Small Christian Communities in Port Elizabeth Diocese, South Africa



By Marie Cooper, SJC


            During Apartheid times, RENEW International was invited to eight Catholic and twelve Anglican dioceses in South Africa where we assisted in animating SCCs where, for the first time, people of different races and ethnic backgrounds gathered together to share faith on the Scriptures.


            Over the years, many of the parishes were successful in supporting the SCCs, while many were not able to do so. The seeds planted and the good fruits that were experienced did not die: in 2007 RENEW was invited once again to South Africa. Today, in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth over 500 trained lay leaders are preparing to launch out again: this time it is with a very firm vision and commitment to SCCs as the basic unit of church for the future.

            RENEW Africa: Gathered as God’s Family is a totally new RENEW process based in Africa, created by Africans and responding to the needs and issues of the church of Africa. From the young artist who created the RENEW Africa logo to the program writers, this program is rooted and grounded in the African soil. With RENEW Africa Small Christian Communities, both existing and newly founded, will meet year round to reflect on the upcoming Sunday readings, except for two intensive periods of six weeks. During these six week periods (October/November and Lent) they will use newly created thematic materials which respond to the African reality today. Both the lectionary based and thematic materials are provided in all of the languages of the diocese, Xhosa, Africaans, and English.


            The themes for the five six-week intensive seasons are:


 1. “Meet Christ Today: Claiming Jesus as my Lord and Savior”

2. “Healing the Body of Christ: A Catholic Spirituality of Healing”



3. “We Are Church! Establishing a Self-sustaining Church”

4. “Sharing the Good News: Catholic Evangelization”

5. “Africa at the Dawn of the 21st Century: At the Service of Truth, Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace (focus of the Second African Synod 2009)”


            In the RENEW tradition, the lay leaders who implement RENEW Africa, the small community leaders and others will receive on going training and support for the duration of the program as well as assistance to plan the future support and growth of SCCs. Our services are enhanced by the


local presence of an African Dominican Sister who assists with training and who provides ongoing consultation and support between the trainings.

            RENEW International is honored to be invited back and excited to participate in the implementation of the vision of the permanent structure of the parish as a community of small communities, beginning in Port Elizabeth with the anticipation of other dioceses joining in each year.

About RENEW International: RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, NJ, in the Archdiocese of Newark. RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. RENEW International has a 27-year record in revitalizing parish life in over 150 dioceses in the United States, touching the lives of 25 million people through its renewal processes. RENEW International also reaches many thousands outside the United States, having served people in 23 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.




Sister Marie Cooper, SJC is a senior staff member of RENEW International responsible for Africa.


Sister Marie Cooper, SJC

RENEW International
1232 George Street
Plainfield, NJ 07062-1717 USA