St. John’s Church formed a partnership in 2004 with the Diocese of the Highveld, South Africa. The partnership focuses on the Kwasa Centre and pre-primary school and grade school, which serve children and families from the informal settlement of Vukuzenzele. The decision was reached after several months of reflection, prayer and communication with the Rev. Sharron Dinnie, founder of the Kwasa Centre, and the late Rt. Rev. David Beetge, Bishop of the Diocese of the Highveld at that time.
The school was started in 2002 and is now attended by 116 pre-primary age children and 43 children in Grades one and two. Seventy two students are on Kwasa-sponsored scholarship programs at public schools. Most of the students live in shack dwellings as squatters in the nearby informal settlement of Vukuzenzele. Some of the children are HIV-affected, and some whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS live in children-headed households. “I look forward to us growing and strengthening this link,” the Rev. Dinnie said, “and rejoice at the prospect of very real differences being made in the lives of the children from the informal settlement who attend the school.”
The Kwasa Centre also includes two houses for vulnerable children. Fourteen girls and eleven boys live in the “safe houses” that provide a secure environment.
The partnership between St. John’s and the Kwasa Centre was one of the first links established following the creation of a partnership between the Diocese of Washington and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The relationship aims to strengthen both partners in responding to the challenges of theological education, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues and social justice.
The Rt. Rev. David Beetge, then the bishop of the Diocese of the Highveld and Dean of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa welcomed the link with St. John’s. “The partnership between the Diocese of the Highveld and St. John’s which has now been established will focus initially on a school that has been set up amongst very poor people,” Bishop Beetge said. “The Church will make a difference to the lives of those young people and will enable them to receive an education to equip them for the future. For that we thank God.”
Since 2004, St. John’s has developed a strong relationship with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting several times with the then Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Primate of Southern Africa; making seven pilgrimages to South Africa, most recently in October 2015; and hosting six delegations from the Kwasa Centre, including a delegation in April 2017.
To quote from the Southern Africa Partnership Theological Statement, “We acknowledge that we do not know where this call will lead. We do know, however, that for us to be one, we must enter into a partnership that is mutual and authentic, and that is characterized as self-giving, trusting and compassionate. We see our relatedness with the Church of the Province of Southern Africa as one where we both give that our companions may receive, and receive that which our companions may offer.”