Orthodox House of Prayer
It’s about time to share something of what is going on around here, even though things are still very much in process. As some readers of this blog know, I have been going out to Robertson regularly for the Liturgy (I posted some photos here) and during the course of the year the possibility has emerged of moving there and developing a place of prayer and retreat not far from the church. A building on the neighbour’s farm has become available to rent and I am in the midst of moving there, although exactly how it must develop must still become clear. I am – slowly! – learning that God makes these things clear one step at a time.
The Orthodox Church around here is still small and fragile and we have limited resources. Yet we are also immensely privileged and have a heritage that is largely unknown in this country. While the tasks ahead of us are great, we need to create the space to nurture an inner life, enter into a rhythm of prayer, and allow ourselves to be formed by the tradition of the Church. This new venture is a small and tentative initiative to establish a place of silence, prayer and spiritual formation, in order to make the riches of the Christian tradition available to those who seek God in our context. Although informed by the monastic tradition, it does not claim to be a monastery but is simply a small step whose future will become clear with time.
The project has the blessing our His Emminence ArchbishopSergios who is encouraging me to take things one step at a time and to see where God leads us. It will also work closely with Bedehuis Bethanië although it will have its own identity and maintain a certain separation. Father Zacharias and I are hoping to offer some weekend retreats or study days together. But how things develop depends very much on who God sends and what is asked of us.
At least in the beginning, I will be keeping my job in Cape Town and just going there for the weekends – in fact in the last week I have had very positive news about work which should hopefully lead to a more part-time post in more conservation orientated binding work. If things work out according to plan, I hope to be able to work perhaps three days a week and go out to Robertson for long weekends. However, being in Cape Town is not only a practical necessity for work, but is also related to the needs of the Church here where I am being asked to contribute – and the thought of having more time freed up for this feels a great relief. His Emminence has very kindly offered me a room close to the Metropolis in Rondebosch for when I am in Cape Town which will not only save on rent, but will also make it easier to be involved with the local Church.
The building in Robertson is very basic and, because it is rented, we won’t plan any major alterations at this point. However we do hope to put up some dry walls to make simple rooms for guests. If funds permit, we also hope to have a wooden hut for more solitary retreatants. And we hope to have another wooden hut for a small chapel.
One of the Archbishop’s concerns is whether it is best to rent property and whether this will be sustainable in the longer term. There are a few plots of land available for sale in the vicinity. One of these is just behind the Church and Father Zacharias would very much like us to get it in order to prevent someone buying it and building a casino or something there. It has a wonderful view and could be ideal for a house of prayer, but we don’t have any money! If we were to do serious fundraising for that we would have to look carefully at setting up a trust and getting advice from people who know about these things. (Of course if anyone reading this either has money to buy land, or knows of sources for funding, they are welcome to get in touch!) In the more short term, however, if there are people who would like to contribute to the present project, I am planning to set up a site for the new house which will give details on how to contribute and also include a wish list for books as building up a library is something that seems an important priority.
Anyway, that gives some brief news. Please do pray for this new project. It is really amazing how things have opened up – some of it has really just been very providential – but at the moment it is also a little stressful as I am in the midst of moving to two places at once! By Christmas I should have everything in Robertson and I can then use the week between Christmas and new year to settle in. There is a lot that needs to be done on the house and that will take time so things really will develop slowly and will also depend on the available funds. I had hoped that we might be able to do a weekend retreat at the beginning of Great Lent, but am now beginning to think that it’s more realistic to have it ready to use for overflow accommodation at Pascha. But I will post news once it is available!