to Melmoth in Zululand, where I was Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, and Director of Training for Ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand. What had happened in Utrecht was that one of our churches had been closed at gunpoint my a Mr Klingenberg of Commondale, who owned the land on which the church stood, apparently at the behest of the Security Police, who had also hired a Mocambiquan refugee to spy on us. Lawrence Wood was an opposition MP for Berea, formerly of the United Party, which had just become the New Republic Party, and was virtually wiped out in the elections, and it disappeared from the political scene soon afterwards.

I tag Dion, David and the Young Fogey.

Baptism at St Thomas’s Church, Sunninghill

On Sunday 17 June eight members of our mission congregations at Klipfontein View and Mamelodi were baptised St Thomas’s Serbian Orthodox Church at Sunninghill Park, Johannesburg.

There was also a team from the Orthodox Christian Mission Centre in the USA, who are visiting South Afrrica on a short-term mission for the next few weeks.

St Thomas’s is the closest Orthodox Church to Klipfontein View, and the candidate from Mamelodi was a cousin of most of those from Klipfontein view.

There are more pictures of the baptism on my LiveJournal.

Orthodox youth conference and monastic tonsure

The weekend of 7-10 December was a historic occasion for Orthodoxy in Southern Africa, with the first diocesan youth conference for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the first monastic tonsuring of a South African monk to take place in South Africa, when the novice Brother Matthew was tonsured as the Monk Seraphim, and was ordained deacon.

Full report, with pictures, at:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The newly-tonsured Hierodeacon Seraphim with His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa

Youth day – 2006

Today is Youth Day, and I’ve described some of the events of the day more fully elsewhere in my LiveJournal, with more pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFr Pantelejmon Jovanovic (in picture) spoke to the Orthodox youth on the monastic life, and Advocate George Bizos, the human-rights lawyer, spoke on the meaning of the day.

If anyone is interested in the meaning of the day, there are two books I recommend. One is fiction, A dry white season by Andre Brink, which really does tell it like it was. Names and events may have been changed, but these were indeed the kind of things that happened. The other book is The rocky rioter teargas show by Pat Hopkins and Helen Grange, which is illustrated by photographs and documents not available at the time, including secret cabinet documents giving explicit approval to more deaths through police action.

spoke on the damage caused by Bantu Education, but in 1976 Andries Treurnicht, the Minister of , and his Deputy, Ferdi Hartzenberg insisted that in black schools half the subjects in high schools should be taught through the medium of English, and half through the medium of Afrikaans. The irony of this was that 70 years earlier Afrikaners, in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War, had suffered something very similar under British rule, when Dutch was forbidden as a medium of instruction, and all teaching had to be in English. They learnt the lesson that the language of the conqueror in the mouth of the conquered is the language of slaves.

But Paolo Freire, the Brazilian educationist, points out in his book Pedagogy of the oppressed that the oppressed internalises the image of the oppressor as the image of what it means to be truly human. So true humanity becomes linked with the power to oppress others. And this clearly happened in the case of Andries Treurnicht and Ferdi Hartzenberg. They were the avatars of Alfred Lord Milner, who had almost single-handedly started the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899, and oppressed the Afrikaners after the war.

The disease of Bantu Education was harder to eradicate, however. When it was introduced in 1954, it was part of the ideology of Christian National Education, which, as its Christian liberal opponents pointed out, was neither Christian, nor national, nor education. In 1942, when South Africa was at war with Nazi Germany, B.J. Vorster, who was prime minister in 1976, was reported to have said

We stand for Christian Nationalism, which is an ally of National Socialism. You may call the anti-democratic system dictatorship if you like. In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism, and in South Africa Christian Nationalism.”

One thing that interested me was that when George Bizos spoke of the ravages of Bantu Education, and Fr Pantelejmon spoke of growing up as a young person in a communist country, they spoke of very similar experiences, though they themselves did not perhaps realise how similar they were. The generation of young people Fr Pantelejmon spoke to had indeed not experienced much of the repression that Fr Pantelejmon spoke of, but the generation of Soweto 1976 certainly had.

To the youth of today all this is ancient history, and history is one of the boring school subjects that is being downplayed in modern education, with its emphasis on science and technology, which our youth must learn if we are to compete in the dog-eat-dog competition of neoliberal economics. Humanities, which do not have quantifiable economic value, are downplayed. We must gain riches instead of soul, and the all-pervasive ideology of free-marketism could well be responsible for the complaint of many of the Class of ’76, aired in radio talk shows and the like, that the youth of today are shallow and materialistic.

Where does this come from? Well, one possibility is that the current crop of ANC leaders, including some of the generation of 1976, spent a good part of their exile in Thatcher’s Britain, and this may go quite a long way towards explaining the ANC’s Thatcherist policies today.

But I think the image of the youth of today projected by the radio talk shows and the like is not a complete one. The people they interview are mostly “Model Cs”, who often speak with Woozer (ie WUESA – White Urban English-Speaking South African) accents. “Model C” was the last attempt of the dying National Party regime, in 1992, to perpetuate Christian National Education in white schools, or at least white Afrikaans schools, by privatising them. “Model Cs” are black pupils who have attended such schools (still referred to as “Model C” schools, in spite of their having been in existence for less than three years).

The Model Cs are the ones most advertising is aimed at, and the ones most likely to make it in the broadcast media. But the young people at the Orthodox youth gathering do not fit the Model C stereotype. Their concerns may be different from those of the Class of ’76, but they give me hope for the future.

Other views, and other ways people spent Youth Day

The Front Line: Youth Day, 3 Decades of Struggle.

the moon’s favors: Poem for Youth Day

the imperfect poet: More irrelevant conversation

Morphological Confetti: Youth Day: 30th Anniversary

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever
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