Dear Johannesburg Congregation,
A recent visit to England prompts this letter to you, timely too as another year has passed since our arrival in Vienna and an update was in the air.
But first, to England and the reason for our visit. Christine and I wanted to attend the opening of the new church in Stroud. Aaron Mirkin is one of the three colleagues there, as well as Selina Horn who some of you may remember from Michaël Merle´s Ordination. Stroud, west of London, was my first sending in 2000 and already in 2001 the opportunity came to purchase an adjoining overgrown orchard – who knows when it might come in useful?!
The congregation almost immediately started to dream, envisage, and gradually plan a new build for the 1968 built-on-a-shoe-string church, ancillary rooms and small flat (in which we were living). The first architects were approached (including Dennis Shaw, at that time living and working locally), as well as the first costings floated for the various permutations.
Time moved on, we too, but the wheels continued to turn, the plans took on form.
And now this marathon run was completed, and a proud new church stands, for all to see and admire and, since Sunday, 20th October, to use! A festive weekend by all accounts, and particularly because the original church still stands alongside: this meant that the events began in the ‘old’ space, (evening lecture, the final Act of Consecration of Man) followed by the symbolic scraping of the walls, while those assembled remained seated in the middle, then the removing of the altar, the fittings and the contents of the now ‘old’ vestry.
In the afternoon, across the adjoining hallway, we gathered again to hear from the architect`s team (now their third church for The Christian Community), some of the factors and challenges involved, including the new design possibilities through working with so called ‘cross laminated panelling’. Then the red ribbon was cut by the wives of Michael Tapp and Peter Allan, (both priests of the congregation and both still living in Stroud until recently).
Lines from T.S. Eliot`s well known “Choruses from the Rock”, which was performed on the Saturday evening, stood over the weekend festivities;
“The Lord who created must wish us to create
And employ our creation again in His service.”
And so it was, on the Sunday morning the Act of Consecration was preceded by the consecration of the new church space – this time from the centre to the periphery and beyond; North, West, East and South, each in relation to one of the four elements, Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Following the Service came greetings and gifts from other communities, children from the congregation performed folkdances, new music and choir pieces filled the packed space.
It isn`t often given to experience the consecration of a new church, still less to witness it dovetailing with the farewell to the previous space – almost a once in a lifetime occasion.
Back in Vienna, enriched, we enter our third year here, learning the quirks of the Austrian folk-soul, and Christine now well established in the eurythmy and eurythmy therapy scene (even over the border into neighbouring Hungary).
There in Johannesburg you have also completed a long process – it was impressive to read that after re-visiting the possibilities for the Windmill Property over so many years, a decision has finally been reached – something had shifted! It must be a very satisfying feeling, on the one hand to have reached and implemented this decision, and now to be in a position to tackle some improvements and new developments. All good wishes to you in this regard.
For all unanswered questions, do ask Margie, whom it was lovely to see here a few months ago.
Malcolm & Christine
by Anne Gillham
Lesley Ridout was born in Zimbabwe. She met Anthroposophy at a very young age though Mrs Joan King. Married to Geoff (1951-2008) they moved to Johannesburg in 1978 with children Dorianne (1973-1999) and second born Anton. The children attended the Waldorf School and were part of The Christian Community from that time. Neville Adams was the Priest that met them on arrival. They renewed their relationship with Heinz Maurier who had visited Zimbabwe and was much loved by Lesley and Geoff. The family moved to Pretoria in 1981. Chris was born and was baptized and confirmed in our church with Reingard travelling to Pretoria to prepare him for his Confirmation. Johan Angelo arrived to complete their family.
As a family in 1982, they travelled to Europe, expressly to visit the Goetheanum and still remember the experience of attending The Christian Community service in Stuttgart. Geoff was involved early on with the architect from Stuttgart who designed our church and he also made the Alter Candle Sticks. Lesley, with a degree in Fine Arts at UNISA, exhibited her paintings in Harare and Pretoria. She was also an opera singer and music was very much part of her younger life. Following Geoff’s passing Lesley moved to a retirement Home. Here she is very much loved and part of the community there. Her sons are all now married, and Lesley has two granddaughters and three grandsons. All live in Pretoria close to her.
by Reingard Knausenberger and Shirley Marais
Having completed their tasks in Port Alfred, Shirley and Hennie are now part of the Afrikara Community living on the Hoekiesdam Farm in the western Cape. Afrikara (meaning ‘Spirit of Africa’) is a bio-dynamic training facility for student farmers wanting to learn sustainable agriculture and food security. Their training includes bio-dynamic principles, according to Rudolf Steiner, which are practiced on this farm.
Surrounded by conventional large-scale farming for the export market, Afrikara in contrast puts effort into healing the earth, improving the soil and not putting strain on existing resources and serving the local market.
In Port Alfred Hennie worked as a journalist for 15 years, first in mainstream media and then ran his own highly successful digital (online) newspaper for seven years. He shut that down last year, because he needed an operation on his shoulder and his surgeon banned him from using a keyboard for at least six weeks. He had been seriously considering making wooden toys and creating an online shop for anyone making toys and other things, and that is one of the things he is currently setting up, also with the aim of providing woodwork training to the agricultural students at Afrikara.
Shirley started off working as a journalist, with Hennie, mainly writing travel and entertainment articles and doing the language editing. This led to her becoming the chairperson of the Forum for Astronomy, Science and Technology, and doing various other miscellaneous things. She completed a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing at Rhodes University two years ago and started teaching creative writing. She also qualified as a Life Alignment practitioner and will continue doing all those things at Afrikara, as well as managing the spaces and accommodation there.
Hennie has taken charge of maintenance for the Community. Both are also involved in various aspects of training and supporting the Afrikara ideals. They also focus on expanding the non-agricultural earning potential of the Afrikara Community, such as creating holiday cottages and a backpacker facility.
The farm also hosts children and high school camps and volunteers, and is also currently training three student farmers, one of whom is Jason Higgins, who are registered with the Bio-Dynamic Association.
The farm is also an incubator for the Breede Valley Rehabilitation Initiative, particularly addressing the water crisis.
by Rev. Reingard Knausenberger
Derek (*13.12.44) met the Christian Community at the time his 2 young children were going to Kindergarten and primary school. When his wife became ill with cancer and then died, leaving him with the children, he found a strong support in the church community. As a civil engineer specialised in noise impact assessments in road and traffic engineering, his work projects took him away from home for extended periods. He did a lot of ground-breaking work, e.g. for the Gautrain project by setting all the standards for the contractors. Until recently he was still running his own business, together with his wife Erica. After a series of operations, which have taken their toll on him, he has closed his business and has a very reduced radius of mobility. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 22 years ago; he is now in the constant care of two carers and his loving wife at their home in Pretoria. His sense of humour and quick wit are still his signature when one meets him. And his interest in people and events in the community a constant life-thread of connecting.
He is very grateful for the prayers and good thoughts from the community and of not being forgotten.
A picture of Cindy Spencer shared by Rev. Peter van Breda (London)
If we speak out the name Cindy Spencer thousands of people all over this country will almost certainly echo back: ah yes Cindy, she is that famous mercurial lady who had the idea of an Organic Market and how this light filled idea became a living reality. That was forty years ago! In the early years when this idea was still in seed form Cindy worked tirelessly sharing her unbounded enthusiasm with everybody she met. I recall her first opening day at the back of the school in the car park. There she stood with a decorated table and on it were a few bunches of organic carrots, and of course coffee, tea and cake. Whoever chanced by listened with interest to Cindy's plans of how this market would change a lot of things both in the school and in society. Good stars shone down that day for it wasn’t many weeks later that the first stall holders joined Cindy and a new market with wholistic impulses was born. Very soon it began to hum a new hope filled song. The leading idea for this market lived I am sure in the ether waiting for somebody with wakefulness to recognise it. Cindy saw it coming towards us like a comet, she stepped forward and embraced it. This moment when the image of the market arose in her soul she was filled with a never ceasing, bubbling energetic joy. The birth of the Organic Market undoubtedly changed the lives not only of single people but thousands of folk who have visited this market over four decades. They have been touched in all kinds of ways. By what though were they touched? Why did stall holders and customers return week after week, year after year? There were, I believe four, precious elements that Cindy nurtured. In time they came part of her unfolding initiative, all of them are still in a way present today.
The first is her deep felt connection to the plight of the earth and to the lack of bio-dynamic and organic farming. She knew more than most people at that time in the early eighties that our dear Mother Earth needed constant care, a care born out of a visible conscience in deed.
This was the central theme of the organic market, only produce, and all other items too, had to carry this principle of holism, true care and mindful intent, to be sold. Very soon an association of producers, farmers, craftsmen and of course the buyers, and customers became an economic reality. All involved benefited from this living fraternity of people who had become part of a living market community. We could not add up the number of items made and sold, and the countless coffees, teas and cakes and meals consumed? The school of course was the main beneficiary who over the years have been gifted countless new possibilities through enjoying this financial support.
So we can observe a unique fraternity of ethical producers and happy consumers who together founded a principle of mutual co-operation. Cindy upheld throughout the years that only produce which enhanced and supported the environment and human beings were allowed to be sold.
The third element that shone through and permeated the life presence of the market was the community of people who gathered there week after week, year after year. How many times have you heard yourself saying, "well then let’s meet at the market for a cup of tea? Or do you know who I met last week at the market, I haven’t set eyes upon them for years and suddenly there they were? We had such a good conversation." Or hearing a parent saying to another, "I've told the children to meet us at the market, we could have a quick coffee together before they come." There are a host of other examples I could share but what shines through is that Cindy’s impulse to create this market has given rise to one of, if not the most precious aspects of community life, which is conversation. In Goethe’s fairy tale at a certain moment a question is posed, what is more precious than gold? The answer sounds back, conversation is more precious than even gold. Out of these conversations, destiny meetings, friendships and many warm meetings were forged. We may all look back in real gratitude that this has been possible. As mentioned before it all started with that strong-willed, ever enthusiastic lady, ever gregarious individual with her bunch of carrots and a few cups of coffee and little cakes.
There is then a fourth element which is a little more difficult to describe which is Cindy’s moral intuition. Deep down Cindy had an ever present sense of morality. She never wanted to hurt people; mostly she wanted to inspire them to greater things. Her enthusiasm was born anew in each situation. Her imaginative mind knew no barriers, often it travelled far ahead of less attentive people. I think it is fair to say that her strong will could sometimes cause offence. She didn’t mean to offend but for Cindy holding back an idea or impulse was far too boring and meaningless. I think most people in the end understood that Cindy always meant well and many acknowledged later that her outbursts of enthusiasm were often filled with new possibilities for growth and wisdom.
I wish to close on a personal note, it was the day that Cindy strode into the church community room and in one strident statement changed the course of the Johannesburg Christian Community for years to come. "I have a new idea for you, we are going to offer a moonlight market and you here in the church are going to serve the food." Well, have you ever tried to say no to Cindy when she is in full flight? I knew I could only say yes and obey Cindy's command. If I look back on those nearly 20 years of moonlight markets I can confirm that working together creates community and it certainly did. I’m sure over 50 people from the church were in one way or another participants in keeping this impulse moving forward. We are deeply grateful to her for including us in her grand plans.
In closing and there would still be much to share but let me say this, Cindy Spencer this mercurial, ever active, ever enthusiastic human being who loved the earth with all its bounty and cared for her fellowman in so many ways should go down in the annuals of history as one of the truly greats. Cindy radiated positivity, it was highly infectious. If you knew Cindy you would at some point be positively infected. We live in a time of a very negative disease. Some claim and I think they are right that we suffer with this dreadful disease as we no longer care for this planet as we should. Christ took up a dwelling place here on the earth and made a home in the souls of human beings. He awaits our recognition and our preparedness to put our shoulder to the plough to work towards the transformation of this earth and our fellowman.
Cindy Spencer was undoubtedly a servant and advocate of this far-reaching goal, that the earth in the future becomes a bright star.
For this and much more I salute you Cindy and thank you for your expansive example and friendship.
by Leila Kuhlmann
Cindy Spencer suffered a stroke in the early hours of Friday, 26th April 2019 at her home in Merweville in the Great Karoo. She was only found in the late afternoon on Friday and arrived by ambulance at the Mediclinic Hospital in George at 04h30 on Saturday morning. By then it was too late for early intervention treatment for stroke victims. Cindy is paralyzed on the left side of her body from a stroke that happened on the right side of the brain. She spent most of May 2019 in a Spescare rehabilitation home in George.
Cindy remains a fighter and is getting stronger, but the doctors say that she will need frail care with 24-hour nursing going forward. Her speech has already improved greatly and she is mentally strong. Her cognitive abilities have not been impaired by the stroke. It is going to be a long road ahead and life changing for her and us as a family.
Cindy’s sense of humour is also still intact, and she has been working hard with her physiotherapists and occupational therapists. She has had three hours of therapy a day. Cindy says that after the stroke “it’s like being in prison in your own body”.
The family is preparing to bring Cindy to Johannesburg where they are looking for a suitable frail care home. Paul, Leila and the family are shattered by this event as it was the last thing one would think would happen to Cindy. Cindy was happy and well in Merweville and had planned to live there till she died. Now she will not be going back to Merweville, which she loves and where she is happy, unless a miracle happens.
Some images of Cindy's life in Merweville
The labyrinth and spiral (see the town's church in the background)
Update in June 2019
by Leila Kuhlmann
After visiting many homes with frail care, the most pleasant and suitable home for her is The Village Bryanston. She has her own private room and bathroom and little garden, sunny bright and light. It is a pleasant place to visit, not reminiscent of a hospital at all. It feels like home. It has been furnished specifically for her. She moved in on Wednesday, 19th June. Visitors are always welcome. Cindy will be needing a lot of visits and attention as she has lost her life in the Karoo. She is still paralysed on the left and trying her best to walk with help.
Update on 1st December 2020
Quotes from WhatsApp:
Paul Spencer: "She passed at 01:06 this morning. Leila, Natalie, & I were in the room with her. Tanya, Rowan, Aleksandra, Virginia- Rose, Martin, Margie, Rachel and her 2 careres woke to gather around her to celebrate and support her on her journey. A memory of a lifetime!"
Leila Kuhlmann: "Mums wake is here at her home for now. We welcome you all to come sit quietly with her, read, talk about your life’s journey with her, for her to hear from your heart in joy or sadness.
"What an incredible mum she was.
"We truelly are blessed she allowed Paul and I to be her children on this amazing life’s path she walked. Thank you Mummy for touching my life with such love."
LINDY SOTHERN will be celebrating her 90th birthday on 2nd June 2019. She moved from Maxhaven a few years ago to live in community with her son Phillip, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and grandson Stuart in Blairgowrie. Other than not being able to drive and read so well with weakened eyesight, she is very much the Lindy we have always known and loves meeting and chatting with everyone when she comes to church. This has become more rare, though, as she is dependent on lifts. To contact her or visit, please phone the office and Celia will give Phillip’s number.
JACQUI WHITE moved at the beginning of April 2019 from north to south Joburg. Her flat in Linden, where she had lived for a long time, inseparable from her two little dogs, is well-known to generations of children who received painting classes there. Now Jacqui and her dogs have all gone into retirement, sadly into different homes. In her new home Jacqui is with eight others, which makes it more like an extended family. Still adjusting, she nonetheless has started geometry and planetary seal drawing sessions with everyone, as well as initiating Easter celebrations. She certainly knows how to ‘make something of nothing’, being the creative artist and teacher she is. She expresses her gratitude toward the community members who helped her with the move, which would not have been possible without them. It was good to see her on Good Friday. Her new address is: 20 Holmdene Rd, South Hills, at KweziZola.
ROSA HODNETT, here with her granddaughter Megan, who has a special place in her heart and daily life. Even though she has had to reduce her radius of activity step by step, nudged on by signals the physical body sends, Rosa retains her inquisitive probing mind, and will not be stopped from sewing and to continue embroidering new, ever more challenging projects, all the while ensuring the garden flourishes under her directive. She has made the words of Gandhi ‘The Seven Blunders’ her evening contemplation, fascinated how each sentence leads to deep insights applicable to world events and daily life. “One has to really think about them!” She lives in her own flat with her son David’s family in Fourways Gardens and will be celebrating her 85th birthday on 19th May 2019.
ROSWITHA GROTH, born 14th February 1933, with her husband Werner (died 2006), were part of the Camphill movement in Scotland. When Renate Sleigh, who had already moved to South Africa in the 1960’s with Julian, said to her: “it is easier to find Christ in South Africa than in Europe. Traditions fall away and you have to find Christ from within and the cosmic Christ in your work”, she struck a deep chord in Roswitha’s heart. To find and serve Christ was her calling. So, the Groth’s decided to have a look and came to South Africa. Quickly it was clear, apartheid was not going to work for them, so they travelled further north into Botswana, one of the ten poorest countries in the world at the time.
To their surprise, circumstances converged to give them a starting point outside a village between Lobatse and Gabarone, a run-down abandoned farmhouse. They returned soon thereafter with their nearly five small children and began to take in mentally disabled children as part of the family, financing themselves. Rankoromane School for disabled children was founded in 1974.
In the 1980’s the need to extend opportunities for the children led to the founding of Motse Wa Badiri (Village of Workers) for adults and finally Legodimo (Paradise) for youth.
From the beginning to this day, the Children’s Service and Youth Service (as given by Rudolph Steiner) are celebrated every week in Setswana by a dedicated group of teachers; The Act of Consecration of Man has also been celebrated from the outset 3-4 times a year by a visiting priest from Johannesburg. We are each other’s closest neighbours. Roswitha retired from the school after Werner died, and moved to Mokolodi nearer to Gabarone into a cottage close to her children. She is still active in giving spiritual backing to the school and always is there for the Act of Consecration. The school and Roswitha are well worth visiting if anyone ‘happens to be in the area’.
In sleepy little Knysna where nothing ever happens
by Simone Abawat
In March two years ago I left Johannesburg for Knysna. It was a difficult decision: I was leaving Joseph behind because he was well into his first year of training to be a chef at the Swiss Hotel School; I was suspicious of my own motives because somewhere inside I wondered if I was running away; it would mean moving (back) in with my mother; I was unsure if I’d be able to find work and I feared I might be burying myself in this little town where nothing ever happens. What actually did transpire, though, was that Joseph rose up into his adulthood; he finished his chef training in Johannesburg and has now begun a 12-month chef internship at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs in the USA. I bought a car wash business and have become financially independent for the first time, and the night after I landed in Knysna I met Stephen Twycross – widower, business-owner, humourist, golf enthusiast and the kindest soul imaginable – and we’ve been together ever since.
From my little office overlooking a busy street in central Knysna I can see the whole of life reflected in the passing traffic. Weddings, funerals, school holidays, lunchtime and payday – all there in plain sight. We have our resident homeless, victims of alcohol and drug abuse, and most possibly of other abuses too somewhere else in their lives: There’s Marius who tries to sell us the free local newspaper every Thursday, and who regularly survives stepping out into the middle of traffic without ever looking left or right, Michael who routinely picks our pavement on which to have an epileptic fit so that we have to call ambulances to come and rescue him, Sean who tries to sell me the same cookery book every week that he found at Hospice around the corner, and Martin who somehow manages to find the best lemons and avocados I’ve ever eaten.
Our little car wash team is also something that I sit and watch from my cubby hole – a group of five that I’ve grown to love and respect and whose humanity arises afresh every day in a familiar warmth. Kenny, charismatic salesman par excellence whose daily ambition is to extract as much money as possible from every pocket - including mine. He’s elusive and unknowable, the car wash phantom who’s there one moment and gone the next, like smoke. Funny, witty, protective Sly who watches every move and makes sure I’m never in trouble, and who responded once when I asked why I was the only one sweeping with: “I don’t know. I thought you liked sweeping”, and Washie, Nico and MCleod who are warm and dependable and caring and involved. They’re kind and protective over my mother, their favourite Gogo, and Joseph, their brother.
So, in sleepy little Knysna where nothing ever happens, I’ve learnt to breathe and to care, to pay attention, and I’ve gleaned something of being in relationship with other human beings – aspects of daily life that have always been obscure to me. There isn’t a Christian Community here and I miss it – terribly – but attending the Africa Seminary throughout the year goes some way towards filling that void and helps to keep a connection to what nourishes, and to the community. For many years I’ve grappled with questions about truth and illusion, with trying to understand what is morality, really, and with seeing where in our lives do these questions wait to be recognised. Here, there is the space to try to follow them more deeply. After work in the evenings my mother and I fix the world from her little lounge at the Amble Ridge retirement village where she now lives, and then I go home and make supper with Stephen. In Knysna, where nothing ever happens, I’ve found life and love and home.
Where are they now?
Members of our congregation move away from Johannesburg. Whenever they visit us they feel immediately at home. In part this is through receiving our monthly newsletter. We too would hope to remain connected through these posts and learn something of their lives and where they are now living.
The Act of Consecration of Man
Wednesday see programme
Saturday (in German) 09h00
Sunday Service for Children
2nd & 4th Sundays 10h00 - 11h00