History of St Francis Parkview 1978-1984

St. Francis Church History 1978-1984Rectors 1945_89

 Fund Raising   The Church Women’s Society made big strides during 1978, despite their limited numbers. Particularly, the Society’s fund-raising endeavours enabled them to send small donations to various institutions and organizations. Among these were St. Nicholas Home, St. Mary’s Orphanage, St. Georges Home, St. Joseph’s Home and St. James’s Hospital in Lesotho. The African Feeding Scheme, the Deans Shelter and Alexandra Clinic, the latter receiving blankets), also received Women’s Society donations.  Dr. Keith Waddell received funds from them for disbursement among the needy in Central Africa.

1981

Rector’s Report to Vestry’:  Rector Brian Williams was especially pleased about the increase in the number of communicants, which had risen from 9,417 in 1973, to 12,892 during the year under review.  This rise in numbers meant an increase of 3,417 happy souls at the communion rail.

This was also the Diocesan “Year of Obedience”. St. Francis played its part keenly, under the guiding hand of its Missioner, Bishop Tom Stanage. Mission benefited the parish tremendously. Brian Williams noted later in his report that… “we found God and we found each other in a way in which we had never done before.”   Father Williams also noted that … “we were more of a family than we had ever been.” He referred to the absolute necessity of having a strong church life in terms of specifically providing a good home for those wishing to enter at the door. With regard to pastoral care, Mission took up much of 1981.

It was as a direct consequence of the tremendous work involved in Mission that Father Brian advertised for an able assistant, a secretary, to help him shoulder the administrative burden involved in running St. Francis on a daily basis. Thus, Mrs. Gill Burton Durham came to the church office a couple of months before her official start as secretary in January of the following year, 1982. Her appointment released a grateful Brian Williams to concentrate on his pastoral responsibilities.

Vernon Trathen was Brian’s assistant priest, and Fr. Williams greatly appreciated Vernon as a brother in Christ. Fr. Williams went so far as to say that, after ten years of the two of them serving Christ together, he would be overjoyed to see Vernon at his side for another ten.

The Matter of St. Francis’ Church Wardens : Mr. Stretton retired as Church Warden after a three-year tour of duty. St. Francis Parkview felt his absence sorely. His financial acumen in dealing with office accounts was most well regarded. The Treasurer, Mr. Eric Thurman, had resigned some time before Mr. Stretton, because of his poor health. At the time of his departure, Eric had served sixteen years as Treasurer. The spirit was willing indeed.

The Evensong Service: During 1981, Evensong services presented a challenge to be met head-on. Brian Williams said of them that, “I do preach to the best of my ability, to try and draw people in to come to hear a sermon…” He went on to say that, he does not … “think that my preaching is wonderful, but I believe the preaching of sermons is a vital part of Christian worship and fellowship and discipleship” and … “living encounters between a preacher and his congregation and as it were, between the Word of God and the living soul.”

The St. Francis Church Choir: Choirmaster Nicholas Head left for Cape Town, leaving behind him a void, which fortunately was filled by Grant Hutchinson, a student and organist. Father Williams thought himself lucky to find Grant at such short notice. However, Brian’s joy at his find proved itself short-lived. Mr. Hutchinson’s sojourn proved all to brief when he left on military service. Once again, St. Francis of Assisi Parkview found itself without a choirmaster and organist. Brian Williams asked Hubert Farrer, who said no, on the grounds of his poor health.

Those who looked after the shop, so to speak, were Miss Jane Cawse, Father Jan Dykman, Mr. Allen Graham, Ms. Muriel Neville, Simon Garvey and Derek Louw.

Roland Solomon, ex-choirmaster at the Catholic Cathedral in Bloemfontein, became the next choirmaster at St. Francis. His arrival was little short of a godsend, at a time when the choir’s resources were sorely tried. Under his direction, the choir expanded to include boys and girls, where previously, boy choristers had represented it. Father Williams felt that this was “the right thing”. The choir grew from an initial four boy choristers to its end of year complement of seventeen voices; ten sopranos, three altos, two tenors and two basses and ranging in age from eight to twenty-seven! The expanded choir was now able to approach ambitious works with increased confidence. They performed four-part works by such composers as Gounod and Elgar. By the close of the following year, 1982, the choir had added four Mass Settings, twelve English and Latin anthems and motets to their repertoire.

Practical Concerns: On a mundane level, but one no less vital for that, the church buildings had to be maintained regularly. 1981 was no exception. Storm-water was channelled away from the sides of the buildings to prevent ground subsidence around their foundations. The perennial issue of the rectory carport and driveway came up again. At the year-end, this remained in dispute and was only resolved at the end of 1982.

1982

On with Practical Matters (continued):

With the 2005/2006 building alterations in mind, it is interesting to look back and see where a lot of it began. As in all things, there is usually a continuum of sorts at work. The St Francis building additions were and are no exception!

The Rector, Brian Williams, anticipated several quotations in connection with the work to be completed on the rectory carport and driveway. There were three of them; the first quoted R1900, and then the second came in at R1500 and the last one at R650. The Treasurer, Mr. Stretton, was quite keen to explore the last quote!

Mr. Nichol then met with the architect, Neil Duncan, who thought the whole project feasible, subject to agreement by the municipality. At that time, the prevailing idea was to site the driveway from Roscommon Rd only. Mr. Nichol approached the municipality again.

The whole matter was finally resolved on its completion. Father Williams put it this way, “… because of the arrangements that have been made, there is room now for seven cars to be parked inside the rectory gates.” Completion also helped in some measure to resolve yet another thorny outstanding issue, that of car theft outside the church in Tyrone Avenue.

The Ellis Herbert Hall, coffee bar and church offices are being renovated in 2006 to accommodate a vibrant church community growing in the Spirit. May the work continue.

Communicants and Acts of Communion: 184 communicants received communion per Sunday in 1982. This represented an increase over the figures for 1981. Concomitant with this was a decrease in the numbers of Acts of Communion for the year. This might have been because the previous year had been a Mission year, and many attended St. Francis during the week because of that. Comparatively speaking, 1982 was a more conventional year.

Decline in Weddings:  The Rector conducted only six weddings in 1982. This was something that caused him great concern about the future of the young in the parish.

The Mothers Union: The Mothers Union assumed responsibility for the care of the poor. Care of the poor was raised as an issue sorely in need of attention, during a meeting of the new committee. It was thought that the kindness, efficiency and the care inherent within the Mothers Union would best serve the interests of the poor in the parish.

In their Report presented at the 1983 Vestry Meeting, the Mothers Union noted that they had raised fifty Rands each in donations money for J.A.F.T.A. and the Deansgate Shelter. It seems a trifle to day in 2006, but then it represented a fair amount. Their members also knitted jerseys and dungarees for Ekhutuleni and collected R290.65 for Kuhle Kahle.

At their September 1981 A.G.M. the Union resolved to emphasise their five objectives;  to uphold Christ’s teachings on marriage;  to encourage parents to raise their children in the faith and life of the church; to maintain a worldwide fellowship of  Christians united in prayer, worship and service ; to promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children ; to help those whose family has not met with adversity.

The Union resolved itself firmly to fulfill their objectives because it had been said in the past that St. Francis Parkview held itself aloof from community affairs. Rector Brian Williams welcomed the idea of new groups at St. Francis of Assisi Parkview, if they did all the running, leaving him free to pursue his pastoral duties.

Youth Church at St. Francis:  Brian Williams said about the youth church movement, “There was really no-one who could adequately guide it and lead it.” Really, there was minimal sustainable interest in the idea of a youth church at the time. Father Williams thought it eminently sensible to re-absorb the youngest ones into the Sunday school structure, and to prepare the oldest for entry into the body of the church as young adults, through the Eucharist services. He closed the Youth Church in1982. Later on, the Folk Mass provided some provision for the youth in the parish, although that service too, was to fall away because of a lack of sustained interest.

The Mission Committee takes on a New Role: The next year, 1983, was to be the year of Stewardship. With his mind focused on that eventuality, Father Williams asked the Mission Committee to regroup as the Mission/ Stewardship Committee, with its attendant expanded responsibilities. Therefore, the original committee remained active throughout 1982 in its new role. It met once every two months. The Coffee Cluster groups and the Men’s Breakfast groups witnessed a growth in membership under the committee’s guidance. In 2006, neither group remains at St. Francis.

St. Francis Church Addressed on Removal Scheme and Areas:

Mr. Baldwin Moseke, Provisional Director of the Department of Justice and Reconciliation, addressed St. Francis on the issues surrounding the Nationalist Party government’s removal schemes and removal areas. It must have been an impassioned and significant address because the Rector noted that Mr. Moseke’s commentary was a revelation and, “led to some of us wishing to visit a removal area.” No visits happened, as it turns out, probably because of the distances incorporated in getting there; for example, to Onverwacht near Bloemfontein, Ladysmith and the Northern Transvaal, as it was then known.

Visit to St Francis Church, Moroka

It was subsequent to Mr. Moseke’s visit that St. Francis participated in the Archdeaconry Conference. Eighty parishioners joined in worship with the congregation at St. Francis, Moroka. Brian Williams says of it that, “it was an experience which few of us will ever forget. We were so warmly received and made to feel at home.”

Festival of St. Francis of Assisi:  The beginning of 1982 heralded the 800th anniversary of St. Francis’ birth. The Patron Saint’s birthday was widely celebrated across the Jan Smuts Axis group of churches. Five of them were invited to attend events at St Francis Parkview, and four came, St Francis in the Forest Methodist Church in Forest Town and St Francis Moroka in Soweto, among them. Brian Williams conveyed to St. Francis Moroka his desire for a warm and continuing relationship with them. This was despite the 25 kilometer distance separating the two parishes.

The Mission to Seamen Visit to St. Francis:  The Chaplain of the Mission to Seamen at Walvis Bay called in at St Francis during the year. His testimony brought home to many, for the first time, the sterling work undertaken by the Mission on behalf of seafarers the world over.

General Matters: The Church Warden, Roy Bland, stepped down. Both Roy and his assistant warden, David Kennedy, served St. Francis in a spirit of kindness and with great distinction. They both supported the Rector, Brian Williams, well in his work. Then both Eric Thurman and Hubert Ferrer died quite suddenly. The two men had been responsible for several years, for the continued good financial health of the church.

Janet Callard left St. Francis for the green rolling hills of Kwazulu Natal. She accompanied her husband there on a work-related transfer. Alan Stretton stepped out of the office permanently after serving the community faithfully since 1949. He did so both as a Council member and as Church Warden. Val Herbert resigned as superintendent of the Sunday school. Val had held this job for the last twenty years at the time of her resignation. Val Herbert is the wife of Ellis Herbert, who is still very active today in the office at St Francis.

The Mothers Union: Care of the poor was raised as an issue sorely in need of attention, during a meeting of the new committee. It was thought that the kindness, efficiency and the care inherent within the Mothers Union would best serve the interests of the poor in the parish. The Mothers Union then assumed responsibility for their needs.

In their Report presented at the 1983 Vestry Meeting, the Mothers Union noted that they had raised fifty Rands each in donations money for J.A.F.T.A. and the Deansgate Shelter. It seems a trifle to day in 2006, but then it represented a fair amount. Their members also knitted jerseys and dungarees for Ekhutuleni and collected R290.65 for Kuhle Kahle.

At their September 1981 A.G.M. the Union resolved to emphasise their five objectives;

  • to uphold Christ’s teachings on marriage
  • to encourage parents to raise their children in the faith and life of the church
  • to maintain a worldwide fellowship of  Christians united in prayer, worship and service
  • to promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children
  • to help those whose family has not met with adversity

The Union members resolved themselves firmly to fulfill their objectives because it had been said in the past that St. Francis Parkview held itself aloof from community affairs. Rector Brian Williams welcomed the idea of new groups at St. Francis of Assisi Parkview, if they did all the running, leaving him free to pursue his broader pastoral duties.

1983 

13,542 people had taken communion by the year’s end. Despite Fr. William’s concerns about the continued existence of the evensong service, it remained an integral but limited part of the church calendar, with an average of twenty-three faithful warming the pews each Sunday. However, it was often interesting to see which part of the church filled up faster. Sometimes there more celebrants around the altar, than there were parishioners in the pews.  The writer recalls from his direct experience that, on occasion, there were no more than six or seven congregants attending Evensong.

A highlight of the St. Francis year was the first St. Francis Parkview/St. Francis Moroka Joint Council meeting, held one Saturday afternoon in the Frank Clarke Hall. Thereafter, the two parishes exchanged rectors for a while on a guest-preacher basis. This arrangement was to their mutual benefit. Brian Williams noted that, “There is no doubt that black Christians have so much to teach us, especially in the ebullient and joyous approach they have to their worship.”

In his annual report for the past year, presented in at the annual Vestry meeting of 1983, Father Brian made detailed mention of the J.S.A. whose member churches comprised the Civic Centre Methodist Church at Braamfontein, Holy Trinity Catholic Church at Braamfontein, St. George’s Anglican Church Parktown, the Gereformeerde Kerk Parkview, St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church Parkview, St. Francis-in-the-Forest Methodist Church Forest Town St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church Parkview and the Parktown North Methodist Church on 7th Avenue.  Mr. Harold Gregory played a key role in the spiritual growth and sense of inter-connectedness in the J.S.A. He achieved this simply through his insistence on regular and punctual meetings, and through his efficient management of these house supper-meetings. These suppers fostered a genuine spirit of fellowship among the different denominations represented there. It was reliably reported that a Roman Catholic priest had preached in a Dutch Reformed church! The Jan Smuts Axis continues to thrive in 2006.

The Franciscan Newsletter: The first in-house issue was printed. As noted in the Minutes for the 15th of February 1982, “the Rector reported that folding and stapling was an enormous job.” From humble and distant beginnings, the Franciscan has grown in maturity under the guiding hand, pen and careful eye of John Gardiner, its present editor.

Financial Challenges Face the Diocese: Financial difficulties beset the diocese and they of course, affected St. Francis too. In response to the challenge, several meetings were held at St Martins in the Veld. The Diocese adopted several measures that allowed for a return to near-equilibrium in the diocesan budget.

Father William’s Credo for St. Francis: His aim was, “to make St. Francis Church a place where all those who are sad and unhappy, miserable, in trouble or distress of any kind, can find their spiritual home.”  Brian continues, quoting the words of a traveler in the parish, “I didn’t even know the church was here, but it’s a beautiful place, and it’s so well kept and inviting and airy, light and welcoming.” Brian Williams was most pleased to hear the traveler’s compliments, simply because his aim was to welcome people into St. Francis.

Father Williams Thoughts on His Ministry: Brian adds a profoundly personal touch to his report for the year by making public his personal credo for the parish to hear about and to read.

“I am at your service day and night, all night and day, if you wish it. There is no such thing as office hours in St. Francis church, other than the secretary’s hours. I wish to make it quite clear to you that no amount of trouble is too great for me.”

Church Council: The Church Council continued strongly during 1983, under the guidance of the Wardens, David Kennedy and David Nichol. They demonstrated unwavering support for Rector Williams. Both men continued in office for other one and two years respectively.

The Treasurer then was Mr. Ken Watkins and Brian’s regular fellow traveler to the diocesan financial conferences during the latter half of that year. B. W. noted that, “The Treasurer’s job is the worst in the parish  … one that requires endless work and application.”

Father Trathen again received warm commendation from his Rector for his steadfast support over the last eleven years. Brian said of his working relationship with Vernon Trathen that, “this must be one of the oldest and most fruitful partnerships in the whole diocese of Johannesburg.”

Tragedy Strikes at St. Francis:  Brian and Joy Williams suffered the loss of their son David in this year when he died from cancer at the age of twenty-five. Joy had been experiencing intermittent poor health herself and this was a double body blow to the Williams family. Her illness was later on to manifest itself as Parkinson’s disease. It was a dark year for Brian and Joy. Still, the unfailing and steadfast love of Christ sustained them in the overwhelming outpouring of love and support they received from the parish. In the midst of great affliction, in their hour of need, they were lifted up.

1984

Disappointingly, the total number of Acts of Communion fell by one thousand six hundred and eight. Demographic shifts I the local population largely accounted for this drop, as people left the parish for other places or went on into retirement. It is quite likely that a few departed St Francis specifically and the Anglican church generally, because of Desmond Tutu’s appointment as Bishop. Yet Easter attendance figures were up in the same year, which gave cause for hope. Evensong attendance figures were the highest they had been in the last four years. More people were married in the church, although Brian remained most concerned at the general state of matrimony in South Africa. He lamented the prevailing attitudes towards marriage thus;

“I hear of people who are living together because they are trying to avoid the attentions of the Receiver of Revenue. I hear that it is the “in thing” to live together and not be married. The sacrament of holy matrimony is not only a sacrament administered in Church but it brings me into touch with young people with whom I can talk … and as far as I am able, instruct them in their life together as a married couple in the light of the Gospel.”

Bishop Bavin leaves South Africa:  Bishop Timothy Bavin left unexpectedly for Portsmouth, England when the South African government decided that he was no longer welcome here because of his determined opposition to apartheid. His departure proved to be a great loss to the Diocese of Johannesburg, to St. Francis Parkview and to the collective South African conscience.  It was because of Timothy’s departure that Desmond Tutu came to be elected as the new Bishop of Johannesburg. This caused a lot of soul searching among local parishioners, several of whom withheld their monthly tithing contributions and then left the church altogether.

A Financial Setback:  Consequently, and for the first time in twelve years, St Francis’ had a reduced budget. Father Williams said, “You will notice from the budget which will be presented to you that we are budgeting for a lower dedicated giving income than last year…”

Referring to those parishioners who had withdrawn their support from St. Francis and the church in general over Tutu, Father Williams appealed to them to please reconsider their decisions in light of the fact that what they were doing hurt the clergy more than anyone else. He said, “They appointed Desmond Tutu as our new Bishop. As a Vestry, we welcome him to his Episcopal throne and wish him God’s blessing … I would appeal to all of you to remain steadfast, (even) if you are not in agreement with Bishop Tutu. We are here after all to worship God and not Bishop Tutu.” (moreover) … “there are a few people who have so vigorously disagreed with Bishop Tutu that they have withdrawn their pledges. I do think that this is unkind because it hurts no one at all except the clergy.”

Stewardship:  Father Williams really that stewardship at St. Francis was a sense of being called to account around the issue itself. Mission was uppermost in Brian’s mind in this context, and compelled him to venture further forthright comment on the state of the union, “Our parish helps to make my life supportable from a financial point of view. My diocesan stipend is so low that if I were to apply to an American company that had signed the Sullivan Code, I could actually earn more as a floor sweeper. I can only say to those people who have withdrawn their pledges please to reconsider. We still do not seem to have learnt what stewardship is all about. Personally, I think it is because we are wrapped up in finance. When we had our mission, the purpose of it seemed to be partly, at any rate, to increase our finances … I entirely disagree with this. I believe that our mission must be to bring souls to Christ. Whether there’s money in it or not has got nothing to do with it. One hears (about) new spirituality. If people were more spiritual, we would have more money. I do not agree. I think that the gospel has got to be commended … I’m only saying that we must not use the gospel to make money. We must preach the gospel. To use the gospel as a means of fund-raising is in my opinion to have put the cart before the horse.”

Diocesan Synod:  Synod was held the previous September. There, a new method of remunerating clergy, in which the parish would shoulder most of the responsibility, was discussed and then referred back to the commission for further exploration and clarification. Father Williams was ambivalent about its provisions. He felt that the local parish priest would be so bound up in it the he would be completely at the mercy or whim of his parish … powerless to effect decisions in his church.

“A parish can easily apply sanctions to an unpopular priest or a priest who has to make an unpopular decision or take unpopular action by imposing sanctions on him, by cutting off his supplies.” Father Brian felt that this kind of relationship would upset the traditional equilibrium existing in the priest/parishioners relationship, a relationship dynamic managed well by the Anglican Church.

A Visit to Resettlement Areas:  Members of the parish travelled to a resettlement area just outside Lichtenburg and consequently, ‘decided to help by sending a monthly cheque to pay the rector’s petrol account. The same help was given to the Soweto Moroka parish. Regretfully all St. Francis visits there were drastically curtailed because of growing political unrest.

Bible Study Groups:  Two groups met once a week for an hour each. They were small enough to foster confidence in venturing an opinion, yet large enough to show real growth.

Father Williams again made clear his ongoing support for all the church groups extant at St. Francis at the time. He also expressed his grateful thanks to these groups for all their hard work and independence of operation. There were a few, The Mothers Union, the Bridge Club (under the auspices of the M.U.) and the Anglican Women’s Forum. Brian also thanked his sub-deacons at the altar, those who made music in the choir, the Sunday school teachers, flower arrangers, those who tended the columbarium, the Youth Guild, Keepers of the church linen and the gardeners. Father Williams reserved special thanks for those who assisted parishioners without transport to church on Sundays. Without their help, these people could not have entered in to church life through worship.

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