Where we go to church
Yesterday was the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and as we do on alternate Sundays, we went to worship at Zakhele School in Mamelodi East. Mamelodi is in the eastern part of the city of Tshwane, and we travel about 15 kilometres to the east. The school is in one of the older parts of Mamelodi, but the township is expanding and on the eastern edge there are shanty towns where people build houses of whatever materials they can get.
There are churches of several differnet denominations that meet at Zakhele School. The classroom next to ours has a preacher who preaches very loudly in Zulu, but they weren’t there yesterday. They usually start before us, and finish when we are halfway through. Several other Orthodox congregations worship like this in classrooms — in Tembisa, Soshanguve, Vosloorus and elsewhere.
The school is quite old, and the classroom we use has broken windows, and the linoleum is worn off most of the floor. The little that is left looks like a map of continents, surrounded by a bare concrete oocean. If I ever write a book set in an imaginary world, I’ll use them as the basis for maps of the continents in my world. There are also some quite deep holes in the concrete. If we ever win the Lotto or something, we’d like to renovate the classroom we use.
But the school also has a media centre, which was provided, in part, by overseas donors.
When we arrive Sannikie Mutshinya, aged 11, brings the ikons, wrapped in a cloth, and sets them up on one of the school desks at the east end of the classroom. They are below the notice board, which has the rules for the classroom, posters about the environment, and HIV/Aids and similar things.
We read the Third Hour and the Sixth Hour, mostly in North Sotho. People take it in turns to read the Psalms, but most of the rest of it we sing or chant together. Then we have the Readers Service (Typika, Obednitsa), also mostly in North Sotho, and we sing most of it. It is like the Divine Liturgy, but with the priest’s parts left out. It was originally developed for use in monasteries on days when the Divine Liturgy was not to be celebrated, and in parishes it is mostly only used on Good Friday. But it is also used in mission parishes where there is no priest, and has been used quite widely in Alaska and other places.
The old people are not here today, so we sing the Beatitudes and the Symbol of Faith (Creed) in English. Many of the old people don’t understand English very well, but the young people prefer English. People take it in turns to read the prayers. Sannikie reads one, haltingly, in North Sotho. That’s OK, she’ll improve with practice, but she is learning to speak the words of faith aloud. When we first started, everyone read haltingly, children and adults alike. Now most read fluently.
Afterwards we chat for a bit, and count the collection (most of which goes towards the R60.00 a month we have to pay for the use of the classroom). We give Grace Malahlela and the babies a lift home, while the young people walk and chat one the way.
As we drive home we listen to the radio broadcast service from St Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock, Cape Town. I think our singing was every bit as good as theirs. We stop at the Casbah Roadhouse and buy eggburgers and such for lunch to break the fast. There seem to have been a lot of fast days this year, because Easter was early. And i suppose there were even more for those on the Old Calendar, who are still in the Dormition Fast.
And after lunch I read a few blog posts, and, hat tip to Andii Bowsher at Nouslife, I came across this:
Future Church Scenarios
The goal of scenarios is to inspire creative action in the present through anticipation of possible futures. These scenarios are stories developed to challenge assumptions and stimulate new ways of thinking about the present and the future. No one knows what lies just beyond the horizon but these possibilities can inform leaders of potential challenges and opportunities they may want to prepare for now rather than react to later.”
I think of Mamelodi, and I think those who dream up such scenarios are living in another world.