Sunday in Gauteng: Greek Liturgy, Romanian Temple, Turkish Mosque
There lots of different things to see in Gauteng, and people of many different cultures. Yesterday we had a busy day attending a Greek Liturgy, and visiting a Romanian Church and a Turkish Mosque, as well as calling on Val’s cousins from Namibia who were in town for a bicycle race.
We started off by fetching Fr Ciprian Burlacioiu, a Romanian priest teaching church history in a German university, now visiting South Africa to do research into migrancy and mission. He had visited once before, about five years ago, and was then doing research into the history of the African Orthodox Church.I touched briefly on the history of the African Orthodox Church in an article on Orthodox mission in tropical Africa, but Fr Ciprian has gone into it in much more detail, and his book is being published within the next couple of months. There is also more on his earlier visit here.
We fetched him at the Backpackers Lodge in Hatfield where he was staying (he stayed there on his previous visit too, so we might as well give them a plug) at 6:45 am, took our son Simon to work at Exclus1ve Books at Menlyn, and trundled down the byways (avoiding toll roads) to Saheti School Chapel in Senderwood, where Fr Razvan Tatu, a Romanian priest working in South Africa, had told us he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy.
We had thought that the service would be in Romanian, but it turned out that Fr Razvan was standing in for Fr Petros Parginos, who was away. and so there followed a service in a mixture of Greek, Romanian and English. I contributed most of the English. I did try one small litany in Greek during Matins, when there were fewer people there, but chickened out for the last petition, which has lots of long words in it. I feared that hyperevlogimenis and mnemonevsantes would have me tongue-tied, so I switched back to English.
The choir also sang some English hymns to familiar tunes, and and sang some newer Greek hymns, like Αγνή Παρθένε Δέσποινα, Άχραντε Θεοτόκε, quite magnificently (you can hear the hymn here, though it is sung by someone else).
After the service at Saheti we went to Midrand to look at the Church of St Andrew, under construction and gradually nearing completion. It is being built by the Romanian community and the foundation stone was laid in January 2013.
The church is quite small, but is on a big piece of ground, so there is plenty of room for expansion.
On the hill opposite, to the west, can be seen the Turkish Mosque, said to be the largest in South Africa, if not in the southern hemisphere. The Romanians told us that since there were no toilets or places to get refreshments at the church site, they went to the mosque to make use of the facilities there.
As it was a hot summer day (after a very hot fortnight, with record temperatures) we went there in search of refreshments. Fr Razvan said he usually took off his cassock when he went there, for fear of giving offence, but our previous bishop, Metropolitan Seraphim, had once chided clergy for not wearing cassocks when out on church business, and pointed out that Muslims were not afraid of wearing distinctive dress in public, and he encouraged the clergy to do so too. Many of the clergy then discovered that shop assistants and petrol-pump jockeys would greet them with Salaam Alikum. So we wore cassocks, and went to a cafe on the site. It was too hot for coffee, so we ordered lemon juice, and exhausted their supply.
I was beginning to feel that this was quite nice. Here was a place where one could come to eat without feeling guilty about making Christians work on a Sunday. But then Val went inside and was immediately pounced on by the people there, who asked her who these people were, dressed a little bit like the Muslims who came there, only they had crosses. So she explained that we were Christians, and asked where they were from. One said he was Zimbabwean, and a Christian. A woman said she was a Maronite from Lebanon.
After exhausting the supply of lemon juice at the tea room we made inroads into their supply of baklava, and then went across to the mosque to have a look at it. The assistant Imam appeared and welcomed us, and told us a little about the project, which was inspired by one wealthy businessman, and a group of businessmen contributed to the project. They were building mosques and schools all over Africa and in other parts of the world, and had a school for 600 pupils on the premises, though at present they only had 400 pupils.
They also had a hostel for university students. They would come there first to memorise the Qur’an, and then would go on to study secular subjects at university, for which they were given scholarships. All this was paid for by this group of Turkish businessmen.
He said they were dedicated to spreading a message of love and peace all around the world.