Archbishop supports multiculturalism
Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria made it clear that he supports a multicultural vision of the church.
Speaking at the patronal festival (panygiri) of the church of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton last Sunday, the Archbishop said that he felt very much at home in the parish. In his previous diocese, in Ghana, the same Russian music had been used, because one of the first priests there had trained at the St Vladimir’s Seminary in New York, and had taught people the same music.
St Nicholas community was founded in 1987 with the aim of promoting a multicultural vision of Orthodoxy in South Africa at a time when the other parishes were mostly ethnic enclaves: Greek, Serbian or Russian. St Nicholas uses mainly English in the services.
It was Archbishop Damaskinos’s first visit to the parish since his enthronement in December 2010.
In the past there has been opposition from some people in the Archdiocese to the idea of a multicultural church. As one woman once summed it up, “The Orthodox Church is not missionary because its purpose is to preserve Greek culture.”
Archbishop Damaskinos made it clear that he did not share this view.
The most important thing is that we are Orthodox Christians, not that we speak a particular language, he said. Language is important for communicating, but it is not what the Christian faith is all about.
The community had chosen St Nicholas of Japan as their patron saint precisely because he had a multicultural vision of the church. He was a Russian who went as a missionary to Japan, but he planted a Japanese Orthodox Church rather than a Russian one. He began his ministry by learning as much as he could about the Japanese language and culture, and was the ambassador of Christ, not of a national culture.