Sunday was The Big Day. I worshiped at St. Michael’s and All Angels, and received a very warm welcome. St. Michael’s is a large parish, and there were about 300 parishioners in the pews. The service is multi-lingual with songs and prayers in Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana and English (perhaps more, I’m not entirely sure). The congregation sings a cappella except for some percussion– drum, a metal cup and stick and a hand-sized leather cushion that makes claps extra loud. Songs happen throughout the service, filling transition and adding to the worship in addition to the pre-planned hymns. They are repetitious and continue until ended by the service leaders. When the church sings, the room is full of sound, energy and dancing. It is very different from the church services I am accustomed to, but I can feel the same Holy Spirit moving, just like at home. I know it will only be a matter of time before these songs will become a part of me too. I can’t wait.
After the service, I stood at the doors greeting as many people as I could reach. I was then quickly shuttled off for my official introduction to the youth (aged 13-28ish) who will be the focus of my ministry. There were roughly 25 youth who stayed after the service. Many were too shy to come talk to me directly, but I was very grateful for the handful that did. I am also sure as I and they grow in confidence and familiarity that the discomfort will diminish and hopefully fall away entirely. Whatever shyness they might have had about talking to me, they welcomed me with wonderful, energetic songs. This coming Sunday we will meet for longer, and I’ll be able to introduce myself more thoroughly, and I’ll be able to ask them more questions about themselves and what they’re hoping to see from their youth ministry.
After that we left Alex to go to Linden, I went to the Institution of Father Sammy as the rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church in Linden. Institution is a service to celebrate and officially give responsibility to a rector of a church. It was very beautiful and complex, as it was presided over by the bishop of Johannesburg, Bishop Stephen Moreo, the celebrants moved to different parts of the sanctuary, and various representatives of the church community and community at large had official roles and symbolic gifts to give, even signing the contract instating him as the rector was an aspect of the ceremony. Father Clayton later explained the significance of this service, impressing upon new rectors the significance of their role and responsibilities to the community. This service had a mixture of the type of music I had seen in Alex, as well as some organ hymns that I already know, which was comfortingly familiar.
At the end of Sunday, I saw a live hippo! It has been roaming around the area in Hartbeespoort where I was staying, and one night as we pulled into the driveway, I saw it. I tried to take picture, but as you might imagine it was an indiscernible mess. For more clear photographic evidence, I took pictures of the fresh hippo prints it left in the front garden the next morning (see the gallery). Because I have no interest in dying via hippo attack, I watched only from sound structures as it peacefully munched and wandered. Already it was a very lucky moment and certainly a major highlight of my trip so far.
Unfortunately, come Monday, I became quite sick and have spent most of the week being at least a little under the weather. This meant that much of my week was an exercise in being willing to be vulnerable and letting myself be taken care of. I think that most of the time Father Clayton, his daughter Jodene and the rest of the family were better at taking care of me than I was at letting myself being taken care of.
Luckily, this week I had the flexibility to nap when I needed to, but it has far from kept me from being busy. On Wednesday I officially moved into my apartment and I have since been busy with multiple visits to the grocery store for basics like food, dish soap and trash bags, inevitably coming home and realizing I still need something else like an extension chord, a mug and a box of tissues. I’m only really worried about these smaller furnishings because Father Clayton, his family and the people here at St. Thomas have put so much effort and time into making my apartment ready for me, and I am so grateful to feel so cared for. Jodene has even been staying with me my first few days in Linden, as I become accustomed to the neighborhood and my apartment.
Soon after I moved into my apartment, my car arrived after being driven here from Grahamstown (9 hour drive). I still haven’t driven it more than 150 feet into its parking place, but I can already tell I’m going to need a little more practice with this different gear shift before I’m ready to take on the busy streets alone. It feels odd to shift with my left hand, and the shifter itself feels a little different to me, so I can’t always tell if I made it into gear at first. Luckily (sorta) the engine needs a tune-up before it’s ready to be driven regularly, so I don’t need to be hopping into the driver’s seat just yet.
As will be my truth for the next while, I am settling into new and exciting things just in time to be ready for the next first and next adventure. Thank you for all the messages of support and prayers. It gives me an extra boost to my day every time I read one.