Cleric takes a bow; not quite

2016-04-28 06:00
 Retiring reverend Mxolisi Mpambani.  PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

Retiring reverend Mxolisi Mpambani. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

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After three decades, one of Gugulethu’s longest serving religious leaders is gracefully taking a final bow.

Reverend Mxolisi Mpambani of St Magdalene Anglican Church in Gugulethu has announced his retirement from ministerial services. He has been in the position since 1996 and says he has enjoyed every day at the altar.

During a visit at his home in Gugulethu, he recalled his journey as that of a poor village boy in the Eastern Cape to travelling the world.

Mpambani was born in 1949 in Stutterheim’s Mgwali village some 200 kilometres from East London.

“My childhood was eventful, growing up in a poor household headed by my mother after the death of my father, when I was seven years old.

He died after being electrocuted while he was working as an electrician and my mother had to find work as a domestic worker to support me and my siblings,” he recalled.

Despite the financial challenges Mpambani recalls growing up in a religious home where the importance of education was top of the agenda.

He was encouraged to go to school and went on to obtain a primary school teaching qualification in 1974 at Lovedale College.

“When I asked my mother’s permission to go to college, we both knew that there was no money to go but we had faith. I used to sell sweets and anything I could sell in college to get by. Even when I came back for holidays, I would work in the gardens as well as selling bottles and bones to raise money,” he remembered.

Mpambani went on to teach at Mgwali and Khubuse Primary Schools before he continued with his studies and completed his matric by distant learning at Damelin.

“After that I went on to study for a degree in theology at Rhodes University. A few years later I went on to study at the Birmingham University where I did a post graduate diploma in Pastoral Care for a year,” he said.

Mpambani’s career as a clergyman has seen him working in many parishes in the Eastern Cape, in places such as Grahamstown, Keiskammahoek and Sterkspruit before moving to Cape Town where he settled in Gugulethu.

Mpambani said that the transition from a teacher to being a priest was not easy as he had enjoyed teaching.

“I really enjoyed teaching especially because we were getting good results despite the challenging times. However, when grandmother was teaching us to pray I used to pray to G-d and ask him for the ability to be a shepherd to His people.

At the time I did not understand the meaning because I was too young but as time went by, it seemed the best decision because it was being the most rewarding experience,” he said.

He said one of the biggest challenges at the time was the constant harassment by the Aapartheid police.

“Being stopped and harassed for no reason was not fun. Being obstructed to do the Lords work and being in constant surveillance made it hard to live.

But while the challenges have changed with the times I best enjoyed being at the altar. I loved ministering, visiting the ill as well as changing peoples lives through the word of God,” he told City Vision.

While he will be retiring as rector he will continue to do the work of developing other clerics.

“I want to focus on writing, run workshops and development of young clerics because I believe in handing the baton to others.”


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