For the first time in its 190 years of existence, the Simon’s Town Methodist Church has a woman at its helm.
Reverend Olivia le Roux has officially been inducted into the church, and her focus is clear and strong.
This is a woman of God, who has felt the calling her entire life. As a child she could not fathom why women were not allowed to lead their own congregations, and more to the point why this was the only thing she wanted to do.
“I wondered why God had called me so strongly if the structures of the church were so impossible to change. So for years, I asked God to change the structures, to allow me – and other women called like I was – to commit to service,” she says.
When the change happened for her, it wasn’t what she expected. It was, she laughs, God’s way. She says she heard God simply say: “Change church.”
That action was the first of a domino effect of events which led her to Simon’s Town, and culminated in her being handed the Methodist Church’s symbolic, hand-carved shepherd’s crook.
Reverend Le Roux has made history by becoming the first woman reverend in Simon’s Town, in the 40th year that women have been officially inducted into the Methodist Church.
Aside from extensive experience in this field – from as far afield as Soweto, Secunda, Athlone, and an 11-year long service with a single church up the West Coast – Reverend Le Roux brings rich additional knowledge.
She has studied people, passionately, and has a degree in psychology. She has studied the way of nature and earned herself a degree in horticulture. She is
an entrepreneur who successfully ran her own nursery before she found a way to nurture peo-
ple through the work of her church.
And she is bringing all this intelligence into her theological world view, for the benefit of Simon’s Town.
Is life going to be any different with a woman reverend? Yes, she says, and smiles.
Reverend Le Roux has plans to restore and revitalise the church, and how the community can access its teachings. Like a garden, she is going to tend it, help it find its own nourishment, help it grow.
There is a building adjacent to the church which has been empty for three years. Reverend Le Roux is going to convert this into a fully-fledged wellness centre, where the community and congregation can come together and heal.
“If we lived according to the way God intended, we wouldn’t need to do this, we would have stillness in each day in which to hear what God wants from us. But since we live in a stressed and frantic life-style, I want to give people the opportunity for rest and reflection, a still point in their world,” she says.
And yes, she believes very strongly in equality – for all humanity, not just in gender. And yet gender balancing is still important to her.
“To change the church and societal structures – to allow women their truly balanced place – we have to start with families. Teaching absolute respect for women and children there, first. We must leave behind old ideas, and find ways for men and women to complement each other’s natural abilities,” she says.
Reflecting on the fuller picture of a Father/Mother God will help to create a more balanced, harmonious society, she says.
Terry Korsten, a long-standing member of the church who has been hands-on many aspects of the church, says that the church had been through a rough patch and had not had leadership in a number of years.
“Reverend Le Roux is exactly what this church needs right now. I believe that a woman is precisely what is needed to heal our broken church,” he said.