28 July 2020

Anglican Students Federation -- 60th Anniversary (Part 2: 1963/64)

In an earlier post Notes from underground: Anglican Students Federation -- 60th Anniversary I blogged about the first conference of the Anglican Students Federation of South Africa (ASF), at which it was decided to form the ASF.

I missed the next two ASF Conferencess in 1961 and 1962 (having failed my first year at Wits University, I worked for Johannesburg Municipality as a bus conductor for two years, before going to Natal University in 1963). But someone did record some of the papers of the 1961 conference on tape, so I was able to listen to Fr John Davies speaking on Religion versus God, which was my introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Brother Roger, CR, speaking on More Pilgrims of the Absolute.

In 1963 I was at the University of Natal in Pietermasritzburg, and so was able to attend the Fourth ASF conference in that year. While I now have no contact at all with anyone who was at the first conference in 1960 -- everyone I knew who was at that conference is either dead or out of touch. So there is no one I know who shares those memories. I am, however, still in touch with several people who were at the 1963 and later conferences, and so I hope they will find these shared memories interesting.


Monday 1 July 1963

I took my mother to work, and then set out in her car for Modderpoort. I reached Kroonstad at 12.30, and had a hamburger for lunch at a roadhouse. Passing through Ventersburg I picked up a minister of the Christian Apostolic Church in Zion, and gave him a lift as far as Winburg. The road between Winburg and Marquard was now tarred. At Clocolan I turned off to Modderpoort, and as I drove in to the priory saw most of the Natal contingent going up the road. We wandered around talking for a while, and then went up to the Priory and sat by the fire. We had Evensong at 6, followed by supper, and then went over to one of the classrooms where we had reports from the various centres.

Tuesday 2 July 1963

Mattins at 6.30 in the Priory Chapel, followed by Mass. After Mass John Aitchison and I took the district nurse and Dr Barker to attend to a sick baby, and then came back to breakfast.

After breakfast Dr Barker spoke on Mission Hospitals, and challenged students to give a year of their lives after university to work in the church hospitals, before taking up their careers. Group discussions on the need for mission hospitals followed - paternalism was seen as a problem.

In the afternoon Canon Gilmore, Archdeacon of Zululand, spoke on The Future of the White Man in missions to Blacks. In discussions which followed, most people agreed that whites could still be involved in missions to blacks, but on an equal, and not on a paternalistic basis.

After supper Fr John Davies, the Wits University chaplain, led a Bible study on the letters to the seven Churches in Revelation. It was very good.

Notes and comments 

Dr Anthony Barker was Medical Superintendent of the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital in Nqutu, Zululand. The hospital was nationalised, along with many other church hospitals, was nationalised by the National Party government in the 1970s. 

Wednesday 3 July 1963

Mattins and Mass in the Priory Chapel. After breakfast Prof. Oosthuizen of Fort Hare spoke on Christianity and Means of Communication, followed by discussion on ways of communicating the Christian faith.

After lunch there were no lectures, and five of us went to Maseru - John Aitchison, Clive and Kevin Leeman, Darryl Milner and I. We did not all have passports, and the law requiring them had only come into effect two days ago. Just before the bridge into Maseru there was a sea of mud, where earthmovers had scraped out a flat place, and in the middle of it was a little prefab hut with a customs officer wearing a cap with a magnificent floral arrangement as a badge. The Leemans had British passports, and he told them that by using them they could lose their South African citizenship. John Aitchison had a tourist passport, and I had an out of date tourist passport, while Darryl Milner did not even have an identity card. Eventually the customs officer said he would let us go if they let us through on the Lesotho side, which they did.

We went into the town, and then had a look at the Roman Church, after which we went to the post office, which was joyfully non-racial - a very pleasant experience after South African segregated ones. We went to a store where John Aitchison bought a blanket. We went to the local Rectory to pay our respects to the Rector, who was just going out, so we went to the Bishop's House, where a bloke came to the door and said curtly ``State your business'', and said that the Bishop was ill and would not see us. He was not at all friendly.

We returned to Modderpoort, and practised Patrick Appleford's setting of the Mass before going in to supper. After supper Alan Paton spoke to us about righteousness and whether it would triumph. He said that righteousness must be its own reward. In discussion most agreed that righteousness would not triumph in this world - the discussion continued until quite late.

Notes and comments

The method of handling conference papers was apparently quite novel. Instead of having a general question and answer session the speaker would be asked to prepare a series of discussion questions on the topic of their paper, and then  we would discuss one or more of the questions in small groups of 4-5 people, and report any significant points back at a plenary session.

If we needed to go shopping, the nearest town to Modderpoort was Ladybrand, 9 miles away. Maseru was twice as far -- 18 miles -- but we preferred drive past Ladybrand to go shopping there, because in those days it gave a taste of freedom. 

Thursday 4 July 1963

We had Mass in the Test School Chapel at 7.15, celebrated by Fr Davies using the reformed rite.

After breakfast we had Bible study, followed by a talk by Robin Briggs and Doreen Gumede on the findings of the Nairobi All-Africa Christian Youth Conference. Discussion followed, but covered much the same ground as previous discussions at the conference - black-white relationships, missionary work, and the effect on young people of rural background of the drift to the towns.

In the afternoon John Davies talked about the future of the ASF. In the evening we discussed ways of breaking down the colour bar in churches. John Davies said it must be done without making a fuss about it, and then it would be more natural. Several people misunderstood this, and thought he meant we must wait until it happened naturally.

Later Robin Briggs showed a film of the Nairobi conference.

Notes and comments

Largely because of residential segregation (the Group Areas Act etc.) the members of most Anglican parishes were all of one race. If people of a different race attended a service, there was often a speech of welcome or explanation made,  drawing attention to their presence. This is what John Davies was referring to as "making a fuss". His point was that the Church should treat that as natural and normal and unremarkable, and regard segregated congregations as the abnormal practice.

Friday 5 July 1963

Fr Goldie (Chaplain at University of Natal, Durban) celebrated Mass in the Test School Chapel, using the reformed rite, and we sang the Appleford setting accompanied by Brian Pottan on guitar. After breakfast we had Bible study, and then had the Annual General Meeting.

After reports from the outgoing committee, there were elections. I proposed Stephen Gawe for President, but Michael Stevenson was elected. Kelleen Maynier was General Secretary, Stephen Gawe Vice-President, Doreen Gumede was Conference Secretary and John Aitchison Publicity and Publications Officer.
Victor Mkhize and Stephen Gawe
 After lunch we had a lot of motions about various topics, most of which were passed unanimously after a few amendments. I proposed one about the segregated state of church schools, which got Peter Anderson and Ego Goodyer really agitated, and eventually it was passed in much modified form.

After supper we had a concert. Some of us sang some songs, and Stephen Gawe acted a witchdoctor. Elgie Dano and Patrick Kotta taught some folk-songs: Ingwe nengonyama, zona zilale manzini.

We eventually got to bed about 3 am.

Saturday 6 July 1963

Wandile Kuse celebrated Mass in the Test School Chapel. We had Bible study after breakfast, and had a discussion about whether one should leave the Church in order to reform it, as Kierkegaard had done.

Fr O'Hara, the Roman chaplain at University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, spoke on Christian encounter - about the new ideas and people students met at university, and how they might react to them. At tea time I went down to the Modderpoort Post Office to draw some money from my Post Office Savings Bank account, but they didn't have any money at the Post Office, so I had to travel to Ladybrand to get it. Tony McGregor came with me, and when we got back the discussion of Fr O'Hara's talk was over, and we listened to the report-back.
University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg representative at ASF 63

Ken Lemmon-Warde, Darryl Milner, Fr Gerard O'Hara, Roger Sparks
Peta Conradie, Jane Burchall, Bridget Bailey

In the afternoon John Aitchison and I climbed Spitzkop. Later we talked to Deisman Jonas about police beatings in the Transkei, and he told us about a headman who had been collecting money for a school-teacher, and he had a list of names of contributors, and on the strength of that was convicted of being a member of Poqo - a sort of Pan-Africanist version of the Broederbond.

I took Fr O'Hara back to a Roman monastery near Marseilles after supper, and they gave us wine. Wandile Kuse and Doreen Gumede had come with me.

Sunday 7 July 1963

We had Mass in the Priory Chapel, with the reformed rite, celebrated by the Bishop of Bloemfontein (Bendyshe Burnett).

Fr John Davies
After breakfast we had the last Bible Study on Revelation, and then John Davies spoke on Christian Art, which he illustrated with pictures and records. He said Christian art was not simply art which was done by people who happened to be Christian, or which depicted Bible scenes, but it must show the tension between the divine and the human poles, as in the incarnation.

He mentioned the Isenheim altarpiece of Grunewald, where the crucifixion was depicted as a gory death of an ordinary human being, and the divine pole was concentrated in St John's pointing finger, saying, in effect, "That is the son of God - believe it if you dare!"

General discussion followed, without breaking up into groups, and Picasso and Salvador Dali were mentioned.

After lunch Wandile Kuse wanted to buy cigarettes, so Joan Burchall, Peta Conradie, Roger Sparks and I went with him to Ladybrand. When we went into the shop they told Wandile to go round to the non-European section, so we all went round, and after that they were quite nice to us.

When we returned a Mr Matabeko (?) gave a talk on Christianity and the Spiritual Destiny of Africa which was very interesting, and stimulated a great deal of discussion.

Monday 8 July 1963

The conference ended after breakfast, and I took John Aitchison, Barbara Hutton and Cyprian Moloi back with me to Johannesburg. We went to say goodbye to Fr O'Hara first and he showed us round the Roman mission at Marseilles, and we had tea with them, and travelled through Marseilles, Westminster, Excelsior and Winburg.

We took Cyprian home to Meadowlands, and then went to see Fr Comber and told him about the conference. Mrs Comber had been fasting all day as a protest against the Government's destruction of family life.

Tuesday 9 July 1963

John Aitchison and I went to the NUSAS Congress at Wits, and saw Mike Stevenson and Kelleen Maynier there. Mike, Kelleen and I went up to the YMCA to see Stephen Gawe. In the evening Stephen Gawe came to have supper with us, and we talked about the SCA and the ASF. He is also a member of the SCA council, and they were having a constitutional wrangle.

Notes & comments

The SCA constitutional wrangle was because the Afrikaans section wanted it to split into four separate racially segregated bodies -- see below.

Wednesday 10 July 1963

John Aitchison and I again looked in at the NUSAS Congress, and we met Robert Molteno, who told us about the Church Schools Action Group, which aimed to make the church schools less godless. Peter Anderson and John Aitchison were asked to form committees in Transvaal and Natal.


During the ASF Conference, a photographer commissioned by SPG (Society for the Propagtion of the Gospel, an English missionary society) attended, with 6 cameras strung around his neck, and took vast numbers of photographs. He was travelling round the world taking publicity pictures, and obviously took so many that he couldn't remember where he had taken them all. One picture taken at the ASF Conference in the bitter cold of a Free state winter showed blanketed students listening to a lecture, and later appeared in a USPG publication captioned "Transkei Diocesan Finance Board"

At the end of its third year, the ASF had developed a pattern of working, and had begun to be more organized. It was definitely a Federation: other than the annual conference, all activity took place on the local campuses. The committee kept in touch by post, and met once a year apart from at the July conference. It was a low budget operation, and expenses were very few.

Nevertheless, ASF performed the function of enabling Anglican students to meet, and to reflect on their faith and on the situation in Southern Africa in the light of that faith. A good deal of the conference was devoted to input - the "business" took one day out of six, and the remainder was devoted to talks and discussion. This was in contrast to organizations like NUSAS, and the SCA, and later UCM, which spent most of the time at their conferences discussing business, motions and resolutions.

Another difference between ASF conferences and those of other student organisations at that time was that though there were parties at the ASF conferences, there was no alcoholic liquor. There was no rule against it, no one said there should be no booze. It was just that no one felt the need for it.

As can be seen, Anglican students were involved in both SCA and NUSAS. Stephen Gawe was a member of the SCA council, while others were representatives at the NUSAS congress.

The SCA at this time was under much pressure from the Afrikaans section (we assumed that this pressure originated with the Broederbond) to implement apartheid in its own organization, and to split up into separate Afrikaans, English, Coloured and African organizations. This was to come to a head 18 months later, and eventually led to the formation of the University Christian Movement.


I travelled to Modderpoort from Pietermaritzburg by car, after going to Durban to fetch my cousin, Jennifer Growdon, who was an Art student at Natal Technical College.


Monday 29 June 1964

Jennifer and I loaded our things into the car and went back to Maritzburg, and went into town where I bought a sleeping bag and some films. I went back to Varsity, leaving Jennifer in town, and wrote my Zulu exam. I wrote it in Mr Watson's room, alone, and he pushed off and said I could time myself and see when I finished. I finished early and went back to Res. for lunch, and afterwards started packing up my things to go to Modderpoort. At 2 pm we started loading the car, and it seemed impossible that we should get everything in. It took us half an hour. Henry Bird sat in front with his feet on a couple of sleeping bags. Wally Buhler was in the back with his feet on a case and his chin on his knees. We picked Jenny up at the City Hall, and drove up the old Howick Road through Wembley.

We passed through Ladysmith at sunset, and climbed up Van Reenen's Pass. The further up we got, the lower the engine temperature gauge dropped. A few miles outside Bethlehem we saw a lot of snow lying at the side of the road - it had been there from last week, and Jennifer and Wally wanted to play with it, as it was the first snow they had seen. We stopped at Bethlehem, and had coffee and hamburgers for supper. Near Paul Roux we nearly ran over two skunks which were crossing the road. I didn't know that there were such things in South Africa - I had always thought they were North American animals. Between Senekal and Marquard another skunk crossed the road in front of us.

On the last leg of the journey, between Clocolan and Modderpoort, we passed a Volkswagen with an Umfolozi registration, and they waved at us, so we stopped and found that it was Fr Midian Msane with some people from Zululand university. They were lost, and had gone all the way to Brandfort along the national road. We led them the rest of the way to Modderpoort, where we arrived about 10 o' clock.

Tuesday 30 June 1964

We had Mass in the Priory chapel. It was bitterly cold, and I wore my kaross (made of wild cat skins from Bechuanaland) while Dave Short wore my blanket. Soon many others were also wearing blankets.

After breakfast Fr John Davies, the Wits Chaplain, led a Bible study. Last year he had gone through the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, and now he decided to go back to the beginning, and began with Genesis chapter 1. We then went outside to be in the sun, and Fr Harker spoke on Church Schools and the Colour Bar. He was very factual, and gave very little of his own opinion, but quoted from headmasters he had written to. Most of them seemed to think that if the church schools (white) were to open their doors to all races, they would lose support, and would therefore lose money, and seemed to assume that money was the most important thing there is -- an attitude of "Christianity is all very well, but you have to be realistic, you know."

In our question for group discussion we had to say whether we thought it would be best to have fully integrated schools, starting from scratch, or admitting not more than 10% non-whites to an established school, in order to maintain traditions and so on. We all agreed that it was better to start an integrated school from scratch, because the 10% attitude was sheer arrogance, and assumed that the culture of the dominant group must be preserved at all costs, and rammed down others' throats.

There were only a couple of people in our group who really said anything - Elizabeth Homoller and Rick Houghton -- the latter is from America, and is now at Cape Town varsity collecting material for his Master's thesis in African History.

After the discussion there was a report back, and then we had lunch, and in the afternoon Miss G. Darrel (?), an English lecturer at Fort Hare, spoke on Christian doctrine in Shakespeare's plays. It was very good, but probably mainly of benefit to English Honours students.

After tea Bridget Bailey, Jill Hodli, Dave Short, John Thatcher, Wally Buhler and I went to Maseru to do some shopping. It took so long to get through the border, however, that all the shops were shut by the time we got there (the delays were all on the South African side). We tried to find a guy Wally knew, Andrew Ramalethe, who had been at UNP two years ago, and was supposed to be a big wheel in the Department of Justice. We were told he had gone to London to study how to overhaul the legal system of Lesotho before independence.

We then went to the hospital where Biddy, Dave and John Thatcher had smallpox vaccinations, to get back over the border. They each had to pay 60c. We then went along to the pub, and got talking to a chap called Desmond Sixishe, who wanted to know all about NUSAS, and promised to get us a white paper on the constitutional talks the next time we came.

We went to a cafe to get fish and chips, and went back across the border before it closed at 8 pm. Back at Modderpoort they were having a party, but there was only one record - the Beatles Please, Please me, which began to get rather boring after a couple of hours.

Notes and comments

John Davies later expanded his Bible studies on Genesis chapters 1-3 and it was published as a book called Beginning Now -- see here.

Wednesday 1 July 1964

We went to Mass down at the Test School, in the room we had used for lectures last year, but which had now been turned into a chapel, but it was a long narrow tunnel. Peter Hinchliff celebrated, facing the congregation, but from the back we couldn't see him at all.

After breakfast we continued the Bible study on Genesis, and then again moved outside for Peter Hinchliff's paper on Faith and History. He asked whether the historian could retain his intellectual integrity and still be a Christian in the writing of history. He said no historian could be completely objective, and he would have to select what he would put into his history, and what he would leave out. He would also, if he was writing history, and not a mere chronicle, put in some interpretation of the events he described.

After lunch we had a hockey match on an extremely bumpy field. Then Peter Hinchliff spoke again, this time on The Christian Meaning of Love, in which he talked about the old and new moralities - so-called. He said the "old morality" was legalistic, and not really Christian, and the "new morality" did not know anything about love, which it claimed was the only law for Christians, and cited the case of a man who was cured of his passion for little girls by committing adultery with a married woman. The adultery, say the exponents of the new morality, is all right, because it cured the man. This, said Peter Hinchliff, is saying that the end justifies the means, and that motives don't count at all. In this case the exponents of the new morality have failed to understand the Christian meaning of love, which includes faithfulness and commitment.

In our discussion groups we talked about divorce and premarital intercourse. We started off by defining the phrase "free love", which is often used to mean unlimited sexual intercourse, which is neither free, nor is it love. We thought it was love given freely, with no strings attached, with no hint of limitations or conditions, I will love you ...if, or when... or whether....We also all agreed that the church was too lenient about divorce, which was a denial of love. How could people who were divorced be admitted to communion if each had "married" someone else, and so there was no hope of them ever being in communion with each other. If they went to different churches, they could avoid being in communion with each other. We also thought that the church had become too tied up with the State over marriage, and the state had laid down conditions which were alien to Christianity, such as not allowing people of different races to marry.

After reporting back, we went to Evensong, and then to supper, and then all the Maritzburg people came over to the new Test School Chapel, where we had a practice for the Mass we were doing tomorrow. We decided that we didn't like the altar way over at one end, so we brought it to me middle and arranged the benches around it.

When we had finished, we went back to the common room, where we were having centre reports, and when we walked in, everyone from Maritzburg all at once, everyone else in the room burst out laughing. I gave the report, which everyone thought a tremendous joke, and it provoked roars of laughter. Afterwards Wally and Biddy said that Joan Burchall and Ken Lemmon-Warde had asked that the report be kept serious, but we didn't have a chance, when they started laughing the moment we walked in the door.

Michael Hays and Bennett Ramoabi talked about St Paul's and St Peter's Colleges, and showed slides of St Paul's. They were all very pious. I hate to think what Bennett's sermons will be like when he is ordained - he is very longwinded, and prefaces everything with ``Welll.....'' like ``Well, that's really all there is to say........welll........as far as .........''

Then there was another hop, with the same old record, so a few of us went for a walk down to the station and looked at the locomotives.

Thursday 2 July 1964

Mass in the Test School Chapel, using the Maritzburg rite, with Fr Sweet celebrating. Biddy Bailey read the epistle, Henry Bird and Anne Scott did the offertory, and I did the prayer for the church. We sang the Appleford setting, without the Lord's Prayer.

After breakfast and Bible study Canon Frederick Amoore, the Provincial Executive officer, told us something about the Church of the Province and what it did. In discussion groups we asked what our own parishes were doing about ecumenical action, and about such things as marriage problems. I suggested having house churches, and Shirley Davies (wife of John Davies, the Wits Chaplain) supported me, and everyone agreed.

I left the discussion group early so we could go to Maseru - we wanted to get there before the bank closed so Henry could get his money. Six of us went - Henry, Ernest Mkize, Barbara Hutton, Ann Scott and Gail. We arrived at Maseru as the bank was closing, and Henry ran round the back and did some fast talking, and they gave him some money in the end. Then we went to the chemist, and got some cough sweets, because we all had colds. We then went to the pub, while we were waiting for the hospital to open so Ernest and Ann Scott could be vaccinated. In the pub we met a newspaper reporter who had been there the other night, and a couple of people from Roma. After Ernest was vaccinated we went to Roma, and took the wrong road a couple of times, but eventually arrived there, helped by Ernest's limited knowledge of SeSotho to ask directions.

We drove around the university, and then stopped by the side of the road to take photographs. While we were doing that, Fr Sweet drove up with Biddy Bailey and Wally Buhler and we had a picnic there, a late lunch, as it was nearly 4 pm. After some car problems - the steering box had worked loose, we returned to Maseru, and went to the pub and sat by the fire, which was not very bright. Desmond Sixishe came up to join us. He had given us a copy of the white paper on the constitutional conference earlier in the day when we met him outside the hospital. Now he wanted to talk about NUSAS, which we did for a bit, and then went to get some supper at a tea room near the Roman Cathedral, and returned to the land of 90 days and police snoopers. As Fr Davies said in his Bible Study, if one wanted to write a play, the first two lines of which would embody the present situation, they would be "here's somebody outside checking up on something."
Roadside picnic at Roma, Lesotho
 We drove back to Modderpoort very slowly, with the steering box going klonk klonk every time we hit a bump. There was another party when we returned. The parties were not as good as last year, and people did not seem to get to know each other as well as they had last year. Sleeping accommodation was segregated, except for the first night - apparently the SSM fathers had discovered some old Free State law dating back to republican times which prohibited blacks and whites from sleeping under the same roof, so we had all had to move.

Friday 3 July 1964

I woke up feeling sick, so did not go to Mass, but got up for breakfast at 8 am. Then Miss D. Aitken, principal of the Rhenish High School at Stellenbosch, spoke on Evolution, Science and Christianity, which was largely based on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

In the afternoon the Bishop of Bloemfontein gave a review of The Primal Vision which was interesting, but not of much use to people who had not read the book, and most hadn't. Reports from discussion groups showed that most people had dismissed it as being of no value whatever.

Noel Lebenya
In the evening we sang songs, and then later on a few of us - John de Beer, Noel Lebenya, Stephen Gawe and I, sat around talking long after midnight. Noel told us about his many girlfriends, and his steady in Bloemfontein. The rest of us argued with him about this -- saying that if he expected to be able to trust his steady, she should be able to trust him. He is a nice guy, went to school in Thaba Nchu, and then worked for a while, and is now in his first year at Turfloop, doing social work. He had taken to wearing a blanket around the place, and it seems to suit him. His grandfather was a Mosotho.

Everyone else drifted off to bed, and only Stephen Gawe and I were left. We played a couple of games of chess -- he beat me easily both times. Then we talked about people at the conference, and who would be suitable to elect to the executive at the AGM tomorrow. Mike Stevenson was the obvious choice for President, if he would stand again. Stephen thought Clive Whitford for Vice-President, and I thought Jeremiah Mosimane would be better. He is doing 2nd year BA at Turfloop. We both thought Mavourneen Moffett would be good as Secretary. Then, as it was about 4 am, we said Mattins together, and prayed, and went to bed, lying next to the fire in the common room.

Notes and comments

Two books that were quite influential in theological circles at that time had opposing messages. The Primal Vision by John V. Taylor said that the Western church had embraced secular modernity too much, and so could not communicate very well with African mythological thinking. Harvey Cox, in The Secular City said that the church was not modern and secular enough, and out to demythologise everything. Back then we did not use words like modernity, premodernity and postmodernity. Perhaps the book's time has come. You can read more about it here.

Saturday 4 July 1964

We woke up when Clive Whitford came into the common room to get some chairs, and found that breakfast was halfway through. We rushed in an managed to get our porridge, and then came Bible Study, where Fr Davies gave a magnificent exposition of the Fall in Genesis 3.

Mike Stevenson and Doreen Gumede (President & Secretary) had gone to the bank in Ladybrand, so we could not start the AGM until they were back, so Noel, Henry Bird and I went down to the post office to get some money. We went back for the AGM which followed after tea. Mike Stevenson was re-elected president. Roy Knifton from St Paul's was vice president. June Darby was Secretary, Mavourneen Moffett was Conference Secretary, and I was publications officer.

We then went on to pass some resolutions, and that continued after lunch. After that Fr Norman Montjane, the chaplain, spoke about the Toronto Anglican Conference.

After supper all the Natal delegates got together to decide on the date and speakers for a regional conference, and decided to ask Prof Edgar Brookes, Dr Roger Raab, and Dr Anthony Barker to speak. After that we had a concert, with various people singing and acting. Fr Davies & Fr Montjane did a bit from "Beyond the Fringe", introduced by John Greig -- "You've heard of Abbott and Costello, Lewis and Martin, This beats the lot. As usual, there is a short fat one and a long thin one -- Davies and Montjane".

Sunday 5 July 1964

Mass at 7.15 am, breakfast and the last Bible study. Dr Currie gave a square and conservative talk on Christian National Education. He talked a lot about Lord Milner, and seemed to like what he had done -- attempting to Anglicize the country. Another Rex Simpson. Later someone said that he had remarked about the fact that some of us were wearing blankets, and said that that was what he had been fighting against all his life. No doubt blanket-wearing does not uphold the traditions of the Empah! He talked a lot about the history of Christian National Education, but said very little about what it meant today.
Henry Bird, Dave Short, Jerry Mosimane, Noel Lebenya Steve Hayes
 After lunch Fr Mark Tweedy, of the Community of the Resurrection, talked about Christianity in Russia today, and the contribution it could make to the Church of the future. When he spoke about the relationship between church and state he said the Russian Church had to keep very quiet. He said that Eastern Orthodox Theology generally was behind that of the West, and they had few books, and little contact with other theologians. We did not have group discussions after his paper, but a general discussion.

In the evening after supper we had a play reading, John Osborne's "A subject of Scandal and Concern". A few of us were singing round the fire afterwards, and I found John Davies broad-brimmed black hat lying in the coal bucket so I picked it up, and shook some cigarette ash off it. Shirley Davies grabbed it and said "Don't clean it!", and she sat on it, crumpled it up and put it under her arm. She told us that three priests in Joburg had been sacked without reasons being given. We talked about how rich the church is -- too rich.

Monday 6 July 1964.

The conference ended.


A few weeks later, Stephen Gawe and three other Fort Hare students were detained under the 90 day detention clause. They were later charged with furthering the aims of the African National Congress (ANC), and Stephen was sentenced to a year's imprisonment. More about him here.

John Aitchison, who attended the 1963 conference, was banned in May 1965.

By the 5th conference the ASF had developed something of a tradtion, p[assed from one generation of students to another. One of the traditions at this point was the relationship with the SSM (Society of the Sacred Mission) fathers who were based at Modderpoort. The conference would usually begin with people climbing the hill to worship in the priory chapel, passing the frozen goldfish pond on the way. Then arrangements were made, as in 1964, for later services to be led by a group from different centres. But the enforcement of segregated sleeping accommodation in 1964, changed that, One of the resolutions passed at the business meeting was to look for a venue that did not enforce such a rule.

And since some people who were at these conferences may still be around to read thus, please add your own memories in the comments. 

27 July 2020

Anglican Students Federation -- 60th Anniversary

Today, 27 July 2020, is the 60th anniversary of the Anglican Students Federation of South Africa (ASF), whose founding meeting was held on 27 July 1960 at Modderpoort in the Free State.

The ASF has had a considerable impact on the life of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, though that impact has rarely received public attention. Many clergy and lay leaders have been influenced during their student years by the ASF, and it has given many of them valuable experience in leadership.

Germ of an Idea

To my knowledge, the idea of the ASF began on the Wits University Campus in 1959. At that time the Chaplain to the University was Fr Tom Comber, and the Chairman of the Anglican Society was John Daines, who later became a military chaplain, while Tom Comber was later arrested for participating in peace demonstrations in the UK.

Anglican Society activities at Wits then consisted of a weekly Mass in one of the lecture rooms, a weekly lunch-time meeting, with a speaker, and informal gatherings in the chaplain's office, which was a prefab hut. The Anglican Society, led by John Daines and Brian Gannon, was aggressively Anglo-Catholic, and the fact that Roman Catholic students had a "National Catholic Federation of Students" seems to have been the spur which led to the formation of the ASF.

Revd Tom Comber, Wits chaplain
Tom Comber, John Daines and Brian Gannon formed an ad hoc committee to arrange a national Anglican conference in July 1960. Invitations were sent to other Anglican Societies at universities and teacher training colleges and theological colleges. The venue was to be the St Augustine's Test School at the priory of the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM) at Modderpoort in the eastern Free State.

Tom Comber found that the parents of many of the female students would not allow them to attend the conference unless there was a chaperon, and he persuaded my mother, Ella Hayes, to attend in that capacity.

The conference almost had to be cancelled because of the State of Emergency that followed the Sharpeville Massacre, but he somehow managed to get a paper with the necessary permission for such a gathering. So students converged on Modderpoort from all over the country. I travelled by car with my mother, and we took a couple of theological students from St Peter's College, Rosettenville, Benjamin Photolo and Jacob Maleke, whose homes were in Sharpeville, so they knew people who had been killed or injured in the shooting there,

I'll tell most of the story of the conference from the diary I kept at the time, with occasional explanatory notes.


Saturday 23 July 1960

We left for Modderpoort at about 8.30 am, and picked up Jacob Maleke at Amen Court (next to St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg) at 9.00 am, and went on to Vereeniging where we picked up Benjamin Photolo at 9.45 am, and then went on through Parys and Brandfort. Between Brandfort and Kroonstad Mr (Rex) Simpson passed us, with Mike Quail, Louise Hesselman, Margaret Edwards and Pam Lowick. We stopped at Kroonstad to fill up with petrol - 150 miles on nearly 4 gallons. At 12.30, ten miles out of Kroonstad, we stopped for lunch - cold chicken and sandwiches. Graham Tremeer passed us in an Austin while we were stopped.

We set off again, and I nearly fell asleep driving over the flat Free State countryside. We passed through Winburg, and continued on a gravel road. On the other side of Winburg Fr Tom Comber was stopped, having lunch. We stopped for a short while to chat, then went on to Modderpoort through Marquard and Clocolan. We were the first car to arrive at Modderpoort, and were greeted by John Daines, who had arrived that morning by train.

We had tea in the refectory, and then went to the station to meet people who had arrived on the train from Durban. Among them was John Greig, a student from St Paul's College, Grahamstown.

After supper, we joined the SSM fathers for Compline in the priory chapel, and then went to bed, shivering, in dormitories below the dining room. (My mother, who had been persuaded by Fr Comber to come as a chaperone for the girls, stayed with Miss Minnie Wright, sister of one of the SSM fathers, in a cottage some distance away)

Sunday 24 July 1960

We got up, still shivering, at 6.30 am, and went to Mattins and Mass (in the Priory Chapel). The Bishop of Bloemfontein, Bendyshe Burnett, celebrated. After breakfast we made our beds, and then went to a classroom for the first address, by the Bishop of Bloemfontein, on The Theological Roots of Anglicanism.

He said that the church roots were the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, the three creeds of the undivided church, the sacraments and the threefold ministry. A non-papal Catholic church emerged from a political settlement, which became the Anglican Communion. Political influence enabled it to retain its Catholic nature. Today most Anglican Churches have no state connections. It has been shown that papal supremacy is not necessary to church order. The Anglican Communion has no objection to papal primacy which is quite different from papal supremacy.

The Roman Church has attacked episcopacy as much as the Protestants - the Holy Spirit is virtually replaced by a ruler ex-cathedra. Episcopacy in the Anglican Church reminded the English that it was not a merely English institution, but the utterance in England of the universal Christian Church. The Pope describes himself as the ``Vicar of Christ'' - it is a false conception that the ministers are deputed to do what our Lord did years ago. They regard themselves as representing a sometimes present Christ - a practical loss of faith in the Holy Spirit. Anglican ministers are representatives - they represent to the church the ever-present Christ. The ministry is a divinely ordained order. The Protestant view is too subjective.

The Anglican Communion has no faith in itself. We are concerned with the Church of God. The words used at the consecration of a Bishop - ``receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God'' are alone sufficient evidence of this.

The use of Scripture to establish doctrine must be done in the Church. Scripture in the context of the Church is the standard for doctrine. The appeal to Scripture by Anglicans is different from that of Protestants who approach Scripture in a vacuum. Because the Anglican Communion is both Catholic and Reformed some make the Bible and some make Tradition the more important. The liturgy preserves us from ultimate loss by pressure from the spirit of the age.

The Anglican Church became too tolerant, liberal, and thus worldly until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The reaction from this led to the formation of three streams - Liberal, Catholic and Evangelical, basing their ideas on reason, tradition, and scripture respectively. The church must not be tied down by the spirit of the age, but some latitude is necessary.

The Reformers liberated us from Medieval thinking by the emphasis on Justification by Grace, rediscovering the social nature of the Church. Until recently the Roman Church has been thoroughly individualistic and Protestant in their approach to the Mass. The whole Church is the people of God, a priestly body. With Protestantism the evangelical principles become too vague and pietistic.

The Catholic stream emphasizes the fact that the Church, Sacraments etc. are all given. The Church mediates Christ to the world. All members of the Church are becoming more and more into the full manhood of Christ into which they have already been baptized.

These three are all necessary to the Catholic Church of God, although sometimes we do not appreciate all of them. Even Rome is now catching up on the positive insights of the Reformation.

The mistake of Evangelicals is that they think baptism gives no status. They emphasize conversion and think that one must be able to state how and when it happened. The Romans also, for all practical purposes, regard their members as unbaptized, and emphasize repentance and a series of penitential acts. The West thinks of the dying Christ - the East thinks of the risen Christ, but the Anglican Church has a structure which embraces both.

In the afternoon several of us climbed the mountain behind the Priory, and walked along the top for a while, before coming down a gully, with Liz Tucker leading the way like a mountain goat. We had tea, and Evensong in the Priory chapel at 6.00 pm with the SSM, which was followed by supper.
The SSM Priory and Test School at Modderpoort, from the hill behind

After supper the Bishop of Bloemfontein gave another address, on The Church of the Future.

Bishop Bendyshe Burnett of Bloemfontein
He said that people are generally unsuccessful in relating the rapid advance in technical knowledge to what really matters. The Church must bring a theological basis back to the centre of our lives. Intellectuals are out of touch with modern theologians. People must become more aware of the theological purpose of what they do in everyday life.

Many church buildings in this country are mock-Gothic and out of touch with reality. This could be rectified if architects knew what a church is for. The church should use modern skill, knowledge and materials to build more functional buildings.

In music we wallow in Victorian slush - as far as art is concerned, the church is wearing clothes which are out of date. Modern art is symbolic, and ideally adapted to the use of the church. In the experimental liturgy there is no blessing - the congregation is told to go out into the world and "be the church."

The Church of the future must be reunited, and the Ceylon scheme of reunion is a good pointer in this direction. Denominational apartheid is an evil which must be remedied. The Ceylon scheme will keep the ancient scheme of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

The Church must become indigenous in each locality, but this must not be paramount, as the word ``Anglican'' seems to suggest. The emphasis is often too much on ``Anglican'' and too little on ``Communion''. The church over the whole world is too ``Anglican'' - too ``English''. How can we be indigenous and yet remain Catholic ? Nationalism must not cause us to lose our Catholic principles.

We must really BE the people of God. The Church must be built around the altar, font and pulpit as the buildings are. We must live as if we really are in the dying and rising community which is the Church. You do not become a Christian and then join the Church. We are baptized into a body, a community - the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We must become what we are by virtue of our baptism. The altar and pulpit enable us to do this. We are Christians, and we must become what we are. We neglect the Holy Spirit too much. One cannot see God and live - our preaching must say this, but because we are dying with Christ, we must also rise with him.

Worship is not merely one of the things the Church does - the Church is a worshipping community. We place our lives and all that we have on the altar, and receive all this back to become the Body of Christ. The perfect union with Christ will come at the Last Day - at the consummation. At every Mass we are waiting for the bridegroom.

Monday 25th June 1960 - St James the Great

We got up early and went to Mattins and Mass at 6.45 am. Fr Gregory (Wilkins) celebrated, and Fr Austin Masters was the server.

At 10.00 am Fr Victor Ranford, SSM, delivered a paper on Empirical Knowledge and Revealed Truth. He said Christians must become scientific, and make an experiment with their lives, trying out Christianity to see if it worked.

In the afternoon Brother Roger, of the Community of the Resurrection, spoke on Pilgrims of the Absolute He gave as his subtitle The Unrespectability of our Religion - he said we make our religion too respectable, and so we do not really show people how urgent it is to know God. None of us is really aware of the desperate necessity of some of the things our Lord said:-

  1. Pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your heavenly Father
  2. Forgive others - and be forgiven.
  3. It is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

He said that beatniks got their name from beatific, meaning sanctified and that beatniks were true pilgrims of the Absolute, not hidebound by convention, as so many respectable church people are.In passing he mentioned a Frenchman who converted Simone Weil, and lived in absolute poverty (Leon Bloy). (The full text of Brother Roger's paper can be found here:  Pilgrims of the Absolute).

Discussion followed, mainly about Holy Poverty. Fr Comber said that poverty was one of the wickedest things he knew. Fr Gregory Wilkins, SSM, with better insight into what Brother Roger had said, remarked: Our Lord said it was difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and here we go about raising the standard of living and making people richer.

Brother Roger said beatniks are looking for what St Francis was looking for - only the beats look for God to get a kick out of it, while St Francis looked for God because he thought God wanted him. The dregs of the beatniks have a flavour of holiness.

After supper the discussion was on boring topics such as the character of people who picked up hitch-hikers and the merits of private and government schools.

Tuesday 26 July 1960

Fr Comber celebrated Mass at 7.15, and at breakfast I sat next to Br. Roger. He must have had plenty of interesting things to say, but unfortunately he did not get much chance because Mr Simpson sat on the other side making infallible pronouncements on the character of the Afrikaner and similar topics. I found it rather annoying.

At 10 am Alan Paton spoke to us on Christianity and Communism. He told us about the beginnings and spread of communism, and its idea that society is more important than the individuals living in it. He said that we must remember that Christ was crucified for individual human beings and not their society. We must believe in morality for morality's sake, and for God's sake. The end, for a Christian, cannot justify the means.

In the afternoon Alan Paton spoke again on Ourselves and the African Continent. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them" - he said that white people did not follow this rule in their treatment of black people of South Africa, but substituted "fear" for "would'' - do to others what you fear they will do to you. Our Lord never promised that kindness would be repaid.

In the evening Fr Gregory Wilkins spoke on Vocation - he said that vocation could come as an invitation or command - if there was a choice of two or more courses it was an invitation, and if there was no choice, it was a command. God calls us to do what we are doing. Desire, ability and opportunity are all necessary for vocation.

Wednesday 27 July 1960

Mattins and Mass at 6.45 am in the Priory Chapel as usual, and Fr Ranford, the inveterate hitch-hiker, celebrated.

Mr Simpson delivered a paper on The Contemporary and Christian Attitude towards Sex - it was what one would expect to hear from a man like him, largely factual, with some old-fashioned "gentlemanly" touches, like saying (of the view that Christian sexual morality is bad because it gives people inhibitions) "Of course I have inhibitions. I have inhibitions against spitting on the carpet."

In the afternoon a group of us climbed Spitzkop, a little koppie in the middle of the poort, between the river and the priory. Benjamin Photolo, who had been up yesterday, led the way, and we sat at the top discussing the Bishop of Johannesburg (Ambrose Reeves), and his problematic return. John Daines hoped that he would return, and resign immediately (Bishop Reeves had fled the country immediately after the Sharpeville massacre, fearing he would be arrested. He did return a few months later, and was deported).

When we left to go down Brian Beattie stayed behind with Anne Page, and on the way down we lost John Blythe and Margaret Edwards, who went off courting. Rex "the Sex" Simpson obviously had an influence.

After tea Mr Ferrandi, Headmaster of St Andrew's School®X7St Andrew's School¯ in Bloemfontein, spoke on Christian National Education®X7Christian National Education¯.

In the evening there was preliminary discussion on the formation of a National Federation of Anglican Students. After finally deciding that it would be formed we spent such a long time arguing over the constitution that a committee was appointed, representative of all universities and theological colleges present, to draw up a draft constitution, and the rest of us went and had tea and said compline in the Priory Chapel. Back in the dormitory I had an interesting discussion with John Greig, who claimed to be a Prot, but was actually more Catholic than any spike.

Thursday 28 July 1960

We had Mattins and Mass in the Test School Chapel, with the altar in the middle, and the congregation around it. Fr Austin Masters celebrated.

After breakfast we had a symposium, at which the Chairmen of the Anglican Societies of Wits, Rhodes and Natal reported on the work of their respective societies. Brian Beattie, of Rhodes, gave the best report.

After morning tea we discussed two questions on Christianity and Communism, and then Alan Paton gave a brief talk on the future of South Africa. He said there were three possibilities :

  1. That the Government kept control by force, until there was a revolt, which would probably be crushed at the cost of great bloodshed and suffering.
  2. There would be outside intervention, probably from Ghana, followed by United Nations intervention.
  3. The Government might alter its policy.®IP¯

In the afternoon I bought a number of books from the Adams Mission Library, and then we had a discussion on the function of an Anglican Society in a University. Shirley Silverthorne (SCA Travelling Secretary) gave as a reason for poor Anglican Society/SCA relationships in most universities that the SCA in South Africa consisted mainly of fundamentalists. After tea we passed the draft constitution with a few amendments.

After supper we elected a provisional committee, with John Greig as President. Then we had a party. Fr Austin and Fr Gregory came in later and drank down a quart of beer while we sang to them. Fr Comber also had to do the same.
Peter Bowen managed to work out that five or six of us looked like famous people: John Daines was like Robert Mitchum, I was George Cole, Tim Cartwright was Burt Lancaster, John Greig was Orson Welles and Richard Hawkins was Caryl Chessman - a few film stars and a convicted murderer.

We also played a game called "Hedgehog", where one member of a group had to draw something, and the others had to guess what it was. Later in the evening the lights were turned down and most of us went to bed, while the lovers stayed up till three thirty.

Friday 29 July 1960

Once again we had Mass in the Test School Chapel, with Fr Comber celebrating, and everybody standing around. We stood most of the time, even during the prayer of consecration. That arrangement certainly did make it seem like a meal.

After breakfast we said goodbye to everyone, and then left to go home. We returned through Ladybrand and Maseru (where we had been before on Monday, just before Brother Roger's talk.)
I have reproduced my diary largely as it was written, editing only to avoid repetition, or bad grammar. Some additional comments and recollections, coming many years later, might also be appropriate.

Liturgical Renewal

For many students, the conference was a first exposure to liturgical renewal®X7liturgical renewal¯. In an informal discussion with Fr Gregory Wilkins, someone asked why Austin Masters did not genuflect and elevate the host and chalice after the words of institution at the Mass, and Fr Wilkins replied that the whole Eucharistic Prayer effected the consecration, and not just the words of institution, and this included the Lord's prayer which followed.

For the first few days, the students joined the SSM in the priory chapel for their worship, Mattins and Mass in the morning, evening prayer before supper, and compline late at night. Walking up from the dormitories early in the morning in the Free State winter produced a move to the local style of dress. The fishpond below the priory was frozen over during the morning, and on the second or third morning of the conference, John Blythe, an engineering student from Durban, simply stood up from his bed, wrapping the bedclothes around him, and set off for the Chapel. Stores in Modderpoort, Ladybrand and Maseru did a brisk trade in Basotho blankets and blanket pins over the next few days.

The Test School Chapel (later converted to sleeping accommodation), had a central altar, with benches around thee sides, and students asked Fr Austin Masters to demonstrate its use, so Mass was celebrated there for the last few days of the conference.

Black and White

For many students, too, the Conference was a step out of the isolation of apartheid society. Wits and Cape Town, it is true, had been "open" universities until the previous year, but generally speaking there was not much contact between black and white students on campus, and what little there was generally superficial.

At the conference, however, there were students from the three Provincial theological colleges, as well as from the universities, and in a week-long residential conference, ideas were exchanged, and relationships formed. Among those present were Victor Mkhize, who later became Principal of St Peter's College, and Mcebisi Xundu, who in the 1980s was very active in the United Democratic Front (UDF). Benjamin Photolo, a student at St Peter's (then in Rosettenville), lived in Sharpeville, where four months earlier nearly 70 people had been shot while demonstrating against the pass laws.

It was a time of political ferment and change. Independence for many of the former colonies up North led to the expectation that in Southern Africa too, freedom might just be around the corner. The ANC and PAC had just been banned. Verwoerd had been shot at the Rand Show, there was a State of Emergency, and the Republican Referendum was just around the corner.

At the conference, there was a great deal of input and discussion, ranging from ``The Theological Roots of Anglicanism'' by the Bishop of Bloemfontein, with its look at where we had come from, to an examination of the current situation in the light of the Christian faith. Brother Roger gave a challenge, little understood by many, to develop a radical alternative Christian lifestyle.

At that first conference in 1960, all the speakers were white males. Black students were present, but not chaplains, and the conference was the result of white students' initiative. But those things soon changed, and the next couple of conferences were more representative.

Student control

A couple of years later the Students' Christian Association (SCA) split into four seperate racial organisations, mainly at the instigation of the Afrikaans section. Some in the ASF felt that there needed to be some inclusive organistion for Christian students of all denominations and after a few interdenominational conferences the University Christian Movement (UCM) was formed, but disintegrated after a few years.

The vision that ASF had caught hold of in that, for an interdenominational, rather than a non-denominational umbrella organisation, which would act as a coordinating body between the NCFS (Catholic) ASF (Anglican) and SCA (Protestant) did not materialise. This vision was shared regionally in Natal, and a coordinating body was set up at the University of Natal, and at the University of Zululand. What ultimately emerged, however, was the University Christian Movement, which became itself another undenominational body like the SCA, the only difference being that it was non-racial.

Unlike the ASF and NCFS, however, the UCM was not a student-controlled body. It had offices and a paid permanent staff. This proved to be its downfall, as the permanent staff used it to push their own theological fads. The ASF survived because it was a student controlled body, with students arranging the conferences, inviting the speakers, and avoiding the trap of paid officvers and a bureaucracy.

Continued at Notes from underground: Anglican Students Federation -- 60th Anniversary (Part 2: 1963/64).

18 July 2020

Lockdown reading: The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers KaramazovThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having just finished reading it for the third time, I up my rating from four to five stars. It took me three readings to really appreciate this book. Perhaps in part that is because it is a long and complex book with many characters and incidents, and it took me three readings before I could hold them together enough to follow the thread of the story properly.

I began re-reading The Brothers Karamazov this time partly because I had recently finished Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, and wanted to compare them, and partly because I wanted to check on Dostoevsky's alleged views on Christian socialists (which turned out to be very different from what was alleged). I have dealt with those points in a blog post here Notes from underground: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy on Orthodox Christian worship.

And now, having reached the end of The Brothers Karamazov. I can perhaps take the comparison further, because it now seems clear to me that Tolstoy probably wrote User:Denghu, CC BY 3.0, Link title="Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy">Resurrection as a reply to, and perhaps as an intended refutation of The Brothers Karamazov.

Tolstoy was clearly the "woke" Russian author of his time, with a passion for justice. So he embarks on a crusade against against the injustice of the Russian criminal justice system, probing its weaknesses -- the fallibili8ty of its judges and judgements, the cruelty of its prisons, and so on.

Dostoevsky does not do this. He just describes, and lets the reader decide.

Tolstoy writes about injustice, with a passion for justice. But Dostoevsky writes about love, and justice is congealed love.

The Brothers Karamazov is, on one level, a crime novel, a whodunit. It is also a courtroom drama. It is also a love story, where the eternal triangle becomes the infernal pentagon. But it is also a story of resurrection and love and and reconciliation. And this is what shines through the character of the youngest Karamazov brother, Alyosha, whose love and goodness leads others to love, who leads schoolchildren and members of his own family to the beginnings of forgiveness and reconciliation where there had previously been hatred and enmity.

Tolstoy gave his book the title Resurrection, but the story of the resurrection of a dog in Dostoevsky is far more impressive that the story of the "resurrection" of the protagonist in Tolstoy's story.I get the impression that Tolstoy would give his body to be burned, but had not love (I Cor 13:3)

I am grateful to all the Orthodox priests of my acquaintance who, ignoring the rubric that says some prayers should be said by the priest sotto voce, have said aloud the prayer from the Liturgy of St Basil that contains the phrase "Preserve the good in goodness and make the evil be good by Thy goodness", for that is the main message of The Brothers Karamazov.

View all my reviews

10 July 2020

Hippies in the Church

I was very excited to see that there is a new Russian web site called Hippies in the Church. It has a list of monks and clergy who were at one time involved in the hippie movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is a rough translation of its introductory blurb:
In December 2018, the Metropolitan of Belgorod and Stary Oskol, John rather favorably spoke about youth subcultures of the second half of the twentieth century. But even more interesting is the last phrase:

“In the 20th century, as a protest against a consumer society on Russian soil, under the influence of the West, subcultures developed that acquired a special social orientation, at the same time it was a search for spirituality. The first subcultures are dudes, hipsters in the early 60s, then there is a period of the sixties. There appear hippies who belong to different religious directions. They even had the slogan: "Christ was the first hippie because he was protesting against the existing system." I must say that this subculture is very close to the Orthodox Church: in the USSR, the Church was persecuted, and hippies sympathized. Many clergymen and mothers sitting here have gone through this subculture. ”

The recognition of Metropolitan John is worth a lot. However, there was no list of hippies (rockers and punks added) who became Orthodox priests and monks (lay people also added) until recently. A small list was published by historian Irina Gordeeva on Facebook. Based on this list, a much more extensive one has arisen, which I quote below. It continues to be replenished and refined (last updated July 1, 2020)

My interest in this topic goes back 60 years, to July 1960, to the founding conference of the Anglican Students Federation (ASF) of South Africa, which was held at Modderpoort in the Free State in July 1960. It was held in rather inauspicious circumstances, during the State of Emergency that followed the Sharpeville Massacre, and I travelled to it with two students, Benjamin Photolo and Jacob Maleke, who actually lived in Sharpeville, and who, though they were not themselves witnesses of the shooting, knew several people who had been affected by it. For more on the background, see Tales from Dystopia VI: 1960 was a very bad year | Khanya.

One of the speakers at the was Brother Roger, of the Community of the Resurrection, who spoke on Pilgrims of the Absolute. He spoke of a number of counter-cultural figures, some Christian, some less so. Among them were Leon Bloy, Benedict Joseph l'Abre (one of the few Western "fools for Christ") and Beat Generation authors like Jack Kerouac.  He said they were all looking for something that was not found in the conventional and respectable values of their society, and that, whether they knew it or not, they were looking for God, and he asked why the Church had so often hidden God from them behind a camouflage of respectability.

Brother Roger, CR

It made quite an impression on me and others there, and Brother Roger was asked to speak again on the same topic the following year, and I have posted a combined version of both papers here: Pilgrims of the Absolute. For the next couple of years Brother Roger guided my reading, lending me books from the Community of the Resurrection's well-stocked library (which was also the library for St Peter's Theological College, which they ran, and among the students there at that time was Desmond Tutu, who later became Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Brother Roger introduced me to authors like Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Charles Williams and others, and also to the Beat Generation authors like Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes.

It was mainly the Beat Generation who took the technical term "cool" from jazz and applied it to everyday life, and in doing so brought it quite close to some technical terms in Orthodox spirituality -- see Coolness and dispassion | Khanya. Brother Roger referred to Francis of Assisi as "God's cool cat", or God's hip cat. , and one of the beat poets referred to their generation as "Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night". Jack Kerouac never realised the ideal of a Zen Catholicism he sketched in his novel The Dharma bums, but his friend Gary Snyder, a Buddhist (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma bums), spoke of a "rucksack revolution" of young people leaving the rat race of the acquisitive society and wandering around spreading a message of love and peace. Brother Roger rather hoped that some of the youth at the Anglican Students Federation conferences might catch a similar vision, but few did.

By the end of the 1960s "hipsters" had got shortened to "hippies" and happily accepted the label "freaks" applied to them by straight society. Among them were some Jesus freaks, and for a time they locked as if they might represent a real Christian counterculture, but many were coopted by suit 'n tie evangelical Christians, who turned many of the symbols of the movement into kitsch merchandise.

One of the evangelists who got involved with the movement came closer to the "rucksack revolution" idea. He was Dave Berg, who founded the Children of God, who lived in Christian hippie communes throughout the world, and saw themselves as colonies of the Kingdom of God. They produced an interesting handbook for members, Revolution for Jesus: how to do it. Unfortunately Dave Berg, who called himself Moses David, or just Mo, succumbed to a temptation common in such movements -- he allowed himself to become the object of a personality cult, and the emphasis gradually shifted from leading people to Jesus to leading them to himself, and that particular branch of the Jesus movement went off the rails. I believe there is still a remnant somewhere, calling itself "The Family".
The Durban colony of the Children of God, 1974: Deborah, Jonathan, Stephen, Shemaiah, Sharon
 Another of these evangelists, however, Jack Sparks, followed a different path. He became became involved in the Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF), which produced a Christian underground newspaper called Right On. Jack Sparks was led to Orthodoxy, and became an Orthodox priest, and died a few years ago in Alaska.

So I am interested in the Christian arm of the Hipster-Beat-Hippie movement, and I think it would be rather good if the project of documenting "Hippies in the Church" was not confined to Russia only, but should become a worldwide one. So if anyone has any biographical information on hippies in the Church, or anecdotes of such a movement, please send them to me and I'll make a preliminary collection, and pass them on to any official collectors, should any appear. My contact info here Steve Hayes - personal links.


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