Most South African towns have one. An NG Kerk that is. They stand in the centre of the town, often on high ground, surrounded by gardens, a marble obelisk or two, and have a huge white steeple, pricking the sky above.
As a rule I do not venture into them, or even near them really. They are part of a world that does not often intersect with mine. But, here in the Kloof, this Kerk path and mine have crossed a few Sundays ago
Due to my involvement with the Community Police Forum in which I represent a charity organisation connected to the Kerk I was asked to speak in the church service. Talking in front of people does not phase me, the idea of doing it in Afrikaans did. In the end I decided that good English was better than poor Afrikaans – so I said I would speak, but in English. The Dominee, who has become a friend, was not concerned.
So Sunday arrived and Lex came to support me. He is on new medication and promised to stay awake for my bit – the meds were knocking him out. I was grateful. I knew the Dominee would understand – he is that kind of Dominee. Kind.
Lex hauled out a clean shirt and chinos and got a little anxious about a tie – but in the end we went neat and clean, stopping for Lex to down a red bull – he felt exhausted. I so appreciated him coming with me.
He has memories of a similar church from his childhood – a high pulpit and even loftier sermons. This Kerk proved to be light and bright, simple and clean – with lots and lots of wood (maybe due to the Tsitsikamma forests just over the mountains). It has a feel of theatre in the round.
Churches often feel theatrical to me. with all the players in their place, the long maroon velvet curtains, the brocade and , in this particular church the row of men in black suits, white shirts and silvery ties. We were a little late but we found my Social Worker friend and slid into the pew next her.
Our turn came and I spoke. I wanted to talk about Jesus really, which would be appropriate, but I just wanted to speak of His love for humanity, especially the addicts, the alcoholics, the tossed away people of the Kloof. What I did speak of was the Agenda of the Forum, the illegal shebeens, the understaffed police station, the language issues. I tagged on something about Jesus being our Hope, the worlds Hope – but the word Love I didn’t say – but I wanted to.
The Dominee spoke about Love though and I was grateful for a God who knows and completes our sentences for us.
We went to the Kerk that night as well. We took a whole lot of young people with us- because a little dramatjie was being performed and, well, drama (of the theatrical kind) is rare in the Kloof.
Two young adults performed. One we had briefly met when she was a waitress and we were just arrived in the Kloof. Then she had struck us as deep and sensitive and with eyes looking away from the Kloof for some bigger thing. So we were not
surprised. Rumours had also informed us of some deeper tragedy to her existence. A true Drama queen – right here in the Kloof. And she was great.
There was an intensity and a sincerity to her performance, her poetry and in her voice when she sang. Her friend proved strong too, in her piece. I felt a deep and true emotion in response to their performance.
Most of all I was moved by two young woman writing from the Kloof with concern and passion about Crystal Meths and homeless people and deep, deep need. Their writing holds compassion, and here where, notoriously, compassion has often been lacking I felt hopeful. Maryka and (forgive me for forgetting your name) I salute you.
So the Kerk blessed my socks off that Sunday – and will do so again sometime soon I am sure. And Barnard too – hey -the dominee who dares….