WE ARE CHURCH, SOUTH AFRICA

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A few weeks ago the core-group of WAC-IRL heard that Brian Robertson, the co-ordinator of the group in South Africa would be in Ireland with his wife Fran (Françoise).  Emails were exchanged and finally a lunch was organised for 29th July in the home of Phil (Dunne), for the Robertsons and all the core-group.  The time together was much appreciated by all, in a lively exchange of information and opinions, when we found that the same Spirit was moving us all.

Brian is a retired psychiatrist who had come on two-month locum duty to Mayo General Hospital, - something he has done on several occasions now.  Fran is a retired midwife and trained counsellor. She too offers her expertise to local communities wherever she goes.  They told us that they have been in such places as St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, offering similar services.

Brian spoke of the beginnings of the movement in S. Africa.  In 2010, he decided that he needed to find some group which shared his thoughts and hopes in relation to the Church.  His search was fired by experiencing a parish with a particularly conservative parish priest.  He went on-line and finding the website of IMWAC, felt that this was what he was looking for. An email to about fifteen persons whom he knew held similar views, led to the first meeting in Cape Town.  The total group now numbers about 250 including regional groups also in Johannesburg and Durban.

In the course of their discussions, the members of We Are Church S.A. queried their name, wondering if it was not somewhat presumptuous and exclusive, particularly if the accent is put on the word ‘We’.  So they decided to change their name to ‘We Are All Church’, considering that this expressed their belief more precisely.  They have a Mission Statement, but as yet, no Constitution or formal structure of organisation, although Brian is the over-all co-ordinator and there are co-ordinators in the other two regions.

Despite the fact that the leadership in the South African hierarchy is very conservative, they have managed to have two meetings with the Conference of Bishops and another is hoped for, in the autumn. We told them of our disappointment that to date we have been unable to procure similar meetings with the hierarchy here.  At the same time, Brian told us, We Are Church is feared by those with conservative views in South Africa.  In Cape Town, meetings may not be held in Catholic churches or property and he himself was banned by his parish priest from being a Minister of the Eucharist, because of belonging to WAC-S.A.

Fran and Brian told us of the member meetings that are held monthly, and also of the public talks they have organised recently, on topics of interest to those who wish to explore their faith and belief.  They have about three of these per year and they are quite well attended.  Now, being concerned about how to draw in some younger people, they plan to have their next talk in the University Chaplaincy, which is run by Jesuits who are very open to them.  The talks and other expenses are funded by voluntary donations and a contribution of about five euro at meetings.

They were very interested in our account of the public meeting with Sr. Florence Deacon and of our AGM.  In an email later, thanking for meeting and meal, Brian wrote:  ‘We are impressed by your website. It’s very professional and at the same time welcoming. I have already emailed my confreres in South Africa to get them moving on our website, which we have been talking about for at least 9 months. I will use your website as an example.’

After about four hours, when Brian and Fran had to leave for Castlebar and their work, we gave them a poster of The Last Supper and agreed to keep in contact. All of us were very encouraged by this time spent together, so we look forward to taking up activities again in September.

The Meeting took place on Monday 29th July 2013.