It’s a long way from Pieter A le Roux’s birthplace in Namibia, Africa to Chemainus, but he’s loving the transition.
The very nature of being a minister these days requires one to be adaptable in an ever-changing world. The whole experience of a different way of life has certainly been enlightening already for le Roux, 43, particularly with his new position occurring so close in the lead-up to Christmastime.
“Chemainus is beautiful,” le Roux noted. “The place and people are both touching our hearts deeply and we feel that it is without a doubt a great honour and a privilege to be here. We look forward to discovering and learning more about the life and people of a very special place.
“In the congregation, I hope to give myself as a servant and a guide to the spiritual needs of the people. I hope to offer a presence of compassion and care through what I say and do and to support people as they make their journey.”
Le Roux’s personal journey began by going back and forth between Namibia and South Africa and over to Botswana for a time. He eventually made the huge move to Oliver, B.C. and spent two years there prior to arriving in Chemainus.
“We came to Oliver in the Okanagan from a rural village in Botswana near the basin of the Okavango Delta,” le Roux explained. “I had my eye on the United Church and had begun the process of admission on a national level, and then proceeded to a provincial level, where the next step was to find employment within the United Church. Oliver United Church had an advertisement on the website of the church’s conference in British Columbia and I responded and things developed from there.”
The Chemainus United Church position had been vacant since the departure of Rev. John Wray.
Le Roux and his family are still getting settled, with wife Anneke and sons Pedre, 8, and Kean, who’s almost two, all living in a motel room temporarily while looking for a place to rent.
“It’s quite a big change,” le Roux conceded. “We’ve had so many of these over the last couple of years – the constant process of moving.”
Le Roux has done extensive studies over the years in languages such as Hebrew and Greek, and Fine Arts. “It kind of all fits together in an interesting way,” he said.
“Obviously, coming into the United Church, I had to get the qualifications. I’m doing some courses with them at the moment to understand more about the United Church – some of it is history.”
Since starting in Chemainus in November, “I do feel there is a connection happening,” le Roux indicated. “That’s what it’s all about.
“The Christmas spirit is around. It’s a good time probably to do this kind of thing.”
Le Roux said he’s from the broad Protestant background, having worked and served with the Dutch Reform Church in South Africa and Botswana.
“A lot of the Dutch culture has carried over into Africa’s culture,” he indicated.
Philosophies and discussions of religion can be diverse and intense depending on one’s background. Le Roux is well-versed in those areas, having studied Theology alone for seven years to become ordained.
“Globally, everything is changing,” he noted. “It’s not just a matter of taking out the old things and bringing in the new things. For me, it’s a change of consciousness, of understanding.”
Le Roux noted studies have shown there is a high rate of interest among Canadians in pursuing a spiritual path, but many are still on a voyage of discovery.
“On the one hand, you have people who remember a time when the church was central,” he added, and everyone was part of the church. “We’re no longer there and we cannot turn back to that.
“It hasn’t provided all the things we wished it would. There is a searching and a longing.”
Influences come from all over now, le Roux conceded, and “there’s the emergence of the global culture. Each local congregation is so unique. It’s that journey of finding what that might be.”
Having made so many jumps, le Roux is happy to be here, getting to know his congregation and interacting with the old and the younger members within it.
“The practice of my spirituality focuses on trying to come into the present moment,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. For me, the future is now.”