It was there where much of the celebratory rites of their family life had taken place. Both had been baptised there, later married and, in turn, brought their daughters, Tracey and Natalie, for baptism.
Maureen, as a young Ms Sassman, would walk from her Bloemhof Flats home, occasionally accompanied by Mervyn, her stylish beau from Kent Street: “It was there,” said Maureen, “where the Fruit & Veg Market is today, next to Harold Cressy High School.”
They would cross over Tennant Street, turn the corner at the Hanover Building, immortalised in a George Hallett photograph and a Gregoire Boonzaier painting. Then the short distance to church where Father John Priest and later John da Costa, the scourge of gambling corner boys, presided at mass.
Mervyn had sung alto in the church choir when Mr Carelse was the choirmaster and Henry King, the organist. He was joined by other choristers of note such Desmond Weeder and Edward Abrahams. The latter, still in fine voice, sings in the cathedral evensong choir. Weeder had also sung in the Cape Town Boys Choir and many choirs across the Cape Flats benefit from his considerable skills as a choirmaster and organist.
Maureen began her working life as a bookkeeper at Danziger Brothers, a haberdashery wholesale firm on Buitenkant Street. Mervyn worked as a lithographer at Creda Press in Paarden Eiland.
It was the first time in more than 30 years that they visited their old parish: there was the occasional funeral they had attended.
“But life goes on and we had settled down in Kensington,” was Maureen’s philosophical response to my query about why they had waited so long to return to St Mark’s.
It was the 130th anniversary of St Mark’s that drew the Davids' back to their home parish.
The post-service reception was in the undercroft which had been beautifully renovated a few years ago. It is where the congregation gathers for tea before the long haul by car or public transport to their forced removals conscripted homes.
Once a month, Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa presides over a storytelling evening in the undercroft (crypt).
This social ritual along with the Sunday morning tea shows how the undercroft is a place where people meet around a shared story or a chat over a cup of coffee. That is how communities reconstitute themselves by gathering over libations and talking, sharing their experiences. Creating space to laugh and to support each other. The outer tangibles of the sacrament of community and of living relationally.
This week, the rector of St Mark’s, Father Austen and his wife Belinda Jackson celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. On Thursday, while cosily ensconced at Houw Hoek Inn near Bot River, in the Overberg, they heard that the undercroft was on fire. Their brief respite was abruptly ended as they rushed back to Cape Town.
The motive of those young people who set fire to St Mark’s is almost impossible to fathom.
Yet they do not cease to be our children and we lead by the quality of our response to the evil they inflicted on us, our city and country. The damage done to the building can be dealt with in terms of rands and cents.
It is the cost of the damage quantified in the trauma, the uncertainty and the unlocked trauma of an unforgettable past that merits our care and outrage.
Let us go to church on Sunday: we who are Muslim and Jew and all other people of faith and those who have no faith in the mystery of love we name Yahweh, Allah and God.
Come, as an act of solidarity, let us join the parishioners of St Mark’s at the 9.15am Eucharist.
And afterwards, when the hymns have been sung and duahs made and our hearts are lifted a bit, let’s have tea in the undercroft.
We can sit there and on the lawn above old Hanover Street with the view of the bay beyond Muir Street Mosque and talk. And let our revenge be our laughter on a Sunday.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.