SouthAfricanJournal

Reflections from a sabbatical in South Africa.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006




Tuesday, June 27, 2006 Even though it's winter there remains much in bloom. Giant aloes plants are coming to the peak of burnt orange perfection. The plants are everywhere and some hills seem covered in the beautiful color of the bloom. The photo's show two plants on the monastery grounds. The other photo is of the crucifix in the church, beneath it the reserved sacrament and flowers (that I arranged) for Sunday. OK, no cracks about the flowers! A woman arrives today who is coming from the States to "help out". She'll be painting the church. I'm having a hard time photographing in the church. The problem isn't technical it's that I'm more interested in being part of the worship. I'm going to steel myself over the next week and get some pics! The weather has warmed up a bit today but the wind is still with us. I continue to learn about the lasting effects of Apartheid and on Sunday listened to a resident describe how she didn't know what was happening in the local Township. I've learned of an organization called the Black Sash. They were a group of white women (many married to "important" men) who would stand on street corners with placards denouncing Apartheid. They stood in silence and wore black sashes - thus the name. They produced a guidebook to Grahamstown that gives "additional" history to this frontier city of the early 1800's. Their history talks about the struggle of the Xhosa and other local people from those early days and through the years of Apartheid. They also offer a guided drive through Grahamstown, pointing out sites of interest not found in the Fromer book I brought with me. Tomorrow, John Stubbs is picking me up at 5am and we will travel 3 hours to Tsitsikamma National Park along the "Garden Route." He describes it as one of the most beautiful places in South Africa and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006




Sunday, June 25, 2006 Brother Andrew invited me to celebrate the Eucharist today. Sunday is a much busier liturgy: children, visitors, hymns and mass setting in Xhosa, drums and today, a sermon by Brother John. I had warned Andrew that I've been so relaxed that I hadn't been paying much attention to the Sunday liturgical "details." So it was no surprise to me that I almost left out the Peace! Well, I would have left it out except for Andrew's prompting! Yesterday I attended a service in the cathedral in Grahamstown. It was a gathering of the combined parishes of the archdeaconry. The preacher preached for an hour and the introduction to the collection was another 15 minutes (a theme of stewardship prevailed!). Three languages were used: Afrikaans, Xhosa and English. I heard marimba's played for the first time and I met more clergy from the area. Photo's today were taken after Mass: Brother Andrew and Azola, Janet and some of the kids, more kids!

Friday, June 23, 2006




Saturday, June 24, 2006 I have fallen behind in my blogging! It's been a busy few days including news that my dog Sydney had died at home. Sydney was the last of five pets that I brought from Kingston, NY in 1997. She was a good dog and companion and I will miss her. It's hard to imagine home without a dog to greet me. Cold weather has come! It's gotten down to about 40 degrees (as best I can convert from Celsius) and wearing many layers is what we are all doing. Last night I had dinner with John and Nomsa Stubbs and Suzanne Peterson. Talked about seminary days, learned more about this place and the work they do here. Nomsa is a physician and I was interested to hear more about the practice of medicine in this AIDS ravaged country. Pictures include the new monastery, still under construction but to be completed soon, the building where tutoring takes place and Brother Daniel in the church. Happy John the Baptist day!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Wednesday, June 21, 2006. I was celebrant at the Eucharist this morning - just the four of us. The pre-dawn sky was filled with stars and a crescent moon and the rising sun filled our surroundings with a warm light. Like yesterday, this is a lovely day and I took a walk with NMonde to the neighboring farm. Later today I'll be back with the tutoring program. A school holiday begins on Friday and I want to get more photos before the children disperse. Tomorrow I'm going to a clergy meeting in Port Alfred. They will be talking about the possibility of sharing a "youth missioner." Sounds familiar. The photo is from my walk. Thomas would like me to send him a picture of a monkey. So far, the monkeys have been too fast for me!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006






Tuesday, June 20, 2006 Yesterday I had lunch with Heidi and Monica who run the Ilinge Project for children orphaned by AIDS. I learned more about their work and their life - both remarkable. They have managed to attract a new program that will change the way they deliver services with the training and deployment of child care workers. The workers will provide services in the homes of these children by supporting the custodial adult (or older child) with food purchase and preparation, caring for the home, helping with school work, budgeting the small grants they receive and more. The program will help the children and also provide employment for the new child care workers. It wouldn't have happened without the dedication of these two women who live in a home without electricity and who share the lives and burdens of those they serve. Today Brothers Andrew, John and Daniel took me for a lovely ride to Alicedale. The scenery was breathtaking and at the end of the journey, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we had tea and coffee at a luxury resort, looking out at a golf course that (Andrew tells me) Tiger Woods has played. Go figure. Todays photographs: Two views from the chapel this morning, nMonde, the monastery dog, Andrew, Monica, Daniel and Heidi, Wool hanging in Alicedale.

Sunday, June 18, 2006



Sunday, June 18, 2006. I preached at the Eucharist today and then had a fairly lazy afternoon. On Sundays the Eucharist is at 9:00. The normal worship cycle is: Vigils at 6am, Lauds and Eucharist at 8am, Noon prayers and then Vespers at 5pm. Monday is a day off.

Saturday, June 17, 2006






Saturday, June 17, 2006 Yesterday was "Youth Day", a national holiday commemorating the Soweto protests of 1976. Hector Pieterson, the teenager who was killed that day (among others) was remembered and that piercing photograph, of another teen carrying his body, was displayed over and over. The Rev. Suzanne Peterson picked me up at 7:45 for the two hour drive to East London and the beach in order to meet the kids from Ilinge. 54 orphans made the three hour journey by bus, accompanied by Monica and Heidi, two women living under vows and working for the Diocese of the Eastern Cape. Their work is amazing. After the beach we went to St. Martin's church for lunch. The "Mothers Union" served an elegant lunch - table cloths and all - for everyone. Afterwards the children sang and danced. There wasn't time to go to the airport but it didn't matter as the day was a great success! The women above (L to R): Monica, Suzanne, Heidi and Janet. The woman to the left is a volunteer at Ilinge. The children call her uMama. The small decal she is wearing is the AIDS awareness symbol.

Thursday, June 15, 2006





Thursday, June 15, 10:00am. Yesterday was the first cold, rainy day but today is sunny and pleasant. Getting engrossed in the digital software I brought with me and at times wishing I just had film! But then I wouldnt be able to post photos on the blog or show them to the kids as I take them. Ah, the children! Spent an hour and a half photographing the children who are tutored here on the monastery property. The monks have created a three room center and have two wonderful teachers. Fewer kids turned out yesterday because of the rain. Most have one school uniform and can't risk getting it too dirty before the end of the week. They will go on a school break at the end of next week and so I'll spend more time with them then. This afternoon I meet with my seminary classmate, John Stubbs. He's the Dean of the Cathedral in Grahamstown. Tomorrow I'll accompany 60 orphans on their first visit to the Indian Ocean and the Port Elizabeth airport. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Tuesday evening, June 13, 2006. Inside the chapel of St. Peter. The Blessed Virgin Mary: here she might be the mother or the grandmother. Her hands are large and strong.



A few views from the Monastery, UMariya uMama weThemba.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Back online today (Monday, June 12). I'm now hooked up to the Monastery wi fi. Arrived here on Saturday evening in time for dinner. Was picked up at the Port Elizabeth Airport by the Rev. Suzanne Peterson, the sub dean of the cathedral in Grahamstown. She was accompanied by a woman named June and we went out for lunch and then to some stores as they had some errands to do. On the way to the Grahamstown, Suzanne took a road that travels through Shamwari game reserve and we were treated to Giraffe crossing the road, zebra, monkey's and elk. The sun was beginning to set and the almost full moon rising - stunning. On Sunday went to Mass and was delighted to watch children steam in to join the beautiful liturgy, complete with drums and Xhosa hymns. In the afternoon went with Brothers Andrew and Daniel to take some of the kids home. They walk 7 kilometers to be at liturgy. Went through the Township where many of them live. Andrew told me that unemployment is at 70 -80 percent here and the sights of poverty abound. Today we stopped at an AIDS drop clinic while we were in Grahamstown. Talking to a worker I was moved by the similiarity of the work he described and the work done by the Grace Church Community Center. I am very grateful to be here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday, June 9, 2006
Landed in Johannesburg at 6:30, just as the sun was coming up. Checked into the hotel for a shower and a short nap before going to Soweto with a wonderful guide named Louis Freedom. Visited a shanty town and met a family of 6 living in a one room, tin house half the size of my living room. Did the usual sites in Soweto but was surprised to get to Regina Mundi (RC) church and the site of so many banned meetings and protests. They are undergoing some renovations but a guide kindly showed me the old plexiglass widow panels, complete with bullet holes. It was quite amazing.

Tomorrow I fly down to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and then on to Grahamstown and uMama,uMaria, weThemba Monastery. Janet

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Having a latte at the Paris airport. Next overnight flight leaves in four hours and then SA.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1, 2006 - Getting Ready to Travel -- Letting go of everyday responsibility is the biggest transition from work to sabbatical. Getting packed for the trip (June 7 flight to Paris and then on to South Africa) is a close second!