Up until the first Sunday after Christmas, Sunday morning services continued to take place in the Cathedral, being at the same time streamed live via Facebook to parishioners and others who tuned in, some from far away. Then the President’s announcement on Monday 28 December of a return to Level Three lockdown changed everything, with places of worship being among those not allowed to open for gatherings. In view of the deteriorating situation of Covid-19 in South Africa, the new regulations were obviously essential. Cathedral services returned to being live-streamed only.
Kepa and Uju sing ‘The Holy City’
But before that, on Sunday 20 December, the Cathedral celebrated a memorable and uplifting Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The Cathedral Choir and friends were conducted by our Acting Director of Music, Kutlwano Kepadisa, with accompaniment by our two Organ Scholars, Jon Hughes (Senior) and Bayanda Mthetho (Junior). The service was appreciated by a small congregation in the building, and a far wider congregation tuning in via Facebook. Among these were the founders of the Makana Choir School, Wilf and Barbara Stout, in Scotland! A surprise item, not on the Order of Service, was a magnificent rendering of ‘The Holy City’ by Kepa and Obianuju (Uju) Njoku. Videos of the choir singing ‘Bogoroditse Djevo‘ by Arvo Pärt, and a carol written by the Cathedral choristers in 2016 with instruction from the then Director of Music Dr A-J Bethke, ‘Yazalw’imvana‘ (The Lamb has been born) can be found on the Cathedral website. The video of the full service is still available on the Cathedral Facebook page. And the previous week the 9:30 congregation (both in the Cathedral and online) had the joyful surprise of hearing Bayanda at the end of the service strike up Widor’s famous ‘Toccata’!
This year, due to concerns about the potential for spreading Covid, our children’s service was made available virtually, on the Cathedral Facebook page and via a YouTube link which was released at 4 p.m. on 24 December. This is still available for those who missed it. A small group of children from one family were the cast, augmented with a couple of puppets. The Hunter family provided the narrators, and Nicola Hunter’s orchestra of friends, ten-strong, reached new heights of professionalism. Their conductor’s hand is only just visible in the video, but of course that hand belonged to our tireless and inspiring Kutlwano Kepadisa!
While watching at home, children (and others) were encouraged to dress up as their favourite nativity characters to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. As the narrator and author Revd Claire said, “Covid-19 has changed many things, but nothing has changed the wonder of God coming to earth in human form – he is ‘Emmanuel, God with us’.”
Kaylyn Bartis licensed
We welcomed a brand-new Lay Minister, Kaylyn Bartis, when Dean Andrew Hunter licensed her on behalf of the Bishop on Sunday 20 December. May God bless Kaylyn in her ministry with us!
It was no surprise that a great many people stayed at home for Christmas, but Michael and Adrienne Whisson had a delightful brief stay in Cape Town with their daughter Rebecca and family, and enjoyed watching their grandchildren around the swimming pool.
Canon James Hoyle, at one time Diocesan Secretary, and a past Incumbent of Christ Church in Makhanda, died on 8 December in Somerset Place Frail Care. We pray for his son Clifton in the UK, and for the family of Audrey Holmes, who lived in her latter years, and died, with the CR Sisters. Bruce Smith, who died in Port Alfred, was a cousin of both Margie Antrobus and Peter Stockwell. Condolences to them, and to Sub-Dean Mzinzisi Dyantyi on the death of his aunt Caroline Dyantyi. Although many people survive Covid-19, it is a grim truth that it carries away others when we least expect it. Makhanda as a whole is shocked at the death of Augusta de Jager, a popular teacher at the TVET College, whose husband is Ds Strauss de Jager. Our special prayers are asked for Strauss who was also infected.
The final blow in what has been a year of tragedies and disappointments was the death on 30 December of Canon Suzanne Peterson. She had been living in retirement in Iowa, USA, and suffered a heart attack the previous week. Despite a quadruple bypass operation, she never recovered.
Canon Suzanne Peterson
Before the first women were ordained as priests in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, when the idea was still foreign and controversial, David Russell, then Bishop of Grahamstown, invited Suzanne Peterson to come and work here for a while. She had been a priest in the Episcopal Church of the USA for more than a decade by then, and our Bishop licensed her to officiate as a priest. Within a very short time the “foreign” became familiar, and Suzanne’s delightful personality won over people wherever she went. We can remember with pride that the first ordination in this Province at which women were ordained priests was in Grahamstown Cathedral on 5 September 1992. Anyone born after that date must wonder what all the fuss was about! Suzanne had two stints of ministry in our Diocese, in Queenstown as well as Grahamstown, and made many friends, before returning to parish ministry in the States. After retiring she visited South Africa in 2017, and spent a socially active week in Grahamstown seeing as many people as possible. We join with her many friends in mourning her passing, and give thanks for her life and ministry.
Lockdown may have put the brakes on many activities, but we can give thanks for people who have used it as an opportunity to develop their God-given talents. One such is Crystal Warren, and we congratulate her on having a contribution included in a new devotional publication “In All Things”, which is available online, and is also being published in book form. Those who know Crystal, one of our Poets-in-Residence, will not be surprised that her contribution is in the form of poetry. Congratulations!
The “Happy New Year” wishes which echoed around 12 months ago sound mockingly in our ears now. The pandemic is not over, but very much around us. Sometimes we feel helpless, but we have been told what we can do to help. The actions (or inactions!) are small and may seem insignificant. They have been repeated to us so often that we can say them in our sleep. But they should be second nature. Wear a mask! Sanitise your hands! Don’t get too close to other people! Don’t get tired of doing the right thing. Ungadinwa nangomso!