The North Coast above Durban is delightful; beautiful sandy beaches with the Indian Ocean rolling in. The hillsides are very green. It is hardly surprising therefore that there is a lot of development for people to live in such a beautiful setting. The drive is a treat. Waterberry’s was a great spot to stop for tea. Later we met the owner and his wife. It is all part of the caravan park complex they lovingly run.
The housing is plush; much apparently owned by people from Johannesburg using it as holiday homes. There is plenty of wealth around; although a high number of For Sale boards suggests the recession is leading some to struggle to maintain these properties. We were travelling to Sheffield Beach, Umhlali to see the wonderful new church complex that is being built there. It is a fine example of real vision for engaging with people in different ways. Enough land to allow for the creation of picnic areas; a creative outdoor prayer space; what will be a fabulous kitchen able to serve many people; a lounge, good offices and a lovely worship space. It will be opened in March. It is highly suited for mission in and around this area.
We then travel back down through a variety of townships. We call in to 1 black township. We meet the priest and his wife – fantastic couple. But what this journey highlights is the enormous contrasts of this land. The stark reality of deep poverty is clear; it remains largely in the black community. The church is always called to work with all peoples. It has to work in every context. It is a delight to see a diocese working hard at this hard task.
On the Sunday we travel very early to Pietermaritzburg to preach at 2 services in the Cathedral. The early service is largely white, though not exclusively so. The later service (8.30am) is largely black and Indian but there are also some white faces. The Dean is the first black Dean of the Cathedral; he is a wonderful man.
In the afternoon we are shown around Pietermaritzburg; we visit several townships, have their history and their make up explained to us. We see the variety of church buildings serving these communities.
The evening is spent in one of the best conversations I’ve sat in on for a long while. 3 hours unbroken conversation with people from diverse backgrounds sharing openly their differing experiences of racism, prejudice, power, inheritance, hopes, support … It was wonderfully rich. Here was a microcosm of God’s kingdom. Here were people who long for this kingdom in each and every place that they serve – whether that be amongst the powerful world of business or the poverty of a township. This kind of group; these people offer great hope for the nation, and the world. Diversity can be hugely enriching when we allow it to be so.