Today was our first full day in Johannesburg -- mostly registering and getting details sorted out. That is, until 3 pm when all of us boarded buses from the hotel/conference center we're staying in at Boksburg and traveled down the East Rand to Tsakane -- a township about 40 minutes drive away.
No matter how good the program is at this conference, it will almost have to be secondary to the people you meet just hanging out. My seatmates on the bus trip were two wonderful women --The first was named Sandra (left). She is Guatemalan, but lives in Costa Rica, where she is married to a bishop there. She runs a diocesan day care center and showed us a picture of her daughter, who is just starting medical school (I responded with pictures of the boys, of course). The other was Nangula (right), and she is the brand new provincial executive officer of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. She was hired by Archbishop Ndungane 6 months ago away from her job as dean of a cathedral in Namibia. (side note: I'm never sure where other parts of the communion are on women's ordination ... but she was not only a dean of a cathedral but a candidate for bishop in a recent election, so that's fabulous!) We talked a lot about life in Cape Town (she loves it) and about the work she has been doing.
Sitting behind us on the trip was a bishop from one of the four dioceses that make up the Johannesburg area. He was talking to some people next to him and basically playing tour guide during our trip. Once we realized that, we all got quiet so we could listen. He told us we were traveling up the East Rand, which ran north out on the East side of Johannesburg. The towns and townships (during Apartheid, there were towns where only whites could live and townships outside them where the blacks, who did all the service work in the towns, lived) were mostly mining-related.
When we got to Tsakane, we were greeted by throngs of people waving tiny flags with the TEAM conference logo on them (that's the picture above) and brought into the church where there was amazing music (wish I could post the video/audio of it ... I'll be sure and do it when I get back). The Eucharist was wonderful. My seat was way off to one side -- parallel to the altar. It meant I was blocked from seeing the sermon and anything that happened up front, but had a good view of the altar. I was also sitting right next to a portable a/c unit, which was great. I actually was sitting in the section reserved for the local clergy, which was also great because I got to know a really nice local priest named Sam.
The service was about 2 1/2 hours. The Archbishop of Canterbury was the preacher. The sermon was nothing that would set your life on fire, but it was OK. The Gospel text was the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin and he used it to talk of our great need of each other. That's really what this whole conference is about -- how much every single one of us needs every other single one of us as a global community. At one point he said "each one of us has a voice without which our neighbors cannot be themselves." ... and I thought about the people I had met today -- people like Sandra and Nangula --and how much fuller a person I felt from just having spent time with them and knowing about their lives.
One of the highlights of the day came at dinner when I finally connected with Amber Stancliffe Evans. Amber was one of my college students early on at Wash. U. and now she's an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of California. She's here with her bishop (Marc Andrus -- who is on our board at EGR) on something called Pilgrimage for Peace. +Marc did this for several years when he was suffragan bishop in Alabama -- a pilgrimage with young adults, usually something civil rights related. This time it's young adults from San Francisco, Alabama and also Bob Brooks' congregation in Providence, Rhode Island. They're going to be with us at TEAM for all the plenary sessions, but when we have workshops they're going to do other things -- like site visits to places like an AIDS orphanage. I'm going to hang out with them one night and talk with them about EGR and get their thoughts about the MDGs and young adults in the Episcopal Church. I think I'm also going to go with them on some of their site visits -- I really don't want to spend the whole time in S. Africa just in the conference center.
Well, it's getting late and I need to head to bed. More tomorrow, I'm sure.