Two Hilton independent schools welcome new chaplains

2011-01-25 00:00

TWO local independent schools celebrated unusual occasions recently when they welcomed new chaplains. St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton welcomed its first woman chaplain and Hilton College instituted a priest who is the son of two priests.

The Reverend Dr Susan van Niekerk came to St Anne’s from Johannesburg where she was head of life sciences and chaplain at Bishop Bavin St George’s school in Bedfordview.

The Reverend Richard Wyngaard, chaplain at Hilton College, came from East London where he was assistant priest in an Anglican church. His parents are the Reverend Lynda Wyngaard, rector of St Paul’s Anglican Church in the CBD, and the Reverend Canon Dr Peter Wyngaard, director of the Anglican House of Studies at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg. The Anglican church only started to ordain women in the late 1980s, so couples who are both priests are not common.

As the new chaplains are both Anglicans, the Anglican Bishop of Natal, the Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, officially instituted Van Niekerk and Wyngaard in their positions.

In terms of church law, they are required to hold licences from him to work in this diocese. St Anne’s is an Anglican school, while Hilton College is a non-denominational, Christian school.

Van Niekerk holds a PhD in genetics and was researching tuberculosis before switching to theology to work in an Anglican church in Johannesburg and become ordained.

“I am excited to be the first woman chaplain at St Anne’s — I think girls should have a woman as they can relate better to me and I to them,” she said.

“I have been very warmly welcomed and feel loved into this community. I want to make chapel services more relevant to the girls but will otherwise see what God wants of me here.”

Wyngaard said: “As the son of two Anglican priests, the last thing I wanted was go into full-time ministry. I spent most of my teens rebelling against religion and authority.”

However, his life changed when he went on a Christian camp and “for the first time I realised what I had been missing”. He volunteered to work with young people in a Johannesburg church because of his frustration that “so many churches offered nothing for them”.

He said he is “thrilled at the opportunity to work at arguably the best boy’s school in the country” and hoped to show the pupils that “Jesus is not about a religion and losing out on life. He was the ultimate rebel … in its truest sense, the Christian faith is completely counter-cultural.”

Wyngaard is married to Christine, a teacher. Van Niekerk’s husband, Adrian, is also a teacher and they have two children.

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