When I heard that Susan Valiquette would be coming to the Massachusetts Conference this spring I was surprised. I had not heard her name in a long time. But when I thought about her,
great memories came flooding back of a day we spent at her school outside of Durban, South Africa. I never planned to go to Durban, until I heard about some missionaries there who serve the United Church of Christ in South Africa. When I was planning a trip to South Africa on my sabbatical in 2007, I heard about a retired couple from Concord, MA who spend half their time in Massachusetts and half in South Africa. They host ministers from New England who want to learn about African mission work.
They invited me to stay for 10 days in their condo on the Indian Ocean. It was a beautiful location and each day they took me out to visit churches and mission projects all over the region. The UCC has teamed up with the Disciples of Christ, our sister church, to fund missionaries abroad. They showed me so many programs, and gave me such hope for how our contributions are reaching people in Africa.
We attended the dedication of a new AIDS clinic in a township near Durban. They have a rousing A Capella choir at the clinic made up of nurses. I attended a women’s morning prayer group in a township where folks gather in the churches to sing and pray mid-week. I was surprised as the women spontaneously sang some of the wonderful hymns of faith that we love here too.
One day, I visited the Inanda Seminary for Girls and met Rev. Susan Valiquette. Susan is a UCC minister, School Chaplain, and Head of this school which has been on the forefront of educating women and girls for leadership in South Africa. Prominent women like Winnie Mandala are counted among the alumnae of Inanda Seminary School. Susan leads a chapel service every day and we attended and met some of the girls.
Everywhere I went the school children were wonderful. One group was eager to have a picture when I explained that I had come from the United States. They asked me if I knew Oprah or Will Smith. As I was leaving they called out, “Say hello to Beyonce”.
All through my visit to a new continent in another hemisphere I learned that the human connections I made with people were stronger than anything that could separate us or divide us in this world. I hope that when Susan Valiquette visits our church this weekend, you will sense that too.
Blessings, Rev. Susan
Hymnals: New Century Hymnals will be on sale this weekend. Come with a check or cash to donate a hymnal in memory of a loved one, or in honor of a graduation, wedding, or baptism.