Thursday, March 27, 2014
The moment I arrived in Grahamstown I hit the ground running! My first full month has been filled with delicious lunches and dinners, tours accompanied by history lessons about this small town that is bursting with rich stories woven into other rich stories, weekend trips to South Africa's breathtaking beaches, visiting congregants at their homes to play scrabble (and losing), planning Sunday services, and helping the Cathedral Student Ministry plan the big Cathedral Garden Revitalization Party (Project Eden) that will take place on Sunday September 22nd. Needless to say, things have been evolving quickly--relationships and projects alike.
However, for the past week the students from Rhodes University--the university that most of our Cathedral Student's attend--have been on vacation. They recently ended their third term, and are preparing for the fourth and final term of the year. It is indeed a well deserved vacation that they are on. And it has also given me the opportunity to center down and assess what has been revealed to me in my first full month. Their time away has given me a bit of space to be more thoughtful about how I am spending my time: to think about my health--exercise and diet, to think about my intellectual growth--books and articles that I've been reading, to think about my prayer life--how much time I spend in an intentional posture of thanksgiving while studying the Word and other theologically grounded material, to think about how the socio-political realities of Grahamstown have affected me, to think about what I'm doing for fun and entertainment; and, to just be.
On Monday I signed up for a gym membership and a personal trainer. On Tuesday I spent a great deal of time reading and catching up on the current news cycle--helplessly trying to deconstruct or understand the U.S.'s potential military engagement in Syria. And on Wednesday I went for a light jog and bought material's to set up an altar in my room.
Although I attend Morning Prayer at the Cathedral, since Wednesday I have prayed the rest of the daily office at the altar in my room--midday, evening, and compline. The altar faces east, toward the rising sun. Above it is a crucifix--an ambiguous crucifix. One can not readily determine whether the character hanging from the cross is male or female, or of any particular ethic or cultural background. And in that ambiguous crucifix, I see myself. I don't belong to any of the ethnic and cultural groups here in South Africa--I'm not coloured, I'm not black, and I'm not white. Yet, somehow, within myself, I am acquainted with a genuine belonging in this place. In a sense, I am strange but I am not a stranger. Xhosa blood does not course through my veins, but Sweet Honey in the Rock's antiphonal and ancestral request of "Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah," sounds of the American Negro, blaring from my iTunes was a familiar sound to the Xhosa woman who insisted that I play it again, and again. And this is a beautiful strangeness, a powerful strangeness. Many people, until they speak to me, cannot locate my particular socio-cultural background, but I have been treated as though I belong. One cannot locate the particular socio-cultural characteristics of that crucifix, but it belongs above my altar because of what it represents. I do not know what kind of Jesus hangs on that cross; however, I know what comes about as a result of that symbolic sacrifice. I know what is at the heart of that symbol and sacrifice, regardless of who is making it.
Directly below the crucifix is a bouquet of Lilies. They have yet to blossom. I can only imagine what those Lilies must be feeling. If they're anything like me, tightly packed with information and ideas and experiences, they want the beauty that is hidden within those three pronged ovular shaped buds to show forth, to bring life to some mundane space, or joy to some longing heart. If they're anything like me they are aware of all that is within.
Here are a couple of photos from the Ash Wednesday service we held at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George. It was a somber and contemplative service held tightly together by the plainchanting of our cathedral choir.
These are a few photos from the Cathedrals "Back to School" service. We invited all of the primary and high schools in the area to the Cathedral for Sunday worship.
Rev. Claire preached on the importance of not judging people by outward appearance. But, rather, to love people for who they are on the inside. To demonstrate this she had a few kids try some "dog food" and then rate which was better. The kids hated some of the "dog food" and loved others. Well, in the end, Rev. Claire revealed that she'd swapped labels, and that most of the "dog food" was tasty because it wasnt really dog good, but liver patte, chocolate, and other interesting and edible concoctions. Here are a few photos of the service and of the young people that ran the service.
Here is the end product. I hope that you enjoy it. The sermon is based on Matthew 17: 1-9
With the help of the Parish Council, Sally Terry, the Michel-John family, and the Eve's (all Cathedral parishioners) we able to purchase all of the ingredients for the pancakes and had ample gas for our burners. Thanks to the Chairwoman of the Cathedral Student Ministry we were given a gazebo under which students could chill and converse.
We had a blast! The students were so surprised that we were passing out pancakes for free. They often asked us, "what's the catch." They were surprised that we weren't evangelizing in order to convert them, or shame and judge them. They were surprised that we were Christian's who were simply loving, and who felt called to be helping hands. By students coming over to our pancake stand and talking to us they sobered up a little. Our love was apparently sobering. And, I must say, the students were pretty funny. Most of them were polite, and bright kids. We enjoyed hanging out with them and we enjoyed being a sober presence in case someone needed us. Over three days we walked or drove about 30 students back home, and passed out hundreds and hundreds of pancakes. It was a blast.
Take a look at some of the photos!