The beautiful, symbolic cross above the altar
The St Patrick’s Chapel congregation is rooted in the community of Hogsback; the chapel contributes to the community and in turn the community supports the chapel. This relationship is special and is seen in many small ways like members of the community, even those who don’t go to church, arranging flowers on a Sunday. The most dramatic show of love for the chapel was when it burnt down. There was an outpouring of love and concern, help and donations, such that the building was able to be replaced and improved while retaining its essential ethos with many members of the community contributing. There is a special story that illustrates extraordinary generosity of spirit. Jaia was of Hindu religious faith and so did not go to church services but when the chapel burnt down he was very concerned and the next day helped in clearing debris. Amongst the debris was the brass cross, one of only three items that survived the blaze. He instantly remarked on the symbolism of the find and asked if he could find out the best way of returning the cross to its original state. He researched the matter, sought expertise and travelled afar and made recommendations which I authorised. He then cleaned the brass, repaired the broken bits, placed it on a yellow-wood backing and varnished the whole. He then presented the beautifully renovated cross with its burnt marks, the cross that had survived the furnace, to the chapel and it hangs above the altar as a symbol, not only of Christ on the cross and the overcoming of enormous hurdles, but also of the love and care for the chapel from the community, even those not of the Christian faith.
In turn, the chapel cares for the community in many tangible ways: the care group try to help those in need regardless of whether they are part of the congregation, prayers are held every Sunday for those in need, the local priest has a discretionary fund to help those in the community in need, once a year the seniors in the community are taken for a slap-up meal at a prestigious hotel to make them feel special, our invitations for parish bring and share meals are for the whole community and there are services in which non-church goers are specially invited.
Many visit the Prayer Trail to meditate and pray in the beauty of nature
The chapel acts as a ‘wayside’ church with visitors coming throughout the day into the chapel to admire and pray and meditate and thus enrich their lives (the chapel doors are left open 24 hours of the day, every day). The chapel is a very popular venue for weddings and many of those who marry in the chapel return on their anniversaries to give thanks for the blessings they received. And memorial services are occasions when the community gathers in the chapel and many use the walls of remembrance to remember loved ones. An extension of the chapel ‘footprint’ is the prayer trail through the chapel gardens for those in the community who would prefer to pray and meditate in nature. And now we have a webpage – www.stpatrickonthehill.co.za - for those throughout the world to connect with the chapel, its activities and its blessings.
The congregation gives generously to the chapel, many tithe their income and, in turn, the chapel gives away over 40% of the money received, thus benefiting many local organizations who in turn are able to help others. The principal community organizations that are beneficiaries of St Patrick’s are:
- the Callie Evens Old Age Home in Cathcart who are thus helped to help senior people;
- the Hobbiton-on-Hogsback holiday camp (are helped to give holidays to underprivileged children;
- Jikani is helped to help the local needy (http://www.jikani.com/);
- the collection on a Sunday when Neil Cooper preaches once a month goes to help the Presbyterian church in Alice;
- the collection on a Sunday when Prof David Williams preaches once a month goes to help the Fort Beaufort united church.
The St Patrick's Chapel congregation feels blessed to worship in this beautiful place of God and in turn feel privileged to be the custodians of the buildings and gardens, and they gain greater blessing by giving generously to those in the community in need.
8 June 2015