Under the Skin of South Africa

Brynn Bayman

Last night we had the next of our Lent Lecture series at St James.

After the more theological subject matter last week, this week we had a bit of a change of focus, and also our first home grown speaker in the form of Brynn Bayman, a member of the congregation who teaches at a local school.

As you may know, a couple of years ago, St James was twinned with a parish in South Africa. Whilst Rev Richard has been out there, and has brought back pictures and stories of his experiences, for many the parish out there is almost totally alien – Brynn’s lecture was an attempt to try and broaden peoples understanding of both the country as a whole, and our twin parish in particular. Brynn was asked to do the lecture, as he was brought up in South Africa.

During his lecture Brynn gave us an overview of the post war history of South Africa, looking at the effects of apartheid, and how in particular the Churches responded. He also mixed in with that his own experiences – as a student he protested against apartheid, regularly facing armed police in doing so, who at times opened fire on the protests – and also taking a closer look at how the apartheid laws totally changed in particular our twin parish.

One interesting point that Brynn highlighted was that whilst the authorities moved entire communities, and bulldozed houses to do so, they were never allowed to move church buildings. In some places this has left orphaned churches, in others the church is now either in a different community, or miles from where the church members actually live. This is the situation in our twin parish. The community who originally attended the church was moved to another part of the town, leaving the church building, and a different racial group was moved into the area around the church. However the bulk of the congregation are still drawn from the original community, so travel many miles to get to their church, whilst the community in which the church is located, very few actually attend.

Following on as he did from a couple of big names, Brynn was almost apologetic when he started his session. Certainly we thought he didn’t need to be. He delivered a great talk, and it was very interesting to hear what he had to say. Whilst you can always watch documentaries on TV about the history of a place like South Africa, it is massively different hearing someone who was involved and lived through the history actually talk about what went on.