Fulfilling an African dream
The Revd Nita Edwards was recently made an Honorary Canon in our link Diocese of Matlosane. Now retired, she talks about her relationship - so far - with the South African Church.
A throw away remark to the Revd Preb Michael Sheard in 2004 led to my being asked to represent the Diocese of Lichfield at the Inauguration of Tsogong (the Resurrection) parish church in the township of Ikageng as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Matlosane, and the Installation of its priest, the Revd Stephen Diseko (now Bishop Steve), as the Dean. It was the beginning of a long, life-enhancing relationship and the fulfilment of a childhood dream of working with the church in Africa.
When Lichfield Diocese celebrated the Year of Justice and Care in 2004 my parish, St James the Great, Clayton, hosted three guests from Matlosane with whom I still meet up when I am there. We hosted Bishop Steve on a couple of occasions and it was a very memorable occasion for those who were confirmed by him. The St Chad’s volunteer Kgowe Moleme spent two weeks with us in 2016 and it is a great joy that he is now studying with a view to ordination.
In July 2007, I was present for the Enthronement of Bishop Steve as the second Bishop of Matlosane, and the welcome he received from his people as he entered the Cathedral was overwhelming. I have been privileged to be at many of the big services in the Diocese, including the 20th and 25th Anniversaries of the Diocese, many Annual Family Days and Bishop Steve’s Tenth Anniversary of Consecration. At the latter I was invited to join with the Diocesan Clergy – “because you are one of us” - as they gave their own thank you to Bishop Steve.
Part of the citation read at the service on Sunday 28 October said: “(Nita) fell in love with our diocese and its people, and since 2009 she has not missed a year coming here ... (This) has never been a holiday for her. She has conducted clergy and ordination retreats and led post ordination training workshops. She has preached and presided in many parishes around the Diocese and held the fort when Holy Family, Jouberton was in inter-regnum… She was key in organising the first Sunday School team that came to train our Sunday School teachers, and in providing glove puppets for the second team. Nita has continued to do many things, mostly behind the scenes in the diocesan office, including helping us to tailor service booklets.”
The people of St James’ knitted literally hundreds of children’s jumpers and raised money for two main causes, the first of which is the Sunday School Shoe Drive. Teachers identify needy children, and then, for around £6, a child not only gets a pair of good shoes, but can go to school and receive a year’s education. The second cause was Matlwang church (main picture), which in 2011 was in dire need of renovation. The corrugated iron roof had holes and was held up by branches. Windows and the glass in the door were broken. The floor was earth, and when it rained it became mud! So, our 2012 Lent project was to raise funds for the renovation. It was a great joy in November 2013 to be present at the consecration of the Church of Christ the King, Matlwang, and administer the sacrament to the people in their new church. You can just see the village water tower from the main road, and as I drive north, I look towards it and know that a little of the love of the people of Clayton and of my heart is in that village. The honour bestowed on me by Matlosane is as much for the people of St James’ as it is for me.
The Honorary Canon citation ends: “In retirement the Diocese of Matlosane and its people remain very close to (Nita’s) heart. This is the person the Diocesan Chapter has found fit and proper to be awarded the title of Honorary Canon of the Diocese of Matlosane. Glory be to God.”
Read more about Nita's adventures in Matlosane at her blog site.