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Monastic tonsure and Orthodox youth conference

This last weekend has been a historic occasion for Orthodoxy in Southern Africa, with the first diocesan youth conference and the tonsuring of the first South African monk in South Africa by His Beatitude Theodoros, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria.

The youth conference was arranged with the blessing of Archbishop Seraphim, and began began on Thursday 7 December, and we had been expecting about 20 people aged between 15 and 30, and got a whole lot of extras, most of them outside the age limits.

We slept at the site of the St Nektarius and St Nicholas monastery, though there are not actually any monks there. There is a farmhouse there, which had two small bedrooms (far too small for the extra people who came), and a larger room suitable for meetings. We slept on the carpeted floors.

On the Friday morning we had three real monks visit and tell us about the monastic life -- Father Pantelejmon from Black River monastery in Serbia, and Father Naum of Sopochani Monastery in Serbia, and Brother Matthew the novice, a South African who was soon to be tonsured as Monk Seraphim. The next speaker was Father Mircea, who spoke on confession, and, apparently as a result of this, nearly all those present went to confession on Saturday night.


Members of the youth conference with monks Pantelejmon and Naum and novice Brother Matthew, in the beautiful surroundings of Leeuwenkloof, west of Pretoria

We structured the conference as a kind of mini-monastic experience, with the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours read through the day, often by the young people at the conference. The Hours were mostly in English, though we used North Sotho, Zulu and Greek as well, to show the multicultural nature of Orthodoxy.


Father Athanasius and I organised and ran the conference and planned the programme. We hope that after a few such conferences there will be a youth committee, who will be able to organise such conferences themselves.

The following parishes and mission congregations were represented at the conference:

  • Eldorado Park, St Constantine & St Helen - 5 (left early)
  • Mamelodi - 2
  • Saskatoon, Canada, St George - 1
  • Sophiatown, SS Cosmas & Damian - 1
  • Tembisa, St Athanasius - 1
  • Yeoville, St Raphael - 18

Father Athanasius Akunda and Deacon Stephen Hayes arranged the worship and speakers and discussion forums, while Ms Grace Malahlela of Mamelodi supervised the cooking and cleaning.

The Eldorado Park group left early, as they found the discipline of the conference and the fasting food too difficult, but those who stayed were unanimous in saying that they had enjoyed it, and would like to attend similar conferences in future, saying that would like to camp, sleeping in tents, rather than on the floor of a house.


Hieromonk Naum, of Sopochani Monastery in Serbia, speaking to the youth conference on the monastic life.

In addition to Father Naum speaking on the monastic life, and Father Mircea Corpodean speaking on the sacrament of confession, we had two discussion sessions, where people divided into smaller groups to discuss questions. There was one group of people aged 20 and over, and two of people aged between 15 and 20. Those under 15 were asked to clean up the grounds in preparation for the festivities on the Sunday, as no special activities had been planned for them.


Members of the youth conference with Hieromonks Pantelejmon and Naum and the novice Brother Matthew, soon to be tonsured as Monk Seraphim.

There were two discussion topics:

  • The causes of poverty and unemployment, and what Christians can do about these.
  • Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnocentrism

There were lively discussions on both topics, and after hearing reports from all the groups, Father Athanasius and I made some addtional comments at the end, and there was general discussion as the groups compared notes.

Some of the youth from St Raphael's Parish, Yeoville, Johannesburg, who attended the first diocesan youth conference.

On the Saturday afternoon we were honoured by a visit from His Beatitude Theodoros, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, who spoke to the youth, and said that they were making history, not only in having the first diocesan youth conference, but also as the first group to use the St Nektarius and St Nicholas Centre, which he hoped would become a holy place within the Diocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and also within the whole Patriarchate of Alexandria.


His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, with those who attended the youth conference at the St Nektarius and St Nicholas Centre


The monastery site of St Nekatrius and St Nicholas at Leuwenkloof, about 50 kilometres west of Pretoria. The picture shows the extent of the 23 hectare grounds.

On Sunday morning the Patriarch arrived again and in a long service there was the churching of one of the members of our Mamelodi youth group, Theodora Ramohlale, and the tonsuring of the novice Brother Matthew as Monk Seraphim, and his ordination to the diaconate by the Patriarch.


The churching of Theodora Ramohlale with her son Leoga, by Fr Athanasius Akunda assisted by Deacon Stephen Hayes


The newly-tonsured monk Seraphim

A fairly large crowd of people arrived on the Sunday morning for the service and there was a feast in a large marquee. Unfortunately most of those who attended the youth conference could not follow what went on, as the speeches were all in Greek and most were not translated. His Beatitude Pope Theodoros, however, insisted that several parts of the Divine Liturgy should be in English.

We hope that there will be more youth conferences in future, and that more of the parishes in the Archdiocese will be represented in future. Perhaps from them there will be young people called to the ordained ministry and the monastic life.


The newly-tonured Hierodeacon Seraphim with Pope Theodoros II

There have been Orthodox monks working in South Africa before, but they have usually worked alone as parish priests and have come from overseas. There have also been several South Africans who have gone overseas to join monasteries, but this has not led to a flourishing of the monastic life in South Africa; monasticism has remained an exotic plant. So the tonsuring of Hierodeacon Seraphim marks a new stage in the development of what we hope will be an indigenous Southern African monasticism.

Comments

Posted by: Second Son (naqerj)
Posted at: December 11th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC)
kalymavchion

I don't really have anything of substance with which to respond, but I'm quite happy to read these updates on the growth of the Church of Christ in South Africa!

Posted by: Ibid (ibid)
Posted at: December 11th, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC)

That sounds interesting, I'm glad it was such a positive weekend.

Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnocentrism
Do post your notes on these! The latter 2 especially being my pet topics I'd be extremely glad if you would.

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: December 12th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnicentrism

OK, here are some brief notes from what I wrote when the groups reported. There was only one "cradle Orthodox" person at the conference.

We need to distinguish between tradition, custom and culture.

The basic dogmas are the same everywhere, but diversity of customs is good.

People born into Orthodoxy have difficulty in separating ethnicity from the Orthodox Faith.

The physical nature of the faith (eg ikons) makes it difficult forn those brought up in a different tradition.

Being a minority gives more opportunity to share one's faith (eg people are curious -- why do you fast during what others call "the festive season"?). One person said that Orthodoxy was like a magnet that drew her.

Some churches make people from other ethnic groups feel unwelcome, so there is racism in the church (this applies especially to ethnic "community" churches, which are the majority in the Archdiocese).

We only scratched the surface of the topic, and will probably need to discuss it further. For example, what do we mean when we say "our culture"? South Africa is a multicultural country, and "my" culture is eclectic, drawn from the cultures of many different people.

Posted by: Ibid (ibid)
Posted at: December 12th, 2006 11:06 am (UTC)
Re: Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnicentrism

People born into Orthodoxy have difficulty in separating ethnicity from the Orthodox Faith
To what extent is this true for people for whom Orthodoxy is reletively recent (say those born to converts?) and to what extent is there an orthodox culture?

Thanks for posting

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 5th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
Re: Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnicentrism

In Alaska how many indigenous, Native American men are tonsured? How many have been in the past? I truly believe that in your heart there is no racism nor ethnocentrism on a conscious level. However as I have been to Orthodox services I have never felt a genuine warmth from the folks there. Cordial, yes, and polite, but not a warmth. Percentages as well demographics would be interesting for countries such as South Africa as well. Just an observation. Also I would think that countries like America would be the ideal place to show the world just how broad minded the Orthodox culture truly is, compared to the Old World that is.

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: May 5th, 2007 08:08 am (UTC)
Re: Orthodoxy and culture, racism and ethnicentrism

You'd have to ask someone from Alaska, or at least someone familiar with it, how many are tonsured there.

As for percentages in South Africa, at the last census about 20000 people claimed to be Orthodox Christians, and this was the first one to be tonsured as an Orthodox monk in South Africa. There are some who have gone to monasteries overseas and been tonsured there, maybe about 4-5, certainly not more than 10, and probably not as many.



Posted by: canonjohn (canonjohn)
Posted at: December 11th, 2006 03:31 pm (UTC)

Looks like a wonderful event for the local Church and for the young people attending.
John

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: March 2nd, 2007 10:23 am (UTC)
icon painting guilds/painters

I have been interested in Christian orthodoxy for as long as I can remember. I am an art teacher and I live and work in Kensington Johannesburg. Are there any icon painters/guilds that I can join? I would also love to attend mass sometime soon.

Regards

Neville Naidoo
email: naidoo.neville@gmail.com
cell: 0833525196

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Re: icon painting guilds/painters

There are no ikonographers guilds in South Africa, but I would very much like to meet you and with a couple of other interested people we might be able to start an informal study group.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 19th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
Re: icon painting guilds/painters

Greetings!

I emailed you earlier this year about needing information re: ikon painting guilds in South Africa. You indicated that you would like to meet me with the possibility of setting up an informal discussion group. I am very keen to do this. please email me your details so that I can make contact with you. My email address is naidoo.neville@gmail.com and my cell no is 0833525196

Yours in Christ

Neville

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: November 19th, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: icon painting guilds/painters

Thanks, I will try to contact you again by e-mail.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: March 14th, 2007 04:19 am (UTC)
monasticism

Enjoyed the reprot of South Africa tonsure etc tremendously,myself a hermit monk, western rite Orthodx, for 35 years.

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: March 14th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
Re: monasticism

Please pray for us, that the monastic life will take root in southern Africa.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
Tonsure

I send my greetings and express my joy at the news of your tonsure, Father Seraphim. I have had you commemorated at every liturgy since I left SA to pursue the monastic life. May God grant you many years!
Novice Sister Paraseva
email: htmbal@gmail.com

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: August 15th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Tonsure

I will try to pass your greetings on to Fr Seraphim

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