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Ministry to refugees – synchroblog on marginalised people

9 November 2010

There is a woman who comes quite regularly to our church, St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg. She is silent, and keeps herself apart from other people. I tried to talk to her a couple of times, but she was taciturn, and didn’t say much. I asked Father Athanasius about her,  and he said she stays at the Methodist Church downtown, which houses lots of refugees from Zimbabwe, where she comes from.

St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church, Brixton, Johannesburg

I’ve written several times in this blog about Methodist minister Paul Verryn and the ministry to refugees at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg. It has been controversial. At the beginning of this year Paul Verryn was suspended from his ministry by the presiding bishop, the Revd Ivan Abrahams, though he has now been reinstated, and in September 2010 the Facebook group Friends of Paul Verryn reported that

…the Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has passed a resolution this past week asking the Presiding Bishop, Rev Ivan Abrahams, to withdraw an application to the High Court appealing against the arbitrator’s decision, in the matter between the Presiding Bishop and Rev Paul Verryn regarding his suspension in January.

Perhaps the best description of that particular refugee ministry is at 2010 Ruth First lecture – Christa Kuljian –

Every Friday night at 7pm at the Central Methodist Church, there is a refugee meeting. When I began my research in April this year, I planned to attend one of these meetings. My expectation was to meet in a conference room around a large table with about twenty people. I was so wrong.

The first meeting I attend is on a chilly April evening. At the entrance of the five-story Church building, women sit behind low tables – selling chicken and spinach, pap and gravy, sweets, snacks and coffee. In the sanctuary on the first floor, over 500 people are waiting for the meeting to start.

I urge you to read the whole article.And as the article summarises it: 2010 Ruth First lecture – Christa Kuljian – Page 4 –

Central Methodist is a visible and continuous reminder of many challenges we face in our society and in our city – poverty, migration, xenophobia, policing, inner city housing and shelter, the vulnerable position of women and children, the gap between rich and poor.

The Church makes visible to us the crisis in Zimbabwe. In fact, the Church is a barometer. When events in Zimbabwe worsen, the numbers of people sleeping on the Church floor escalates. The Bishop says there will be no long term solution until we deal with “endemic problems in the region. The flow of migrants is like a tide,” he said. “Sometimes it will be less and sometimes more.”

It’s not just about one city, or one group of homeless people. These things are happening all over the world. Homelessness is a problem in many countries and many cities. Refugees can be found in many places, and, along with them, xenophobia.


This post is part of a synchroblog, in which several bloggers wrote on the same general topic and then link to each other’s posts so you can surf from one post to the other and read several different view points. This month’s theme is “Marginalised people”.

Other Bloggers Participating so far (a lot more links are coming over the course of today, we’ve got a great group sharing):

    One Comment leave one →
    1. 11 November 2010 2:14 am

      steve, thanks for sharing this…it’s wild to me how “the church” can want to shut down this kind of work but i have seen it in smaller forms along the way & i think xenophobia is just so strong–our propensity toward self-protective & people who aren’t like us is so strong. i always appreciate your voice in the synchroblogs. the posts have been excellent, many great perspectives & thoughts to ponder. peace from across the world, kathy

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