At the Orthodox Church of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg, we meet old and new friends, and today was no exception. We met a new parishioner, David from Malawi, who was baptised into the Orthodox Church a couple of months ago, and we said goodbye to old friends, Costa and Maro Neocleous, who are going to the USA to be closer to their daughter and her family who live there.
Father Athanasius Akunda has just received news that his doctoral thesis in missiology at the University of South Africa has been excepted, and he will graduate next month as a D.Th. I was his promoter, so I know how much it has cost him in work that has had to be squeezed into his other responsibilities over the last four years, and have seen it gradually taking shape with the effort of revisions. His thesis is on Orthodox dialogue with Bunyore culture, and describes how Orthodoxy came to the Banyore people of western Kenya, and how it became inculturated into the lives of the people. It is a fascinating story, and I hope it may be possible to publish it one day.
Costa and Maro we have known for a long time, when we first began investigating the possibility of becomign Orthodox, and began attending the Divine Liturgy at the Pantanassa Church in Melrose in 1986. They used to have an all-age Sunday school after the Liturgy, and we met Costa and Maro and several others there. In those days Pantanassa was trying to be an English-language Orthodox Church, but various obstacles led a group of us to start the parish of St Nicholas as a multiethnic parish, and next month it will be 20 years since we moved into the present temple, a former Pentecostal Church, known as the Brixton Tabernacle.
And looking around the congregation this morning, we certainly seem to have been true to the aim of being a multiethnic church. It would be interesting one day if people put their passports on a table and we saw just how many different nationalities we have. I mentioned a new member from Malawi, and there are several from Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as people from Greece, Romania, Serbia, Lebanon, Cyprus and other traditionally Orthodox countries.
Harry Tambourlas and Gabriel Manea are members of our choir, and Harry is also a talented jazz musician. We also know Harry from Pantanassa days, and when we were received into the Orthodox Church he was the godfather to our son Simon.
It was just an ordinary Sunday in the life of a small parish, but every Sunday at St Nicholas gives us a chance to reflect on the wonderful variety of God’s people.