A Legacy of Hope: An Exploration of Emmanuel Cathedral’s Engagement with the Anti-apartheid Struggle from 1984-1994

Student Author(s)

Mariana Thomas

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

Document Type


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This is an exploration of how Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban, South Africa, as a local faith community, engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle from 1984-1994. The study explores the reasons for the parish’s muted response to apartheid while highlighting the overt opposition to the injustices by Archbishop Denis Hurley. The narration explicates the parish’s apathy towards apartheid as an example of the Church’s universal struggle to remain relevant and actively responsive to society’s needs. Moreover, it is explained that the Cathedral’s contemporary emphasis on social justice is a result of Archbishop Hurley’s ministry as the parish priest after his retirement from serving as Archbishop of Durban. The study concludes by resolving that the role of the parishioners within society is to emulate Archbishop Hurley who prophetically stood for the truth despite the consequences or temptation to maintain the status quo. This auto-ethnographical case study includes interviews with past and present clerical staff, parishioners and associates of Emmanuel Cathedral to understand the lived experience of the faith community during the period in question. In addition, the repositories of Diakonia Council of Churches, Archdiocese of Durban Chancery, Inanda Seminary, St. Joseph’s Theological Institute and the Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe Library at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary are utilized to historically frame and enhance the interviews, promoting a continued commitment to social justice within Emmanuel Cathedral and encouraging a future of prophetic action.

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