Retiring or Re-Enlivening in the Rurals!
by Anne Gillham
Some background for those who don’t know us
I arrived in Johannesburg from Zimbabwe in September 1982. Having studied in an Anthroposophical group with Mrs Joan King in Harare, I was anxious to link up with the Anthroposophical Society and the Church. Rev. Evelyn Capel and Rev. Georg Dreissig had visited the group and held services, From the first experience it felt like Home to me.
By 1983 I and my two children, Marcia and Rhett, attended church as regularly as we could, due to distance and nursing shifts.
I became a member of the church and met and married Terry in our church in 1987. The preparation for marriage and the service was conducted by Rev. Peter Van Breda. We moved to Blairgowrie and had two children David and Michael. All four children participated in the Sunday Service for Children and were confirmed.
Thus 32 years passed for me in my Spiritual Home. Sustained by my total passion for The Christian Community Church, for the life of The Community and the richness and of participating in all that was possible. Our family happily shared with love and appreciation in all the rhythms and activities made available to us in this wonderful symbiosis.
Terry and I had holidayed in Morgan Bay since 1992 and felt so at home in the village we proceeded to build a wooden home in 2005, and shared many holidays with family and friends.
Fast forward to 2015 when we retired and decided to leave Johannesburg and move to Morgan Bay in the Eastern Cape. Residents of Morgan Bay being Primarily pensioners.
2016 to date!
Morgan's Bay in the Easter Cape (Google Maps)
Terry and I were lucky enough to have grown up in the rurals, so retiring to Morgan Bay was “just like going home!” So, has it come up to expectation? A resounding: “Yes! It has”.
Looking back on the first year, we were engrossed just in the physical changes required: moving in; rearranging; ‘fitting yourself in’ and, exploring our surrounds. We sanded and varnished floors, painted, fixed broken railings.
Then we looked at the garden and having our youngest son, Michael, living with us decided to start immediately on our organic vegetable garden project! After much research we decided on raised beds using the “the layered” method. One must think about not having to get down on your hands and knees! This has been the best fun and we have enjoyed eating and sharing our crop rotations. We still find it quite a miracle that the plants “just grow”. With our last crop we had cut worms and beetles sharing the takings! Still so much to learn!
In between our grandson Jonathan, Marcia’s son, spent time with us over Easter, July and Christmas holidays. This had us celebrating festivals, hiking, swimming, fishing and generally being in holiday mode.
We were lucky enough to be invited to hike the Otter Trail - five days hiking between Storms River and Natures Valley. This necessitated us having to train in preparation for this arduous event, so a lot of time was spent exploring the Kranse and trails of Morgan Bay. What a treat that hike was. No roads, no people (just our hiking group), no phones! Just a hard slog and magnificent, sometimes overwhelming views. With Thankful hearts, we absorbed our environment, watched and listened to the silence.
We have also hiked with friends in and around Plettenberg Bay, in the Wellington valley of the Western Cape, around the Hogsback mountain area of the Eastern Cape and taken a road trip to the Pilanesberg and Hoedspruit, and another two trips through the Transkei to Durban and the South Coast.
This year we have travelled to Sri Lanka to visit our son Rhett, Claire and our three grandchildren Callan, Cara and Camille who have a holiday home in Hikkaduwa. This is situated not far from Galle on the South West coast of Sri Lanka, although they live in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
David and his lovely partner Caitlin, live and work in London have been out a couple of times to South Africa to visit, and we have travelled away with them.
Going to Church on our way through Johannesburg on our travels has been my food for the soul.
In between we have participated in all the festivals and church fundraisers of Morgan Bay and Kei Mouth. Pancake festivals, the Footprint festival, bird watching walks, National Sea Rescue evenings, Soup Evenings, anything that was happening. Here we got to meet all our new neighbours and were very generously welcomed into the community.
We have a lovely little inter-denominational church, St Peter’s, in Kei Mouth, our neighbouring village, (5 km “as the crow flies” but 15 km by road), which is looked after by “everyone”. Most of the fundraisers are for the church and many folks are just ‘hands on’ regarding the care of the church and gardens itself. Coming up shortly is “breakfast in the garden at the church” at R50 per head and a Soup Evening where many of us donate a pot of soup. A hat is passed around for donations and here we experience most generous support. The last Soup Evening raised R7 000, not bad for a bunch of Pensioners!
Every Saturday there is a farmer’s market where we buy our fresh eggs and vegetables and enjoy tea and pancakes with the locals and catch up on all the village news. There is also a monthly magazine which is published, the “MOR KEI ECHO”, with all the local news and stories to keep us chuckling and feeling part of the greater community.
I have joined the Ratepayer’s Association so that I can really see how everything works on the ground here, and to see if I can be of assistance. As with most rural places these days, all upgrades and repairs are done by the community itself. The Great Kei Municipality has no money!
I have now spent a full year in trying to put into place a recycling project with waste entrepreneurs who in turn will earn a living from their endeavours and resolve our communities waste/litter problem. We have come a long way as regards this project but are not quite there yet! Watch this space!
Terry can be seen out on the ‘pensioner’ road gang, filling holes and clearing edges! He has also started playing bowls at the local club, and has enjoyed ‘away’ matches, playing in Kei Mouth, Cathcart and Port Alfred.
Our dogs look forward to a daily run-about, so we head down to the beach which is a mere 300m stroll, for a long walk and often a swim, almost daily. The views, tides and beach are always different. Full moon and the new moon take on a completely different understanding when you witness the effect they have on the sea, high high-tides and low low-tides! We have to pinch ourselves to realise that we are actually here enjoying and experiencing this all as much as we do!
A highlight has been the visits from Shirley Marais (nee Higgins) with whom we started reading “The Christian Community Creed” together and sharing some deep, enlightening conversations. I have reciprocated with a visit to Port Alfred, where Shirley lives now, to continue our studies.
I am so very grateful for the monthly Christian Community newsletter, keeping me informed of the weekly Bible reading, festivals, talks and happenings, enriching and allowing me to participate from afar, helping to keep my resolve strong. The Christian Community: right here in our home.
We have slowed down a lot. No rushing anywhere for us, we can literally ‘stop and smell the roses’. We have loved the meeting of new friends, the visits from old friends, the exploration into the future. And the time to make it all meaningful.
We are enjoying this next chapter of re-enlivening our lives. We are still transitioning.
We do miss you all, the rhythms and community life of the Church, and all of our friends.
But - Our hearts are full.
Letter from Stroud - February 2018
After we left Johannesburg in 2008 we had something of a year’s sabbatical in England where Aaron worked firstly at Tablehurst Biodynamic farm in Forest Row and then in the congregation there and also at a local Community for special needs adults called Nutley Hall.
(Aaron then received a sending to the congregation in Stroud in the west of England, near the southern border with Wales – Ed.itor)
We have a wonderful house and home ‘High Spinney’ in the Cotswold hills above Stroud. It is still something of an ongoing project – especially the garden terraces and stonewalls that endlessly need repair and love and care – and of course our beloved compost heaps. We are also surrounded by so many wonderful people in this Stroud area and we count our blessings every day for all the comfort and joy of our lives here, but we equally miss all our dear friends and family (you all!) who we seldom see but think of regularly. We have a beautiful large guest room and gladly receive guests from all corners of the Earth – including Johannesburg. It’s a beautiful area with loads of interesting social and cultural initiatives. So please feel heartily welcome to come and stay anytime.
in Stroud where Aaron continues with his priestly work and Judy does all sorts of related things with music, serving, puppet theatre, parent-and-child group and much more. For both of us the congregation here is a source of great joy, friendship, culture and spiritual substance. The community continues to grow in all respects, outwardly and inwardly, and all the more do we await with eager anticipation the building of our new church due to begin in May 2018. The involvement of many of the members and friends in social, educational, environmental and cultural initiatives and projects in the area is very enriching for us.
An additional growth area has been the children’s and youth work with our largest children’s camp in 2017 with 86 children and two youth conferences this in the spring of 2017. In 2018 we are taking a group of some 25 youth to Southern Spain to enjoy Seville and live and work 10 days at Los Portales ecovillage north of Seville. That is the village that Aaron lived and worked at for some weeks in 2016 as part of a sabbatical time. Another fruit of that sabbatical visit were the 9 children who came to our children’s camp in 2017 from Spain! Sabbaticals are so worth it. For Aaron it was 2½ months in Spain 2016 and especially refreshing and renewing on many levels – not to mention the chance to finally improve his Spanish and build a lot of compost heaps and work with the biodynamic preparations!
Letter from Vienna - November 2017
A rollercoaster month on four suitcases, (one without wheels), since our farewell from Dover Street. From old haunts to pastures new and some still barely known (particularly for Christine who was only briefly here in Vienna before returning to Germany - she should be back for her birthday!).
A few highlights along the way: In the first days – Michaelmas - we experienced an unforgettable, jam-packed, club appearance of a ninety plus, concentration camp survivor who, having read excerpts from her autobiography, was joined by her son on electric bass and a rap singer who together struck up a programme of social-political-critical songs for a better world. A unique and very moving meeting of worlds.
Two weeks in Norway were altogether a highlight - unknown territory with perhaps few parallels; a strong, carved, beautiful landscape, rich but not opulent, mirrored in the people and their culture. Little excess, little flimsiness and between the two a special "inner warmth" seemed thus very real.
The pictures are from the mountain train journey between Oslo and Bergen, a breathtaking journey. First the long haul up into the mountains at 1,200 metres then down through the west coast fjord landscape and the beautiful city of Bergen. Six very special hours on our journey from Jo'burg to Vienna.
A first touchdown in Vienna followed - 104 steps up to our future flat could be described as a highlight? (fourth floor and light-filled rooms where the old parquet flooring is being restored and the walls repainted as I write).
Certainly worth a mention is a globe museum, tucked away behind the bigger tourist attractions. Exhibits from over five hundred years, as the globe was re-discovered. All shapes and sizes - shapes included inflatable and umbrella constructions, sizes ranged from 2cm to almost 2m. Moon and terrestrial globes and the fascinating history from pre-Christian times, as Mankind's awareness for its surroundings expanded. Fascinating - a must when you come and visit!
We whirlwinded back to Germany, partly for the wedding of my god daughter - there was certainly a parental feeling of letting go after twenty eight years accompanying her path.
The highlight throughout proved to be a remarkable Autumn, even by European standards, where the gradual changing of the colours can continue often for a month or more, before the November weather accelerates its decline. This year, said many locals, was extraordinary in its radiance and duration.
Meanwhile snow creeps closer - in Norway we saw it at 1,200m on the train from Oslo to Bergen. In the last days its moved closer and down to 500m....
....and the gift of this transition period draws to a close. (e.g. the monthly Vorstand's meeting this evening - equivalent of the Trustees).
The initial welcome from the Congregation has been very warm, my official induction will be on the 1st Advent. Optimistic into a new chapter!
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
Saturday (in German) 09h00
Sunday Service for Children
2nd & 4th Sundays 10h00 - 11h00