CROSS OF NAILS AT GOOD SHEPHERD-PROTEA – a history
A commentary by Jenny Wilson, long-serving member of the Good Shepherd-Protea congregation and Companion to the Order of the Community of the Cross of Nails.
When the Revd John Goliath became Rector at St Saviour’s in 1989, he initiated discussions to encourage reconciliation between the people of South Africa whose lives had been divided by “apartheid” legislation. With his encouragement, I contacted Coventry Cathedral for further information about their Community of Cross of Nails, the story and ministry connected with it and its world-wide reach.
Then in 1991, St Saviour’s and Good Shepherd-Protea were blessed with a visit from Canon Paul Oestreicher from Coventry Cathedral who told us the Coventry story and brought us the message of forgiveness, healing and peace. Several workshops were held in search of better understanding and we started the Cross of Nails prayer group which has met regularly since 1991 on the first Friday of the month in the Lady Chapel at St Saviour’s.
Being a member of Good Shepherd-Protea since 1980, I had heard the many stories from the Protea people of life during the apartheid years and about their brutal eviction from their beloved Protea Village adjoining the chapelry. Thus started a relationship of mutual understanding as brothers and sisters in Christ between the original coloured congregation and the newer white members who had now moved into the area.
Since, 1994, some members of Good Shepherd-Protea have actively pursued the Protea Lands’ claim and in 2006, the land was finally signed over to the community. A special thanksgiving service was held at Good Shepherd-Protea, attended by many family, friends and dignitaries, including the then-premier, Ebrahim Rasool.
It was these small steps in reconciliation and the Protea Lands’ claim story that attracted the attention of Karl and Lynne Griffiths-Fulton who visited the Parish from Coventry in 1999. This inspired them to invite us to tell the Protea story which was seen as a story of hope coming out of the “new” South Africa at the first international Cross of Nails conference in Coventry in August, 2000, which was attended by five of us from the parish.
This resulted in Canon Andrew White of Coventry inviting the parish to become a member of the Community of the Cross of Nails. He had heard the story of how the Protea community were forcibly removed from their homes near Kirstenbosch, how they had kept their faith and dignity in adversity, how they stayed faithful to Good Shepherd – Protea despite having to travel many miles to get there for the Sunday 09.00 service, how a new mixed (white and coloured) congregation grew despite the apartheid laws and how the Protea community had submitted their land claims in the formal process of restitution.
The offer of membership was graciously accepted by the then-rector, Bishop Garth Counsell, and the church council. What an honour and privilege to be part of this amazing network of over one hundred and fifty centres worldwide, a relationship that has resulted in on-going interaction between St Saviour’s, Good Shepherd-Protea and the other centres.