Greetings from Edinburgh!
by Peter Holman (Sent to the congregation in Hillcrest in July 2018. Edited to be more generally read.)
It is three months after our departure and I thought I’d send a few lines to let you know how we’re getting on. Judy, Johnathan and I had a few weeks with Judy’s mum in Sussex to catch our breath and get a taste of life in England before moving to our new country.
My induction into the Edinburgh congregation on St John’s Day was a fine event. The Lenker, Tom Ravetz, was present and conducted a counter-ceremony to Reingard’s releasing of me from your community. He elaborated on what the Sending is and spoke of the priest’s work in relation to Whitsun, as well as to the sending out into life of the congregation after every Act of Consecration of Man. I celebrated and, I must say, experienced a strong and substance-filled aura around the altar that reminded me of my first ever celebrating in Stuttgart in 1995. It was a special confirmation of the rightness of this move for me. Music, Scottish poetry and speeches were followed by a (rare) bring-and-share lunch in the warm, sunny church garden.
There are so many blessings to count! The large, lush garden – part wild and colourful, part cultivated – the nearby canal for walks, warm, welcoming people and a fascinating city with its rich history to explore. I have bought a bicycle and enjoy speeding around with the thousands of other riders in this cycle-friendly cathedral town. We have a fine home in the basement of the church and part-time caring support for Judy. Many challenges face us, but we are well-placed to meet them.
Johnathan is getting to know the countries: a road trip with me to Scotland and now some weeks in Northern Ireland before he starts as volunteer trainee at a small Camphill community in south-east England have introduced him to his new land of residence. He is managing well, so far, and certainly enjoyed watching World Cup football in an Irish pub!
My thoughts are often with the congregation we left behind and our life in Alverstone. I wonder who will live in the flat, what events they are enjoying with their new priest and how the property generally is faring. I hope the new altar will soon be installed and hope to see a photo. Our 10 years in KZN were formative and taught me much. Our family will always have a warm memory of being there. Let us remain united in spirit, especially when we gather around the altar.
Twenty one years on
by Peter Holman (first published in Perspectives shortly before the Holman family went their individual ways and Peter and Judy relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland)
21 years after arriving with my young family in the Cape. 21 years on the job. It has been a rich time. So much has happened; so much has changed.
Judy and I left the UK on 7th September 1997 - the day after Princess Diana`s funeral, which was itself the day after Mother Teresa crossed the threshold. We brought with us our two small children, Mark and Natalie. A warm welcome awaited us at Camphill Village Alpha and we settled into life in the Village. Our twin boys, Matthew and Johnathan came to earth a year later and the four of them had a rich childhood among the trees, cows, molehills and spring daisies. Growing up surrounded by Villagers - the residents with their special challenges and handicaps - taught us all valuable lessons of respect, patience, deep understanding and love for people who are “different”, human beings who radiate such remarkable qualities in their chosen destinies. We learned to relate without masks, with a heart language and with warm humour.
My work among residents and co-workers was largely inspired by my mentor, Julian Sleigh. Julian had been one of the ones who helped me along the path towards priesthood. He had guided me through the process of training and growing. He celebrated his 70th birthday soon after we got to South Africa and set out to “pioneer retirement” as Christoph Jensen, senior co-worker put it. Julian appointed himself as my “curate” and gave me a free rein for most of the ten years we worked together. Letting go completely is never easy!
I remember early on presenting Julian with a special card. I think it was for his 70th birthday, in fact. It bore a picture of a red flower flourishing in sandy soil. I used it then in the written message and also since as an image for what was possible there in sandy Alpha. I remember paying tribute to all that Julian and Renate and their team had achieved over the years since 1965 on the sandy, barren farm Alpha, as it first was. Much was done over the years through hard work, composting, Biodynamic preparations and quite simply the walking over the land of generations of cows. Add to that the heart-forces of the villagers who helped various farmers over 50 decades to cultivate the land, turn it to good soil that could yield rich crops and mingle with the elemental beings.
Over and beyond that, though, as I wrote to Julian back then, the decisive thing that allowed the infertile sand to be so transformed was the reality of the Sacraments that were celebrated week in, year out. Already in 1969 the lovely little chapel was built and in the last 50 years well over 5000 Act of Consecration of Man services have been held, numerous funerals and many baptisms and weddings. Also the Children`s Service every week. With every Act of Consecration spiritual forces and sun rays streamed out into the surroundings, most powerfully into the chapel garden (where the spring daisies are at their most spectacular) and also into the whole of the big estate and beyond. These spiritual forces were decisive in the transformation that came about in the Village. And if today some changes have come about and the celebration of our services are less frequent, the seed has nevertheless been sown and our earth is the richer for all that has happened in the Community there.
My ten years in Camphill Village West Coast (as it became) were rich and varied. I had many, many conversations with community individuals on all sorts of themes. We celebrated the festivals in marvellous ways with plays, talks, singing, fires and activities on the land. There were lots of children, including my own, who attended the Services over the years and were confirmed. Some groups had outings to Table Mountain, caves on the Peninsular, even a camp in Macgregor one year with drumming and other social events.
These were pioneer years for the Village and the Western Cape. The congregation in Somerset West which embraced Stllenbosch and surrounds brought our work to a wider circumference and let me venture into Afrikaans for many services. In Alpha I even conducted an Afrikaans Child Burial, as the parents spoke little English, and the main purpose of this poignant ritual is to comfort the grieving parents.
The Hermanus Camphill Farm and School communities were looked after from Alpha, so I got to know this area very well too. Judy and I had first encountered Camphill life in Hermanus in the early 1990s as “young” co-workers, so this was a kind of home-coming for me! Being a “visiting” or non-residential priest is different, and there was always a good turn out in the Hemel en Aarde Valley.
While in the Dassenberg area (ie at Alpha) I came to learn a lot about life in South Africa. That particular area was where three communities met: the impoverished Xhosa settlement, Witsand; the rough Coloured town of Atlantis; and the many smallholdings where white often Afrikaans-speaking families eked out a living. Philadelphia represented a natural centre for this latter community. And Camphill Village represented something else, something perhaps more future-orientated - to some extent - not least because it housed people of all three races and from various other countries. And it strove for a modern social and cultural life, an enlightened approach to agriculture and of course had the chapel with its festival, pastoral and sacramental life.
What was particularly interesting was the potential for The Christian Community to make a difference. We tried, with some small success, to connect to people in the surroundings, ie “outside the Village!”. There was a feeling that perhaps families had settled many years before, seeking something else, an escape from the city perhaps, or a freer way of life. Maybe that hadn`t always brought hoped for contentment; certainly there were conversations around the meaning of life, making sense of personal destinies and exploring a different kind of spirituality. There was an openness in people, that led, for example, to a number of funeral services. But quite naturally a part of me wishes we had made more use of opportunities that were there. More bridges could have been built and appropriate outreach more often attempted.
One initiative that Judy and I were closely connected to was the establishing of the Dassenberg Waldorf School, which is located in the exact place where the three communities mentioned intersect. It was has been one of the brave examples of how our rainbow nation might be able to live and work together. Much of great human and social value has happened at this school since the start of the new century, and I was able to play a small role through teaching religion lessons and serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees through some bumpy times.
People who know me well know of my great interest in radio. I am always keen to discover the radio stations in a particular area. CapeTalk started up a few weeks after we arrived in the Cape - on 14th October 1997. I could write a book about my thoughts and experiences of this most marvellous community-orientated, straight-forward, intelligent talk station! It accompanied my years in the Cape. Even today when visiting Cape Town, I tune in to see what has become of that initial success story. The presenters mostly live in Cape Town, love their city, are passionate about it. You can switch on to the breakfast show or afternoon drive programme and within 10 minutes will have picked up a lot of useful information about local affairs, also national and international issues, themes of the moment, topical matters. The listeners who phone in and are put on air in are mostly articulate with relevant points to make. The presenters are often refreshingly candid, even politically incorrect. Through politics and environmental happenings, good local films and issues in the news, CapeTalk connects one to this rainbow nation land in a way that richly supplements our own experiences of South Africa.
Apart from working in the Boland and Hermanus, I was often in the Plumstead congregation. This was partly because Richard Goodall, Julian and I tried to meet regularly to study together, speak about mutual congregational matters and hold the large Western Cape area in our communal consciousness. We usually met in Cape Town. It was in the early years of this century that our Regional Synod developed a new way of Lenker working - especially in the years between Julian retiring and Reingard taking up the role. One special feature of this synodal sharing was that Richard and I would hold the Confirmation services for one another`s groups. I appreciated what Richard did at Camphill and Somerset West in this regard each year. I experienced it as an absolute privilege to be entrusted with this powerful sacrament for young people. It required a good preparation, both inwardly as priest, as well as with the parents and children on the Saturday before. The task and experience of standing before such a full church and in front of these 14 year-old young adults at an incredibly fragile and open soul-moment in their destinies to administer the sacraments of Confirmation and the immediately following Act of Consecration has been one of the highlights of my work in South Africa. Something so powerful, so individually relevant and so tangibly real flows in these moments before the young people. One is at the threshold of destiny-working and Christ Presence. It is a warm and peaceful place to be. I am grateful this was granted me in this Region.
Sometimes when Richard was away on holiday a member of the Plumstead congregation died and the nearest priest was called in. It was often me! I have conducted many funerals there. It was a privilege to get to know the families in these exceptional days. I also felt connected to the congregation through visiting on Sunday mornings throughout the years. But one funeral that stands out in my memory particularly was on 29th September 1998 (Michaelmas Day). It was the funeral of Jerome Sax, whose parents were members of the Christian Community. He was a medical services soldier killed in action in Lesotho and received a full military burial service in the SAS Simonstown Chapel. As Richard was away and as the family`s church was ours, Julian was called in and I was asked to accompany him. The large chapel was magnificent in design, there were crowds of important people from the military, local and national government and of course the media (including, naturally, CapeTalk!). Julian did a marvellous job and afterwards we met some politicians including Ronnie Kasrils. The burial (with procession and trumpet salute) in Heroe`s Acre was also an impressive spectacle. That the family and Julian had to share this event with the top brass may be offset by the fact that our working could be witnessed by “the world”. There are ways (and Julian was good at this - you can read about it in his life story) of bringing what we do into the circles in which we move, reaching out into the world.
Another aspect of working in southern Africa for 21 years is the unique spirit of warmth, openness and interest-in-the-other that seems to be possible in such a small Synod as our is. We have, despite quite a turnover of priest colleagues and of course some moments of stress and conflict, always managed to hold the respect for the other and the calm knowledge that we are working together with common purpose and need each other if we are to altogether manage our work in this challenging part of the world. There has been a particular joy in being together and a real support for one another, especially in tough times. I shall miss this.
In late 2007 my family moved to KZN. The Shongweni community had had more than its fair share of joys and sorrows, of challenging situations and pain. Not everyone was directly affected, and there was of course much of value that was achieved here. From 2005 a small group carried the inner flame of the community faithfully while there was no resident priest. The readiness of this congregation to receive a new priest coincided with the readiness of my family to move to a new community.
They have been heart-warming years as the congregation has regrouped and found a new future in Alverstone, near Hillcrest. That story is currently being written in the KZN Chronicle that I and others are busy with. Our children finished growing up here and have made their first exploratory steps into the world. There have been quite a few joys and sorrows, both in the community here and in our family. There have been so many encounters, events and valuable processes. Many people have visited our services, a good number have stayed. The relationships with the Waldorf School and Anthroposophical Society are excellent, also the wider society.
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!
Before Malcolm and Christine left South Africa, Malcolm wrote an article for Perspectives that dealt mainly with Christianity and the role of The Christian Community in South Africa. In the articles titled Three Weeks, Three Years, Thirty Years (Perspectives September-November 2017) two of the paragraphs are biographical and relate to Malcolm's time in South Africa. They are published here below.
Three weeks refers to a visit here in February 1982, to visit a friend living in a Camphill community between Johannesburg and Pretoria. A flat, sandy and dusty, characterless rural area with a scattering of homesteads, and a nearby little drive-through town, fittingly called Halfway House, which boasted a snake park. Not far away was Jan Smut’s house (and car) and the Swiss Club, an evening destination for the young co-workers. In the city centre the Market Theatre already had quite a reputation for mixed actors, mixed audiences and controversial productions. For tourists there was a bus tour of the brighter sides of Soweto (“South West Township”).
Here again much later, in 2013, I could this time gather three years of impressions. Halfway House is now Halfway Urban Sprawl, just about marking the end of the steadily encroaching northern suburbs of Johannesburg and the southern expansion of Pretoria from the north, and the snake park has gone. So too the Camphill community. My observations have this time been somewhat limited to the lens of The Christian Community. Of course the extended stay has allowed visits further afield (to Cape Town, Durban, the mountains and the reserves) as well as return visits to Soweto, the Market Theatre (and Jan Smut’s House!). The only visit to Soweto wasn’t in a bus full of tourists but to a theatre production there. It could equally have been to Sophia Town (the Trevor Huddleston community centre) or to more upmarket Rosebank. Culture thrives in the city and is increasingly enjoyed by a cross section of the population.
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.