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Cape Town 2015

From May 5-11 Vicar Helen Jacobi attended a conference of clergy from inner city churches: Trinity, Wall St, New York; Toronto Cathedral; St Mary-le-Bow, London; Hong Kong Cathedral; St James, King St, Sydney; and Cape Town Cathedral.

She writes:

Cape Town a city of contrasts – spectacular scenery, beautiful historic buildings, warmth of hospitality, extreme poverty next to great wealth, the legacy of apartheid hanging over everything. And in the midst of the city St George’s Cathedral, the place of protest and witness during all the apartheid years ministering and witnessing still to inclusivity and Bishop Tutu’s “rainbow nation.”

Highlights of our time were:

  • hearing the life story of “Mama Kate”, how her house was demolished one day while she was at work and she was deported to the Transkei, and walked for 3 weeks to return to Cape Town and joined the protests and went on a hunger strike for 23 days in March 1982 in the Cathedral with over 50 others. Eventually they were allowed to “live” on the outskirts of Cape Town where now she has a house on the edge of one of the many shanty towns. The wall of her lounge is covered in press cuttings about the protests.

  • visiting the District Six Museum which tells the story of this vibrant multi racial community which was demolished between 1966 and 1982. And hearing how the households were shipped out to the townships and separated from family and neighbours and how that breakdown of community is still a cause of social unrest today.

  • hearing from Imam Rashied Omar about the strength of interreligious solidarity which dates back to the founding of Cape Town and the slaves who worked and lived together. This solidarity was made very strong under apartheid as prisoners prayed together and shared the struggle together.

  • making the Mandela pilgrimage to Robben Island and being shown around by a former prisoner. It seemed sad that the prison will never leave the prisoners alone as it now gives them their livelihood.

  • reflecting and sharing together on our own contexts, our own engagements on a political level. And all of us being in awe of Dean Michael Weeder and his team leading a vibrant cathedral community as an ongoing witness to hope in a struggling South Africa.

  • I was privileged to be invited to preach at evensong on Sunday 10 May. My sermon is linked here. One of the realities of life in Cape Town is rolling electricity cuts. I was grateful that the lights came on 5 minutes after the service started as it was already dark and the prospect of preaching with a torch and no microphone was not a happy one! An honour to preach in Bishop Tutu’s pulpit.

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