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St Paul’s Theological College 1968 (Part 2)

29 November 2018

Continued from Part 1

The first week of life at St Paul’s was all new to me, and after that I began to get used to the routine, so I’ll describe the first week in more detail.

Tuesday 6th October 1968. Mattins and Mass were in Afrikaans (that was part of the Tuesday routine). It was rather fun to have them in another language. Mass used the normal South African liturgy, Eastward-facing celebrant. On many other days we used A Liturgy for Africa, which had been around for several years, and used in some parishes in place pf the South African Prayer Book, though usually not on Sundays. In 1969 the Anglican Church in Southern Africa brought out its own revised rites, and the Liturgy for Africa fell into disuse, though in my opinion it was better.

Alastair Wyse, not a student of St Paul’s, but a Student of St Chad’s, Durham, with a picture he had painted.

In the morning there was a letter from Alastair Wyse, my friend from St Chad’s College who had planted a bomb in Westminster Abbey, which was in the newspaper the morning I had left for St Pauls. The letter was written and posted on the day he did it, explaining what he was going to do and why, “The reason for doing is that we must show them (ecclesiastical authorities) that our point of view is no mere theological quibble. That they have missed the essence of the Gospel by not treating everyone as themselves not just a vague penny or quid at certain times but exactly what they get. I have been spending a few nights down by the embankment it is amazing the amount of tramps about. Build bloody palaces for God. I have decided to set fire to Westminster Abbey altar and chalk slogans on the wall until the fuzz come and cart me away.”

On Wednesday afternoon we had a soccer practice. At the weekend a team from St Paul’s was due to travel to Alice to play against St Peter’s College there. In those days apartheid was at its height, so only white students were allowed to attend St Paul’s, as it was in a “white” area. Black students were at St Peter’s.

Five years earlier St Peter’s College had been forced to move from Rosettenville in Johannesburg, to Alice, because that was in a white area. When the college had first been built it was on empty veld, but the white suburb had grown up around it, and under the apartheid ideology the presence of an educational institution with black students could not be tolerated in a white area. The theological institutions of other denominations had faced similar problems, and a number of them had moved to Alice to form the Federal Theological Seminary, sharing resources like a library, common lecture halls and so on. It was next to the University College of Fort Hare, and there was some hope that that would enable a closer link between the seminary and the university, perhaps similar to St Chad’s College in Durham. It was not to be. The paranoia of the National Party government saw the seminary as a threat to the purity of the apartheid ideology, and it had to be kept at arms length, or even further.

In the evening we went to the cinema to see The Deadly Affair. I had already seen it in Durham, but it was a good film and worth seeing again. There were two cinemas in Grahamstown back then, the Odeon (usually referred to as the Odious) and His Majesty’s. There was no TV in South Africa, in those days, and again because of apartheid the cinemas were for “Europeans” only.

On Thursday I spent most of the day in the college library, reading about the religious system of the AmaZulu, and ancient Ethiopian liturgical texts, one of which I noted because of the light it threw on the St Paul’s policy on beards, “but we ought not to shave our beards, nor change the nature of a man to another fashion, and if thou doest thus, thou art a transgressor of the law and far from God, who created thee in his image and likeness.” I’m not sure what 21st-century feminists would make of that, though.

Rhodes University seen from St Paul’s, with the soccer fields where we went to practise.

On Friday we had the Litany at midday in place of lunch. On Fridays there was no lunch in college, and the money that would have been spent on it was given to GADRA, a malnutrition relief association. Rod Smith and I went across the valley to the Rhodes University Anglican Club, where a light lunch was available for 10c, the proceeds of which went to the same relief organisation.

Christ Church, Grahamstown

After that we went for a walk around the town. We walked past some of the older and scruffier looking houses, which looked more exciting places to stay in than the big modern dwellings of the rich. We also went to have a look at Christ Church, which is an endowed one, the money for its endowment having been given by a lady “of evangelical principles”. It is reputed to be the finest specimen of Gothic church building in South Africa, which makes it sound horribly pseudo, but in fact is is rather fine, the inside all bright and whitewashed, unlike so many English churches of that type, which have bare stone looking rather cold and dank.

We then went along to Kaif (the Rhodes University student canteen), and had toasted cheese sandwiches, which I had a great appetite for, as in England they were unknown and had been completely unobtainable, as was the apparatus for making them. So after having been deprived of them for nearly three years, I ate them whenever they were available.

Penny McCoy

After supper I went with Gerald Francis to have coffee with the warden, and we talked about St Chad’s. The warden was interested in its relation to the university, and said he had tried to get some sort of relationship with Rhodes, but found it wasn’t possible to do that unless St Paul’s lost its independence completely.

Evensong followed, being later on Fridays, with an address by the Dean, Kenneth Oram, which was rather long and rambling and nostalgic, but he said some good things in it, particularly towards the end. Then a number of us went down to Penny McCoy’s room, where we drank white port, and discussed soccer tactics for the next day’s match against St Peter’s. Penny McCoy was engaged to, and later married Pete Silva, one of the students.

Robin Hill

On Saturday 12th October Mattins was late, at 8:15. A bit of weekend relaxation. After breakfast we set off on the 70-mile journey to Alice in a Volkswagen belonging to Robin Hill. The back suspension had been lowered, so he would go into corners on the gravel roads at what seemed a terrifying speed with no ill effects. It certainly improved the handling of the car. Also with us were Rod Smith and Andy Oram (son of the Dean). The countryside was really beautiful in the spring, with evening primroses lining the road. Robin said they reminded him of southern Germany, where there are flowers all along the roads. The hills were covered with green and yellow scrub bushes, turning blue in the distance.

Stewart monument at Alice

We reached Alice about 11:00 and had tea there. After tea Rod and I went with Hendrik Ntuli, from Pretoria diocese — I was to meet him again about 15 years later when he was working at Kabokweni, near White River. We climbed up the hill through the bushes to the Stewart Memorial, a great tower in memory of James Stewart, the Scottish missionary who founded Lovedale College, the predecessor of the University College of Fort Hare. He and his wife were buried on top of the hill at the foot of the monument.

When we arrived at the top there were three little girls there, having a picnic, but when they saw us coming they all ran off, saying they must go back to the seminary because it was too hot. I felt rather sad that we had disturbed their picnic, as they seemed rather embarrassed to be caught at it.

Don Stephen and followers looking for stone-age tools

Then we went and watched the tennis matches going on between St Paul’s and St Peter’s, After that we had lunch and I sat and talked to Christian Kokoali, who wanted to know about scholarships and bursaries to universities in England. After lunch we watched tennis some more, and I wandered round with Don Stephen and Theo Schmidt’s son Alan and two little boys from the seminary, looking for stones which might be artifacts, which Don is interested in.

Then we went over to play soccer at 2:30, and arrived there just as another game was finishing, and some of the Fort Hare students stayed to watch our game, as well as a lot of kids from the neighbourhood. We lost to St Peter’s 2-1.

St Peter’s College Chapel

We learned that no one was allowed on the Fort Hare campus without permission of the rector. With regulations like that they couldn’t really expect anything but protests and sit-ins, especially in 1968, the year of student power. As a result of that Fort Hare students often visited the Federal Seminary to escape the restrictive primary-school atmosphere. But even that was  too much for the government, and in 1973 they expropriated the buildings of the Federal Seminary, fearing the influence of its students on those of Fort Hare. Our mixed sport — black and white students playing tennis and football, was also frowned upon by the government, but as the seminary grounds were private property there was no law against it. Later they tried to amend the Group Areas Act in an attempt to prevent such things.

St Peter’s College chapel, Alice, 12 October 1968

After showering we had beer in one of the students’ rooms, though it was strictly against their rules. Then it was time to go home and just as we were leaving I saw Desmond Tutu, who seemed to have got quite fat since I had last seen him two years previously at Lambeth Palace. He was now lecturing at St Peter’s and his youngest daughter Pussy looked just like him.

Michael Keep

On Sunday we had Mattins and Mass in St Paul’s Chapel — it seemed that the visit to the cathedral was not an every-Sunday affair. Mike Keep preached a very good sermon on loving your neighbour.

After breakfast everyone had their Sunday duties, and I went to Joy-Joy, the African Sunday School in the location, to see what went on. We went up in Mike Bands’s car, and it was held in the yard of a scruffy corrugated iron house. Over the road was a bus shelter with a rival concern — a group of teenagers playing dice. Hamish Holman tootled his saxophone, and the kids came running; about a hundred of them, all sizes, very ragged. There was a lot of unemployment among Africans in Grahamstown, since it was a town of mainly educational institutions, and no industry to speak of. The kids sang choruses, “Joy, Joy, Joy, with joy my heart is ringing” from which the event gets its name, and a couple of jarring Xhosa translations of English hymns, where the words didn’t fit the metre, and all the stresses were in the wrong places. Then Rocky had a brief instruction class, and we handed out biscuits to the kids, and then returned to college.

Children coming to “Joy-Joy” Sunday School, Grahamstown location

Different groups from the college had different Sunday duties which were rotated each term. Some taught the poor kids in the location, what in 19th-century Britain might have been called a Ragged School, while others taught children at the other end of the social scale in the private schools in the town, and yet others visited the local mental hospital at Fort England.

Adrian “Rocky” Green teaching at the Joy-Joy Sunday School

John Suggit gave a pastoralia lecture on Christian marriage. There had been nothing like that at St Chad’s College. At St Chad’s there had been academic lectures given by the university theology department, and tutorials, which involved reading an essay to a member of the college staff on the same subjects, but very little on the actual practice of the church. At the weekly seminar I read my paper on the ethics of punishment, and we discussed it. I don’t remember the outcome of the discussion.

Brian Angus

The end of the year was approaching, when those who were leaving would be preparing for ordination as deacons in the Anglican Church, and so there were some discussions about that. Brian Angus, who like me was being sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Natal, knew that he would be going to St Peter’s parish in Pietermaritzburg, where the rector, Owen Philips, had the reputation of being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. I had heard nothing from Bishop Vernon Inman, until he wrote to ask me to attend a conference of chaplains of the Missions to Seamen, which was being held in Port Eklizabeth, 90 miles away by road. I went by train, which entailed the slow journey over the hills to Alicedale, and waiting there for a connecting train. It took the whole day.

I was not very excited about the prospect of the Missions to Seamen. “Chaplaincy” did not appeal to  me, and I had an aversion to any environment in which clergy were called “padre”. The most memorable thing about the chaplains’ conference was one of the chaplains from one of the Mocambique ports, who proudly told the gathering how he had removed the water cooler, which had immediately resulted in an increase in sales of fizzy drinks at the mission shop. He recommended that to the other chaplains. Why give cold drinks to sailors for free, when you can get them to pay? And I thought about what Jesus said about giving a cup of cold water in his name, and wondered what I was getting into.

Port Elizabeth harbour, from the Seafarers’ Club in Humewood

I returned to Grahamstown on the railway bus, rigidly divided by partitions into separate compartments for whites and non-whites, and contemplated the ministry of deacons. In the Anglican Church, when deacons were ordained the bishop asked the candidates whether they trusted that they were inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost and thought that they were “truly called” to that office,  And the St Paul’s students were saying that they might think so because they certainly didn’t know so, and really had no idea what the office and ministry of a deacon was.

Thinking about the Missions to Seamen, and cups of cold water, and the ministry of deacons, drove me to the college library looking for books on the topic. There were very few. Neither at St Chad’s College nor at St Paul’s had anyone said anything to the students about the office and ministry of a deacon, and yet here were the students wondering if they could say that they thought that they were truly called to it. I’ve written on that topic and what it led to in more detail here: Deacons and diaconate | Khanya.

Continued in Part 3

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Howard Lancaster permalink
    29 November 2018 11:19 am

    I have just found these today. I don’t have decent Internet access while away. I’ll post links to these on the reunion website when back home. I am looking forward to the next part!

    • 1 December 2018 7:14 am

      I was hoping that the people at the reunion might get to look at them, and that they might prompt some reminiscences. Looking forward to a report of the reunion.

  2. Michael Rossouw permalink
    29 November 2018 2:09 pm

    Thanks again Stephen for reminding me of familiar faces and equally familiar faces. Fr Michael Anthony Rossouw.

  3. 29 November 2018 2:11 pm

    A friend of ours here in Canada works with the Missions to Seamen. I’ll ask her about the water in the building. I know she’s done some excellent work.

    • 1 December 2018 7:23 am

      It was a strange institution — lots of potential, but tinged with a kind of colonialist chauvinism. The chaplain, my boss, used to visit all the British ships, and drink whisky with the captains. I, as the assistant chaplain, got to visit all the non-British ships and mostly hobnobbed with the hoi polloi below decks. It may well have changed in 50 years!

      • 1 December 2018 3:20 pm

        Your part of the job sounds more fun actually! And more Christ-like.

        My friend’s stories involve taking care of sailors who’ve been hospitalized far from home.


  1. St Paul’s Theological College 1968 (Part 1) | Khanya

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