Sunday in Windhoek: Quaker meeting and walking the dogs
Sunday 12 May 2013 – Thomas Sunday
At 6:30 we went for a walk round the Avis Dam with Enid and Justin Ellis; they take their dogs for a walk there every Sunday morning with their friend Helen Vale, a retired English lecturer from the University of Namibia.
After breeakfast we went to Helen’s house with Enid and Justin for their Quaker meeting. Enid had thought there was an Orthodox Church in Windhoek, but it turned out that it was a Coptic one, so we went with them to their Quaker meeting instead.
I was reminded of something Fr Alexander Schmemann once wrote, about attending Western Ecumenical meetings, and the organisers regarded the Orthodox Church as belonging in the “liturgical” category of their categorisation of “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” denominations. But Fr Alexander felt uncomfortable with the categorisation, and said that he would have been more at home among the Quakers. The Orthodox tradition of hesychasm has a lot of similarity to the Quaker understanding of worship, and so we sat for an hour in silence, and I silently recited the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.
I have long had an interest in Quakers, and several of my friends who had formerly been Anglicans have become Quakers. I attended a couple of Quaker meetings with Arthur Blaxall, an Anglican priest who had been secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in South Africa. One was at Wits University in johannesburg, and another was in London. The second is perhaps worth describing more fully, from my diary of Sunday 31 July 1966:
I went to Mass at St Leonard’s [in Streatham], and then to Westminster to see Arthur Blaxall, who is staying at the Royal Commonwealth Society. We went for a walk along the Embankment, and then up to Quaker meeting at 11:00. Peggy Smith was there, and at the meeting spoke about our procession yesterday. Arthur said that in the old days many would read a passage from the Bible or say prayers, but now there were mostly little accounts of experiences, and there were several more today, mostly about our procession  and the World Cup soccer match, which had caused great rejoicing among the English. The Quakers were concerned that sport should be a means of generating international goodwill, and not hostility, as the world cup matches had at times shown. I had lunch with the Blaxalls at the Commonwealth Society. Mrs Blaxall had been to Mattins at Westminster Abbey, and then came home and to work on the 95A [I was then driving buses for London Transport], between London Bridge and Tooting.
Later Enid took us on a drive around Windhoek, to see how the town had grown, and how things had changed. There were new suburbs, new industrial areas, and many new buildings.
In the late afternoon we went to see my old friend Hiskia Uanivi, whom I had known forty years ago as a seminary student at the Paulinum in Otjimbingue. Now both he and the Paulinum are in Windhoek, and he is leader of a church called the Archbishopric of the Divine Word. When he registered it with the government they told him that the name should not look anything like that of the Assemblies of God, and it sohuld not have God in the title, so as a result he became a kind of archbishop by default. He told us something of his life since I had last seen him, and also some of his early life, and it was really good to see him again.
After completing his course at seminary Hiskia went on a communication course in Kenya, and then acted as a liaison between those engaged in the liberation struggle both inside and outside Namibia. He later moved to Angola, and there was a confused period when Swapo was looked upon with suspicion by the MPLA government in Angola, because they had fought alongside Unita gainst colonialism, and suddenly Swapo fighters against South African rule in Namibia found themselves allies of a sort with the South African government, which supported Unita. Eventually Hiskia thought he was in danger from different factions in Swapo, and sought and obtained political asylum from the Angolan government.
This is part of the blog of our holiday trip in Botswana and Namibia, continued from Books and worms and things | Notes from underground, and the next instalment is here.
The procession had been organised by the Christian Committee of 100, from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey to the United States Embassy in Grosvenor Square, to protest against the war in Vietnam. Perhaps that too deserves a fuller account.
From my diary for Saturday 30 July 1966:
I went to work, did 8 on the 95s again, having asked for a change to an early job so I could go to the Committee of 100 demonstration in the afternoon…
In the afternoon after work I went to Westminster Abbey and started to look for the Christian Committee of 100 group, wandering around the abbey cloisters among crowds of tourists who had just come out from Evensong. Eventually I saw them going in, and they stood around the tomb of the unknown soldier in a vigil of silent prayer, while crowds of people were led over and around and were taking photographs and were listening or ignoring countless explanations of what this was. Then in the end Peggie Denny said, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. We ask you to remember in your prayers not only this man, but all who have been killed in the war in Vietnam”.
Then we went outside. There were about 30-40 of us, and all carrying white crosses set out around Parliament Square and up through Whitehall. I carried a big cross in front, with a wreath on it, until we reached Regent Street, when someone else took it over. There was a policeman going ahead of us, and another marching alongside, and they stopped the traffic and all. The one marching next to us said he would rather be watching the final football match in the World Cup series, in which England was playing against Germany. We asked the score from various people as we went along, and finally, as we were going along Oxford Street towards the United States Embassy, a police car drove up alongside and told us that England had won. When we got to the embassy we all stood in a line on the pavement outside and sang a hymn
Thy kingdom come O God
Thy rule O Christ begin
break with thine iron rod
the tyranny of sin.
the main reason for singing it was the verse:
When comes the promised time
that war shall be no more
and lust, oppression, crime
shall flee thy face before?
Peggie Denny and two other women went into the embassy and gave them a letter for President Johnson. They would not accept the wreath, however, suspecting there might be a bomb in it, so we took the wreath around the corner after we had dispersed, and hung it on the railings outside a church which was the US Navy Protestant chapel. Then four of us went and had coffee at a place in Charing Cross and afterwards I went home with Peggie Denny, and a girl Jean who is a rather fundamentalist Methodist, whose parents said she was Judas Iscariot after she had taken part in the Billy Graham affair. Peggie Denny said the police were very cooperative this time, far more so than they usually are, and it was quite unprecedented to be allowed on to the pavement right in front of the Embassy. They had even arranged for somebody to be at the Embassy to receive the letter.