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‘My journey has been long and difficult’

Jackie Macadam meets the Rev Boitumelo Johanna Gaborone, a minister with the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa.

“THEY told me we were in for a heatwave,” she said. “I’m still waiting for it!”

The Rev Boitumelo Gaborone holds up her hands in the blistering heat during the back end of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly week in Edinburgh. She laughs. Perhaps our idea of a heatwave is not quite the same as hers, coming as she does from South Africa!

I’m talking to Boitumelo in the relative coolness of the gardens behind Old College at the University of Edinburgh.

“I wish I had known these gardens were here earlier in the week,” she says. “When you’re here as a guest of the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council, it’s a very full on programme, and there’s not much time for yourself. I’m something of an introvert. I’m not shy in the least, but I do enjoy getting away from crowds and finding time just to sit on my own and not speak to anyone, just focus on clearing my mind and recharging myself.”

Her talk during the World Mission Council’s fringe event during the General Assembly raised a few eyebrows and gave everyone some food for thought. She described the so-called ‘rainbow nation’ as superficial – though many churches will find their congregation is a mixture of colours, ages, shapes and sizes, afterwards everyone still splits and stays with ‘their own’.

Boitumelo was the first of four children.

“I say the first of four, but in truth there were always many, many more adults and children around in our relatively small house all the time. Cousins and their families were always around, so I grew up almost in a communal space. You only realised people were going to stay when they didn’t leave at night!

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About Life and Work

In this month's issue: Scotland's Crosses - the oldest Christian symbols ‘My journey has been long and difficult’ - Rev Boitumelo Johanna Gaborone, a minister with the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa The Kirk, The Festival and The Fringe - The Church of Scotland’s role in the history of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe