Life-Giving Spring

On my Life-Giving Spring site I have written about a project that we have begun with a group of children who have been coming to Church in Robertson for some time. Like many South African children who are victims of social poverty and an often dysfunctional education system, they have serious learning challenges, but one of the things that we have identified as a viable project is to try and get them reading and to encourage a culture of literacy. You can find more information  about this via the link below, but we really need books and especially Afrikaans children’s books – although other books are also accepted as are financial contributions. If you are able to help us, please do so! And, please also remember this project in your prayers – the need is huge and it could develop into something bigger, but we need to take one step at a time.

An appeal for children’s books.

This is a mishmash of things, some of which I’ve been meaning to note for a while…

A Further Update on Life-Giving Spring
After neglecting it for far too long, I recently did another update on the Life-Giving Spring site. Things are proceeding slowly and life is not without challenges, but I am still here and there is also encouraging news to report.

Acquire the Holy Spirit Series
I’ve made a page for my recent posts in this series and put it on the Completed series page. I’ll hopefully also turn it into a PDF file, along with other things I want to make available … when I get to doing that, and also working out how best to arrange things online.

South African Religious Blogs
For those interested in South African religious or Christian blogging, Jenny Hillebrand of Carpenter’s Shoes has done us a real service by creating blog aggregator called Antioch Blog Community. It’s described as “South African Religious Thinkers” – as far as I can see they all seem to be Christian of one sort or another, and “thinkers” sounds rather grand for some of us, but there you are!

Some Worthwhile Podcasts
I’ve recently been trying to get into listening to podcasts while I work, at least a bit. There is a wealth of material online, but also lots of rubbish! It would probably be a good idea to create a page to compile an ongoing list of things to recommend, but for now let me note these, in case they’re of interest to anyone:

  • Worship in Spirit and Truth: Father Thomas Hopko’s series on the Liturgy is long and ongoing, but very well worth the time. I have been particularly struck by his discussion of worship in the Old Testament – it should be obvious really, but for me much of it was an eye-opener!
  • Nine Sessions with Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou. I’ve only listened to the first of these, but Archimandrite Zacharias of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex and a disciple of Father Sophrony, is a very important contemporary Orthodox teacher and it’s great to have these talks available.
  • Coffee with Sr Vassa is a recently begun weekly series of podcasts on the saints by Sister Vassa Larin, a liturgical scholar and ROCOR monastic,  that are both humorous and enlightening.
  •  Father Vassilios Papavassiliou has started posting links to his theology lectures and Bible studies on Matthew on his (highly recommended) blog. They’re on YouTube, but I can’t find a good way of linking to all of them without other things, so the best way is to probably go via his blog until someone produces an index. I’ve only listened to one of them, but it was excellent, as are his books which I really should say more on sometime!



iconlgsI’ve been very tardy in putting this up – and in keeping in touch with people more generally – but I’ve finally put a bit of an update on the Life-Giving Spring site to give some idea of what I’m doing in Roberston. Things are developing slowly, and I need time to find my feet on various levels, but there are hopeful beginnings. I hope to also find time to put some new resource material on the site before too long.

It’s going to take a while before I do anything really serious with any of these, apart from dipping into them and scanning through them, but here are some books that have arrived in the post recently.

Father Boris Bobrinskoy’s The Mystery of the Church: A Course in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology has recently appeared in English and, although I actually have the French original and have dipped into it, I know that I will be more likely to read it properly in English. And there are others who I hope will also want to read it. And, to be perfectly honest, anything by Father Boris is simply a “must have.” (For those who don’t know his work, I summarised his The Compassion of the Father, which he himself described as his best book, here).

While ordering that I also ordered the Popular Patristics Series edition of Saint Basil’s On the Holy Spirit which I have been wanting to get for a few years. (Well, there are lots of the PPS that I would like to get, and I keep wishing that a kind donor will buy the lot for Life-Giving Spring, but that is another story). It really does make a difference reading the Fathers in good contemporary translations rather than nineteenth century English! And while looking on the St Vladimir’s site I also decided to order Debora Belonick’s  Feminism in Christianity: An Orthodox Christian Response. This  is not the top of my priorities at present, but the whole feminist theological project is something that I was once quite deeply involved in, and it has become something of a new orthodoxy, at least around here. I don’t know if I will ever write anything about my own disillusionment with such theological circles, which had quite  a bit to do with my conversion to Orthodoxy, but I was nevertheless interested to see this short book that appeared in the early eighties and having skimmed through it am pretty sympathetic with most of what she says. (On a related note, I see that St Vlad’s are advertising a soon to be released book, Feminism and Tradition, by Father Lawrence Farley, but that will have to wait as I have other priorities).

A book that I have only dipped into but am quite exited about is Sr Nonna Verna Harrison’s God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation. Sr Nonna is a patristics scholar and a few years ago I read some serious academic articles of hers on the Cappadocian Fathers. But this book is in a different category and is written in a really accessible way for non-specialists. It is the sort of work that I think could be profitably used for a study group of non-specialists if we ever get something like that going. (I would also like to do something like that with Fr Boris’ book on the Church, but that is, admittedly, a bit more heavy going).

Together with this book I also ordered Nil Sorsky: The Complete Writings , as I have been wanting to read more of and about St Nil for a while now.  I have only dipped into it so far, but the more I learn of him, the more sympathy I have for him and he has become one of the patrons of Life-Giving Spring. (The list admittedly keeps growing).

Something that I was really delighted to receive recently was the the Readers’ Service Book of the Hours of the Orthodox Church published by Holy Myrrhbearers’ Monastery. I had ordered this in January and when it didn’t arrive after a few months had feared that it had got lost in the post and had pretty much resigned myself to having to wait until I could afford to order another copy and hope that it would get here. And then it arrived out of the blue. It has some interesting features which resonate quite well with me but which I’ll discuss again. I won’t be able to pray it in any regular and sustained way until I’m in Robertson permanently, but I am very pleased to have it.

Finally, the most recent arrival was the wonderful gift of of four volumes of the The Synaxarion. The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra and published by Ormylia, which a very kind donor had offered to buy us and had gone to quite a bit of trouble trying to find (the other volumes are still coming from a different distributor). They also took a while to arrive and so I was very pleased to get them on Saturday.

Oh, and as a final addendum, I have also been very pleased to find some books at a local charity shop, notably Archimandrite Lazarus Moore’s translation of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. But my most precious find of all, W.K.L. Clarke’s The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, both for a rather small fraction of what one would pay online.

That’s enough for now. One of the things that we want to do at Life-Giving Spring is to build up a good library, and once things are more settled we need to look at how we can raise funds for this. But, apart from a couple of more basic catechetical things that are in the post, I’m having a moratorium on book buying for a while until my bank balance recovers and I have also managed to buy some bookbinding equipment!

I’ve done an news update on the Life-Giving Spring site here. The progress feels slow, but there are encouraging things happening.


I don’t have definite answers to those questions, although I hope the answer is no (except, possibly, to the last one). I have been aware in recent months that various bloggers, or former bloggers, or sleeping, or semi-sleeping bloggers, have been making noises on Facebook about regretting the demise of blogging, and the fact that we are poorer for this, and hoping to return to it. People posted links to some pretty good analysis on the superiority of blogging over Facebook, but because of the transitory and inferior nature of Facebook I have lost the reference to it. It was a theme that resonated with me, having only recently tentatively ventured into Facebook, and it made me aware that I have at times found blogging a valuable spiritual discipline, as well as valuing the contacts that it brought, and that I missed it.

However, while I have rejoiced in the (former) bloggers who have been making noises about getting back to blogging, and wished that I could join them, the reality is probably not so simple. My posts on St Irenaeus have ground to a halt it and it is probably unrealistic to expect that I will pick up any sustained blogging for a while. And that does have to do with the situation in my life at present which I hope will not last forever.

In December I wrote about moving to Robertson and developing Life Giving Spring as a place of prayer and retreat. That has been a great blessing, but it has also happened rather slowly and demanded quite a lot of energy. Plus I have been involved in producing a weekly bulletin for our Archbishopric that is actually rather time-consuming (it can be seen here if anyone is interested). I have also discovered that I really do not cope very well with living in two places at once, and have been frustrated that I am simply not at Robertson enough and that I really need a more regular life!

I have been employed on a two-year contract that ends in October, and my employers had been talking about creating a new post for me to set up a small-scale conservation studio which could have included the possibility of working part-time. At one point I thought that this could have been ideal, but I began to increasingly feel that I needed to be in Robertson full-time. I had also begun to get a lot of inquiries for private bookbinding work (to the extent that I have recently put up a note on my bookbinding site saying that I have a long waiting list) and it seemed likely that I would be able to support myself in that way. However, the thought of turning down a permanent post for the insecurity of being self-employed (and I’m not really sure that I’m the entrepreneurial type!) was rather frightening.

And then the decision was taken out of my hands when I heard a month or two ago that my employers are not going to be in a position to offer me a post when my contract expires. My reaction was one of real gratitude as it just made me aware that that was really not what I wanted. And my whole experience since coming back to South Africa is one of God opening (and perhaps shutting) doors in a most remarkable and providential way. So, while I’m aware that there are quite a lot of hurdles to be jumped through and challenges to be met, I am really very gratified and excited by the developments.  I long for “a dwelling in one place,” as St Nil Sorsky puts it, and for the context to do what it seems I am called to do.

So, to get back to blogging, it is unlikely that I will do much regular blogging until things get more settled sometime after November. I have been taking on more private binding work as I do need to built that up, and between that, Church related things and my job, I don’t have time or energy for much serious reading, writing and reflection. But at least I know that it won’t last forever. And one of the things that I need to think through is what form of online presence I might develop in the future. Blogging can go in various directions, and be directed at various audiences. This blog started simply as a way of processing my own reading. It has also occasionally allowed me to think through things and process ideas. Both of those are valuable and in many ways I’d like to continue them. But I also find myself in a rather different situation to when I began this blog, and part of that is being an Orthodox presence in an overwhelmingly non-Orthodox context, and being part of a wonderful but rather fragile Church community. And I find myself wondering how we can use the internet to both reach out to others and to form and nurture the local community of believers. This are questions that are still floating around in my head, and I won’t be able to do much about them for a while, but they are perhaps worth mentioning.

In any case, this is probably just to say that this blog is probably sleeping, although it may occasionally stir, for the next few months.

As I mentioned previously, I have been working on a new site for Life-Giving Spring and it has just gone public. I was originally just going to make a page on this blog for those who may want to contribute to what we are doing, but realized that making a separate site allows one more freedom for putting up material that one will need to have somewhere in the long term anyway. I will hopefully develop it more before too long once things are more organized.

As one can see on the news page, I am making slow progress and have had to accept that it will take time to settle. And I am having to get used to living in two places at once – the biggest disaster so far happened this week when I forgot my laptop’s cord in Robertson, when I had been planning to do serious computer week on the weekday evenings! But overall, I have been delighted with the way things are coming together there and with the space that is emerging… and I am very grateful to God for the people who are supporting this venture!