In 1994 Father James Keetile, parish priest of Saint James, Galashewe, a Kimberley township, stayed in Marlow whilst over here studying in Oxford. Following this visit a link was encouraged between the two parishes, supported by both bishops. In 1995 Nick and Beryl Molony visited Galeshewe in order to build up a relationship between the two parishes. Since then there have been visits from and to our link church by various people including Don Majosi, their undertaker and Gary Lester a teacher from Holy Trinity School.
In 1998 Colin Cockshaw of USPG flagged up Zenzelini – a project to support HIV/Aids orphans. The then incumbent, Father Ben Ngoako at Saint James identified this as their priority for the next 5 years. In 1999 Mieke Gaynor from Marlow visited with a view to promoting this project and to this end she spent 3 months there in 2001. Although much admirable work was achieved there were problems with the organisation of this work and Zenzelini is now being run by the Social Services and continues to provide a valuable service.
Saint James Choir during this period was gaining renown, winning many awards and competitions. It was suggested that it might be possible for them to visit Marlow, introduce their link parish to their amazing music, be ambassadors for the Northern Cape and perform for the assembled bishops at Wycombe Abbey when they gathered prior to the Diocesan Conference at Wycombe Abbey. This they did with considerable success. 23 members found their own fares [with the help of sponsorship from de Beers] and were then given hospitality with families across the parish on a bed and breakfast basis. A Team Group met each morning to prepare packed lunches for them and a rota of Team groups prepared their evening meals in the Church Hall. Marlow certainly enjoyed much African music in the churches, in the schools, on buses, in the streets – everywhere including a recital at the conference in Wycombe, in All Saints’ Marlow, Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It was a tremendous experience and many lasting friendships were made.
Saint James went through a difficult period and in 2004 Father Ben left the parish. At this time and during the interregnum there were no visits in either direction. With the arrival of Bishop Ossie Swartz as Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman the situation improved and in November 2007 Sue Glyn-Woods and Rosemary Lewis were able to visit to re-establish communications and gather information.
By this time Saint James was again a vibrant, devout, active and inspiring church which is hugely involved in the local community. Galeshewe, the black township for Kimberley has about 70,000 inhabitants some of whom are reasonably comfortably off and well housed but many of whom are living in shacks. Congregation members have good understanding and compassion for their members. There is a very active and flourishing pre-school and we visited this which is in the Saint James complex and supervised by their Vestry Committee [PCC]. They had 58 children but this was because numbers drop before Christmas and it is usually 63. The children pay 60 rands a month plus 10 rands contribution to funds. This money covers their care 7am – 3.30pm. They get breakfast on arrival – different varieties of miele or oat porridge with milk and sugar, later on a snack of bread and jam or peanut butter and then a main course with vegetables for lunch, followed by fruit. For many this is all the food they get. Child allowance more than covers this expenditure. The exchange rate varies but when we went was 15 rand to £. The preschool were 5-6 year olds and do basic lessons. We saw the work they had done with colouring, numbers, counting, writing their names and letters. It was quite impressive. On Dec 2nd they were due to have their “graduation” as some would be going on to big school after their summer holidays and two delightful little tots put on their graduation robes for our photo call. The head teacher, Susan, had 2 young assistants and there are usually 3 but one had a sick child. They all sang a series of action Christian choruses for us – quite enchanting. One sad aspect was the fact that they had no equipment to play with out of doors and the sizeable outdoor space is just an earth area with some car tyres and a small ramshackle slide which Health and safety here would condemn.
On our return we were able to hand over £500 which our Saint James group had raised to Bishop Ossie who then handed it over to a lady from Oxford who was working in Kimberley and together with members of their PCC they chose suitable play equipment and we were sent all the bills showing what had been purchased.
Saint James’ had been without a stipendiary priest for several years but in 2010 Father Reggie Leeuw took up the post and he and his wife and young family moved into the Rectory. They have settled in well and are proving extremely popular in this large parish. There is currently much excitement as 25th July 2012, their patronal festival, will mark 50years of the church and there are many plans afoot to celebrate this occasion.
If we are to continue our association with Saint James’ we shall need commitment from both sides. Marlow Team has embarked on a new Youth Project and Saint James also has a new Youth Club “which is being supported 100% with a very positive response from the youth side.” This might be a field in which we could support each other – there are aspects here that could form an exciting basis for the next 5 years. We have contacted Saint James to get their views on this, to assess their commitment for building for our joint futures, to hear their plans and assess what involvement could be beneficial. We would need a five year plan and enthusiasm from both sides. We feel there is scope for an exciting project with mutual benefits.