Holy Trinity Church Anglican Church sits in the middle of the city of Geneva on the Rue de Mont Blanc, an incongruous piece of Victorian architecture that could grace any village in England. Some 20 years ago, when we lived in the neighbouring Canton of Vaud, we used to attend matins on Sunday mornings. The congregation was very international, reflecting the heterogeneous nature of the population of the city and its surroundings. One curious feature of the church was that people used to come in late, sometimes well after the service had started.
On one particular Sunday, when we were some distance into the worship, there was a commotion at the rear of the church where a small posse of Africans had entered. One of the sidemen showed them to the empty pews at the front. Suddenly a subliminal signal spread around the congregation, one of these latecomers was none other than Nelson Mandela! People craned their necks to get a view of him.
The service continued as normal, but after the final blessing, unusually, virtually all the congregation remained seated in silence. We were waiting for Mr Mandela and his team to make a move. He did so shortly, striding down the aisle, a tall, smiling, distinguished figure, eyeing the congregation. Sitting on the aisle- end of our pew, I was right in his line of vision and we exchanged glances as he passed close to me. But it was all over in a flash.
We learned later that Nelson Mandela had come to Geneva to visit the World Council of Churches, his first time in Europe since his release from prison.John Rodda
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