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More friends on the journey

The Lawrence and Bruce families, Angie May and Eileen Kruger enjoy a break on their hike in 2000

As people began to respond to the invitation to share stories of St John’s, it was noticeable how many people value the varied friendships and opportunities to learn from others at St John’s. Christine Fehrsen, Fiona Watson, Ben & Brenda Bezuidenhout, Mama Shirley Sigasana, Maureen Fabe and Peggy Retief share a few experiences.


Christine connects deeply:

We were attracted to the welcoming community of St John’s and their openness to building relationships. Over the years we got to know people through joining different Cell groups, attending different conferences and courses and at the monthly Sunday hikes on the mountain which were organized by Andre Lawrence and Mike Silvie. These were wonderful opportunities to meet and get to know people. I remember walking with Lebo on one hike and eventually having the courage to ask him why he rather than Thandi, always carried their baby on his chest. I shared my perception that it was a mother’s job to carry the baby on her back. Lebo laughed and told me that he grew up in Lesotho where he learned to care for little lambs by carrying them on his chest. He loved carrying his little son on his chest, which enabled him to talk to him, sing to him and show him the views of the mountain.


Different events in the church hall also provided opportunities to connect with people. At one of these we “happened” to sit with Ian and Fiona Watson. It was early in November and the approaching Remembrance Day brought up very troubling memories for Ian who had joined the British Air Force during the Second World War. In early 1945 the British/American Forces increased their air raids on German cities in the east. Dresden was flattened, but my mother who was pregnant with me had left her home just in time to stay with a friend in Leipzig. In Leipzig when my mother was seven months pregnant, she was buried alive in a collapsed bunker that was filling with water and running out of air. Almost a 100 people died in that bunker, but my mother was rescued just in time. Ian and I prayed together and thanked God for his amazing ways to encourage us and bring his peace to our hearts and minds.


Brian Hill had a team who helped him in leading services/giving talks … Bishop Ross Cuthbertson, Chris Young, Mandla Sibeko and Grant Stewart, the Youth Worker. It was at a getaway weekend for St John’s at Rocklands, where we got to know Bishop Ross Cuthbertson. He had come to Cape Town to recover from burn out.  Bishop Ross had a wonderful way to engage with children and I loved debating with him and his delightful sense of humour. I still treasure the advice he gave me after a particularly tough morning at Pollsmoor: “Christine, do not keep these burdens in your heart and mind. Give them to Jesus. As you listen to the stories of these young men, give them to Jesus. Otherwise you will burn out.”

Keegan Lawrence and Nicole Silvie at 2000 getaway at Rocklands. The Fehrsens and Bridgmans in background

Fiona loves the diversity: 

We got married at Rosebank Methodist Church, where I was a member. My husband, Ian was from St John’s so I joined him here after our marriage in 1980. We went to the house church at Corrie Fortuin’s home and what I loved about it was we were all from different backgrounds. Whenever things were organised, such as going to the beach or another outing, we all went happily together in a time when apartheid was being enforced. I was the principal of San Souci Girls High School and government asked if we could open schools to all races. Because of my experience at St John’s, I thought this was a wonderful idea and was able to put all my efforts into presenting this idea positively to the parents. They had to vote on it, and voted overwhelmingly to accept the proposals). I had seen it working so well at St Johns. I felt the mix we had at St John’s was a very good healthy mix.

Fiona and Ian Watson (left) at a Carols by Candlelight Service in 1989

Ben and Brenda have a long history of sweet friendships:

Ben: My family moved from Retreat to Wynberg and began attending Emmanuel Church. Because of the atmosphere in the country at the time, it was difficult for quite a few people to fit in and socialise freely due to government-enforced separation policies. But at St John’s and Emmanuel, we found it quite lovely and found we could communicate with people and they with you. Before I got married, friends of mine attended St John’s and invited me to join them. Occasionally they had fund-raising or other events and we used to come and enjoy it. When the big questions of marriage came up, we joined St John’s. Revd. Bruce Evans married us on 9th December 1972 and we have been attending regularly here ever since. I was always impressed with the sermons. I pray that the Lord will always help us to apply what we learn to our lives. 

Ben and Brenda's wedding on the 9th December 1972


Brenda: My mother’s family has a long connection with St John’s as her parents got married here. My grandmother was a white lady from England, in those days white and black couldn’t marry, but they somehow did. My parents got married here and so did we.


We have seen ministers come and go, have known and met them. I am fortunate to be able to say that we got along well with all of them. I feel it is important to know how to treat and speak to people and to get familiar with the Minister, not just wait for him to come and talk to you. I always made a plan to talk to people, find out who they are and welcomed them.


I also worked at church, which helped me to get to know new people. We attended house church with Gerry & Cecilia van Aswegen and I also attended all the courses that came along - so many courses, but did not attend Boundaries Course, though others said I needed to, as I didn’t have boundaries! I have wonderful memories of beautiful flower festivals at the church and Parish events; church ladies making cake for people at Onse Plek when they had birthdays; helping at the AIDS clinic at Victoria Hospital; having fun evenings of music or dancing.


St John’s will always have a special place in our hearts. We have met many awesome people along the way, some of whom have passed on.

Ben and Brenda (in pink) and others enjoy a musical evening of Gospel choirs

Mama Shirley experienced love in her sorrow:

I was at St Mary Magdalene in Gugulethu. My children stayed in the suburbs and came to St John’s. When it was Christmas, or they baptised their children, I would first go to church with them at St John’s, then have dinner in their homes. All my children were here and I was alone back in the township. In 2002, when my son, the one who brought me here, had a car accident at the age of 38, the people of St John’s came to my house for prayers in the week and also for the funeral. The Minister, Brian and Heather Hill also came. Our grandchildren Yanga, Wonga, Wanda were christened here and later they used to come to youth group with Keegan Davids and they loved it.  After the funeral we decided to come to St John’s because the people showed so much kindness, though our own minister and people also came. Since then we kept coming.


I remember the fund-raising effort the church did in 2004 for the 170th anniversary, the church made T-shirts. Members bought T-shirts, the funds helped and on that celebration day everyone put on the T-shirts. I still have mine and the words are true about St John’s.


Maureen found a home:

As a child, we used to live in Goodwood, but were forcibly told to move due to Group Areas Act. We were first at a Rhenish Church, then went to a Moravian Church in our new family home as it was nearby. When I got married to Henry, we moved this way and joined St John’s, as Henry was Anglican. This became our new spiritual home and we have been very happy here. I remember being in the Bible Study with Angie May and Myrtle February. I was involved with tea after church and lots of fundraising events. Henry held practically every role in the church, except minister. Later on, our son Pierre was youth leader and Alison was a spiritual dancer. I used to pick up people every week for Bible Study at the church in my car, which we called the ‘yellow daffodil’.

At a 1994 event, Maureen shares a light moment with Cecilia van Aswegen and others, Eileen Kruger and Corrie Fortuin in discussion

Peggy's warm welcome:

I got married at St John's 58 years ago, not being a member at that time, but I occasionally visited their Christmas Eve midnight service. I then decided to visit the morning service on one Sunday and after the service walking to my car, one of the ladies came after me and welcomed me and told me to join in for a cup of tea in the cottage. I felt so good that I decided to become a member there. I then joined the social club and I just enjoyed it until Covid came and we stopped, but yes I am still happy there and that's plus minus 30 years.


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