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OCMC Mission team visit to South Africa

6 July 2007

John Diamantis teaching at MamelodiYesterday we said goodbye to three young Americans who had spent three weeks in the Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria. They had come as a short-term mission team from the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St Augustine, Florida, at the invitation and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, Archbishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Their mandate was to teach in parishes and mission congregations, and in the Catechetical School. The main topics they taught on were The role of women in the church, The role of youth in the church and Orthodoxy and the environment, though they also taught on other topics as well.

The team members were:

Seraphima Carl (born 1984) 1st year St. Vlad’s seminary student; is a Reader in her church, plans to pursue a PhD in Theology and teaching at the seminary level
possibly overseas.

John Diamantis (born 1978) St. Tikhon’s student (M. Div completed this summer); BA psychology Penn State 2002; Human development and Family Studies minor.

Alex Goodwin (born 1977) OCMC communications director; Computer Info Systems degree; prison ministry, youth work, Sunday school, previous employment – Light and Life, previous team to Kenya.

Though they mostly stayed at the Stelio Agape hostel near the Church of St Cosmas & St Damian in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, they also spent a couple of nights with us when they spoke at the Pretoria church, and at the Mamelodi mission congregation.

At the Church of the Annunciation in Pretoria Seraphima spoke on the role of women in the church, but that was followed by a rather vigorous discussion of ethnicity in the church, which proved to be a much more hot topic.

At Mamelodi we met in the house of the Malahlela family. We normally meet in a school classroom for Sunday services, but that was not possible on a Saturday. We began with the service for the Third Hour, and then John Diamantis spoke on Orthodoxy and the environment, explaining how as Christians we are obliged to care for the natural world. Then followed the Sixth Hour and Obednitsa (Typical Psalms) and lunch, and Alex Goodwin spoke on the importance of the sacraments for Orthodox Christians.

The idea of the house church has never been very big in Orthodoxy, though some Western denominations have embraced it, but on this occasion it worked well. Helen Malahlela, who with her mother and grandmother had done the catering, said she wished it would never end.

House meeting in Mamelodi

In the evening we took the OCMC members back to Johannesburg, to Vespers at St Nicholas of Japan Church in Brixton, where they taught for the third successive Saturday evening. There too they were joyfully welcomed by the parish. I did not personally see much of their ministry in other places in the Archdiocese, but it seems that they have inspired people, and especially the youth, in several parishes, and we hope that we may have another team next year.

The OCMC mission teams raise their own support for their trips, from their parishes, families and friends, and so we are grateful not only to them, but to all those who made it possible for them to come to Gauteng, South Africa.

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