Planning a teaching week
This morning I went to Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, to help the local parish plan for a teaching week in the school holidays in June/July. We had originally thought we might be helped in this by a mission team from the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in the USA, but that fell through, we we will have to find our own resources.
I met with the local parish priest, Fr Frumentius Taubata, and Matushka Evgenia, and three parishioners we had baptised just under a year ago. We were joined by Fr Athinodoros Papaevripaides from Johannesburg, known as Fr Athos for short. Fr Athos is doing some BTh courses at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in order to qualify for postgraduate study, and one of the courses requires that he plan a project and write a report on it, and a teaching week seemed just about the right kind of project for his course.
Fr Frumentius and Matushka Evgenia run an orphanage for about 20 children on the extreme western edge of Atteridgeville. Actually it’s right next to the shantytowns of Brazzaville and Siyahlala. Brazzaville is notorious as one of the places where xenophobic violence started a year ago, and spread to many other places in South Africa, so it’s quite a challenging environment. Fr Frumentius and Matushka Evgenia sheltered some refugees from the violence. Brazzaville also gained notoriety more recently when the police destroyed the biggest dagga (marijuana) fields they have ever discovered.
The three who were baptised last year, and joined us in our meeting, also run an agricultural project linked to the church. The project involves about 100 people, and crops are grown in the fields at the bottom of the hill. Sergius Makwati is the chairman, Artemius Mangena is the secretary, and Demetrius Mahwayi is the treasurer of the project.
We are planning to have teaching for all age-groups. Part will be catechtical instruction for those preparing for baptism, but also those already baptised will come for instruction as well. We hope to have activities for the youth, and the young children, and also training for parish leaders as readers.
We went to visit some of the catechumens preparing for baptism. Obed Khumalo and Beauty Ndlovu.
Obed Khumalo is a skilled carpenter and joiner, and the small sittingroom in their home is dominated by a bookcase and other pieces he has made.
Perhaps it would be possible for him to teach his skills to younger people, and we could establish a training centre on the church land.
One problem for the teaching week is that the only buidling that belongs to the church is the orphanage at the very edge of town, which is quite a distance for people living at the other side of Atteridgeville to travel to. So we hope to find a more central venue, and have asked if we may use the African Orthodox Church there, and we took Fr Athos to show him where it was.
Fr Athos then took us to lunch at Catalino’s Restaurant on the shores of Hartebeestpoort Dam, where we had pizza and pasta, and made the most of the opportunity to eet cheese before Lent begins next Monday. We were joined at an adjacent table by a couple of bikers who roared up on their Harley-Davidsons going “potato-potato-potato”, and one asked the waiter if it was OK is he smoked a joint there. Perhaps he had been visiting Brazzaville, the dagga-production centre of South Africa!
We went on to the St Nektarius Monastery site on the other side of the dam, to clean it up in preparation for the bishop and clergy coming there on Clean Monday for Grand Compline.
A rather busy, but rewarding and useful day, and a joy to be working with such interesting and talented people — Fr Frumentius and his wife who are father and mother to 20 children over and above their own, who have lost their parents; Sergius, Artemius and Demetrius who are community leaders and running a project that benefits more than 100 people, and a Joiner who maes amazingly good furniture.