New Afrikaans Orthodox parish
Today we drove 255 km to Stilfontein in the North-West Province where Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria blessed the St Theodore the Tyro Orthodox Mission Church. It is the second Afrikaans-speaking parish in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria (the first one was in Eldorado Park, in Johannesburg). Other parishes have had occasional services in Afrikaans, but these are the only parishes in the Archdiocese where the main liturgical language is Afrikaans.
In a way the new parish is an offshoot of the Greek Orthodox parish in Klerksdorp, where Fr Seraphim (van Niekerk) has served as parish priest for several years. In Stilfontein there was a disused church building belonging to the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, which the mission congregation bought, and converted to an Orthodox temple.
Extensive modifications were made to the church interior, which was originally a typical Reformed-style church with the pulpit as the central focus.
Archbishop Damaskinos arrived with a visiting bishop from Tanzania, Metropolitan Demetrios of Irinoupolis (Dar es Salaam), and was greeted by members of the congregation.
We met first in a tent outside the church, where Archbishop Damaskinos blessed holy water for blessing the temple.
The Archbishop then blessed the entrance to the temple, and we began the Divine Liturgy, served by Fr Kobus (van der Riet), who, together with Fr Zacharias of Robertson in the Western Cape, has played a large part in translating the liturgical texts into Afrikaans.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy we had a Memorial Service for the departed, since it was a Soul Saturday, being the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday (Soul Saturdays, of which there are several during the year, are equivalent to the Western celebration of All Souls on 2 November).
At the end of the service the Archbishop addressed the congregation, wishing them well for the future, and Fr Kobus and others spoke, explaining something of the history and theology of the Orthodox Church for non-Orthodox visitors.
And after the service, refreshments were served in the hall.
It was a great joy to share with this new parish in their celebration, and I hope they grow in both numbers and faithfulness.
On the lawn in front to the church is a statue of a stag with a cross between its antlers. Fr Seraphim explained that it represented a vision of St Eustathius, who once when out hunting, saw a vision of such a stag. The statue was created by a Zimbabwean artist.
The Church is dedicated to St Theodore the Tyro (“the Recruit”), whose feast day is 17 February.