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Two African independent churches

5 April 2009

Today some photos of two different African Independent Churches.

Father Frumentius and I visited the African Orthodox Church in Atteridgeville. Father Frumentius lives just beyond the extreme western edge of Atteridgeville, in an orphanage run by him and Matushka Evgenia. In the June-July school holidays we want to have a teaching week for baptism candidates, leaders, youth and others, but were looking for a more central venue, and so asked the African Orthodox Church if we could use their church for a week, and were invited to meet the leaders and congregation after their Sunday service.

Fr Frumentius talks to Revd Nupi Motau of the AOC

Fr Frumentius talks to Revd Nupi Motau of the AOC

We were given a warm welcome by the members of the congregation. I had visited it several years ago, when the Revd Nupi Motau’s father, the Revd Johannes Motau, was the priest in charge, and on a couple of occasions they visited St Nicholas Church in Brixton.

Matushka Evgenia (in blue) speaks to some of the AOC leaders in Atteridgeville

Matushka Evgenia (in blue) speaks to some of the AOC leaders in Atteridgeville

The African Orthodox Church in South Africa was started by Daniel William Alexander in Kimberley in 1924, and in 1927 he went to the USA to be consecrated as a bishop by the leaders of the African Orthodox Church in Boston. You can read more of the story here. Daniel William Alexander travelled to Uganda and Kenya in the 1930s and established the flourishing Orthodox Churches there, but the African Orthodox Church in South Africa has remained separate from canonical Orthodoxy, and since 1960 has split into several different groups. The congregation in Atteridgeville is one of the few that owns its own church building.

The interior of the African Orthodox Church in Atteridgeville

The interior of the African Orthodox Church in Atteridgeville

After the meeting I took Father Frumentius and Matushka home to the orphanage, and, not wanting to drive yet again over the very rough and bumpy road through the Brazzaville shanty town, I took the long way through the open country and back to the main road that way. The road crosses the Hennops River, and on the low concrete bridge a group of Zionists were singing, clapping and jangling bells while some of their number were baptised in the river.

Zionists singing on a bridge over the Hennops River

Zionists singing on a bridge over the Hennops River

One of the interesting things is that in the past Zionists used to wear uniforms where the predominant colours were white, green and blue. Other colours were rare, but nowadays one sees more variety, and this group had many different colours. This particular group baptised by triple immersion (like the Orthodox!), which is one of the characteristics of Zionism, and another characteristic is that they often refer to it as “triune immersion”.

Zionist baptism in the Hennops River, west of Atteridgeville

Zionist baptism in the Hennops River, west of Atteridgeville

Actually the last couple of candidates were immersed more than three times, and perhaps it was for post-baptismal healing, as some Zionists also use immersion in water as a healing technique.

So I encountered two very different African Independent Churches in one day.

If you are interested in the history, theology or missiology of African independent churches, you are invited to join the AIC discussion forum.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 April 2009 10:55 pm

    Very interesting Steve. I always enjoy seeing the different ways Christians express their faith.

  2. anthony permalink
    15 April 2009 4:06 pm

    Hi,

    How do African Indigenous Churches differ from the Catholic Church. Do they accept Catholic tradition and western priests? And what structures do they have and how are these selected?

    Thanks
    Anthony

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