Last Saturday I had the blessing of getting to spend the afternoon at the Johannesburg Zoo with about 15 kids from Saint Nicholas (most who live in and right around the parish itself and who attend services without their parents regularly). The majority of the kids where sponsored by loving parishioners hoping to give them an opportunity for a day of fun and fellowship with each other and some children from other local parishes. It was really wonderful to spend time with them, see them learning about the animals and enjoy a picnic in the park together.
|The group outside of Saint Nicholas|
|A "BIG" hit with the kids, especially when it peed… (so gross)|
The situation on hand at Saint Nicholas is this:
The parish itself is situated in a neighborhood that is… let's just say "less than desirable." Break-ins are commonplace, it's not unheard of for cars to be stolen, and I've been told more than once that I am just to drive straight to church and straight away once my business is finished. It is South African quaint and quiet from what I've observed (located relatively close to the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand) but I've only been here for a month and those who have been around longer would advise that my observations are a bit ill informed.
The loyal parishioners of Saint Nicholas are mostly Greek (as it's a Greek Orthodox Church, this isn't surprising), generally live some distance from the parish itself, and have for one reason or another seen value in having the church located in the Brixton area. One unique thing is that there are a handful of children (6-12 years old) from the neighborhood itself that hear the sound of church bells and come running each and every Sunday morning. The children obviously live within earshot of the building, come dressed in their Sunday best sans parents, and patiently sit through a rather "non-seeker friendly" liturgy. They attend a Sunday school class, are allowed some after service refreshments and then sent on their way. To my knowledge, only one of these children is currently baptized (I could be wrong), but many have recently shown interest in joining the Church.
I was approached by the current Sunday school teachers and asked to come up with some kind of program to prepare these children for baptism, and this week I will begin just that. The thing is, it's not such a simple process. Since the Orthodox faith is one that allows for infant baptism and almost assumes that there will be a family example at home to model how to live out a life in Christ, things get tricky when parents are not involved. Yes, we will be obtaining the parent's consent before baptizing these children, but more than that, I'm trying to figure out what information is key for them to understand at their young age before beginning their walk within the Church (as the Church-the body of Christ- isn't one only for those able to intellectually understand history and complex theological concepts).
I will be meeting with these children tomorrow during their normal Sunday school class time and learning about them; trying to figure out where they come from, why they come each week and what kind of thoughts they have on being baptized. If you have any thoughts on the matter, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please keep my impending conversations with them in your prayers.