Phiri Parish Soweto

by sandy on March 30, 2010

Sunday 28 March – Palm Sunday at Phiri Pharish.

What an experience on several levels. We needed to be in Soweto at 8am in order to take part in the Palm Sunday procession. Lindiwe had organised for the whole family to attend the Palm Sunday service by way of a thank you for the work we were all doing.

Phiri Parish is about a twenty minute drive into Soweto which is another forty minutes from Ronda’s house, which was heaving with activity, road side stalls, large van taxis hooting and gesticulating their destinations, make shift hair salons, some small but tidy houses, some shanti dwellings, lots of small children apparently on their own, but perhaps just playing outside their dwellings.

Lindiwe was waiting for us and as soon as we arrived we set off to join a large huddle of folk in the middle of a vacant block waving their palm fronds. Many women were wearing purple capes and black hats and Father Francis stood out in the middle of his flock resplendent in his red robes.

As we arrived, Zanny, Ronda, Kalai, Glenn, Cressida, Sunny, Clive (but not Erin who in her role as a doula was with an expectant mother), Daniel Hannah, Roger and I, a low hum arose from the crowd which erupted in a sound so moving that tears sprung to our eyes instantly.

Wandi, Lindi and Ronda in the procession

The procession moved slowly around the 3 or 4 blocks of the parish with the choir singing in harmony all the way, truly the most beautiful singing most of us had ever heard.

We were ushered into the huge parish, all the children in the front, and the choir filling one whole side of the church. The service was conducted in 5 languages, Sothu, Zulu, Nkosa, Venda and English punctuated with exhubrant songs of praise in 4 part harmony and accompanied by a tom tom player.

Celebration and joy was so abundant in their singing, it moved us all greatly.

At the end, Father Francis welcomed us, thanked us for the work we were doing and invited us to address the congregation. Ronda indicated for me to go forward and so, with little warning, I found my self standing in front of a sea of perhaps a 1000 people. For moments the event rendered me quite speechless, overwhelmed with the warmth that enveloped us.

Father Francis was effusive in his thanks after the service for the work we were doing. He said several times, that we made a difference in the children’s lives. Many people came over to talk to us and we heard this message from each of them.

Afterwards we went to Lindiwe’s home in Soweto for tea and cake with Wandile and her sister who had newly had a baby. It was lovely to meet with Lindiwe and Wandile in person.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana March 30, 2010 at 21:35

Wish I could be there with you. Great job in keeping us notified of the trip, progress & THANKS!

Dawne Smith-Sliming March 31, 2010 at 13:45

Beautiful word-picture Sandy. I can see in my mind what you have seen. I think the idea of a service is 5 languages is just wonderful. True unity embraces diversity!

Please pardon my chuckle (for just a second) at the thought of you standing there to address the crowd. I know that I, too, would have been rendered speechless! I’m sure you did a fine job!

Pam Lee April 2, 2010 at 14:47

I just thoroughly enjoyed reading through your blog again. It’s a wonderful experience which you are sharing with us in great detail. Your Palm Sunday visit shows how many people care about others.
I’m sure you said just the right words – and barely had time to feel nervous. Father Francis sounds a kind gentleman and very supporting. You all look so happy.

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