Light and dark
Utrecht, in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, had not had a priest for 30 years, and the Bishop of Zululand asked us to go there. We agreed. We were Anglicans in those days, before we became Orthodox. We arrived in Utrecht in October 1976, and the following month 90% of the congregation of St Matthias vanished. They were ethnically cleansed, as was common under the apartheid policy.
People sometimes think that apartheid was caused by “the Afrikaners”, and blame them for it. Well the National Party, which invented apartheid, certainly claimed to represent true Afrikaners, but not all Afrikaners thought that the National Party represented them. Piet Joubert, of the Assemblies of God, was an Afrikaner. He was a photographer in Newcastle, and he came over to Utrecht on Sunday evenings to minister to poor black and coloured people. When our services were fully ecumenical, our landlord used to come sometimes. He was a member of the Nederduitch Hervormde Kerk (the most right-wing of the Afrikaans Reformed sister churches), but their nearest congregation was also in Newcastle. He went there sometimes on Sunday mornings, but he came to our mixed services on Sunday evenings. Another regular attender was Oom Manie Craffert. He used to travel to Newcastle on Sunday mornings for services, and their minister came to Utrecht on Thursday evenings for Bible studies, but Oom Manie, who was an Afrikaner of Afrikaners, came to our mixed ecumenical services as well.
Piet Joubert once told in a sermon that he had taken a picture of a black man with an interesting face, and he had entered it in a competition and it had won a prize, so he put it on display in his shop window in Newcastle. One day a white woman passing in the street spat on his shop window, and so he went out and asked her why she had done so. She said he ought to be ashamed of himself, putting a picture of a horrible ugly thing like that with all the white brides. He asked her if she was a Christian, and she said she went to church, so he said, “That picture is not a horrible ugly thing. It is the image of God, and there will be no apartheid in heaven, and there will be none in hell either, and when you get there you will have to stew in all the hatred you had here, only far worse”, and she stalked off muttering to herself.
While we were in Utrecht we sometimes went to Paulpietersburg for clergy meetings and deanery conferences. My grandfather had died there 30 years before, and at the time I was staying with my mother at Ingogo. We went across for the funeral, and that was the first time I had been to Utrecht, and had a few memories of it — the view of the town from Knights Hill at sunset as we were returning. So when we lived at Utrecht, on one visit to Paulpietersburg we went to the town hall and looked at the cemetery register to find my grandfather’s gave. It was unmarked, but we could tell where it was from the adjacent graves. It was 28 years before, and seemed like the remote past. We tried to discover some of the history of Utrecht parish in that period, when there was a priest living there. Where did he live? Who went to the church? Nobody knew. It was too long ago. The two white families that belonged to the church when we were. the Lewarnes and the Nichols, there worked on the mines. They were transferred there and would be transferred away. The black families had been forcibly removed. The parish registers had names of people baptised, married and buried, but who they were and what they did was unknown. Nobody could tell us where the priest lived. And now, the time we were there is even longer ago that that time was. So I write this down in case anyone else wonders what things were like in the olden days, as I wondered when I was living in what are now the olden days.
This is a truncated version of a longer post on my other blog, so if you didn't find this too boring, you can read the full story at Tales from Dystopia VII: amazing grace: Khanya