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South Africa’s oldest Presbyterian church lies silently with its brother in the hills an hour and a half from Grahamstown. They have been sitting in quiet contemplation for a very, very long time; and will likely contemplate a long time still.

Glen Lynden Churches

I went through all the vowels, but nothing ever sounds like wind and grass.

The Glen Lynden churches are a shy audience to the intermittent livestock and bakkie drivers on the nondescript dirt road that links Bedford to Tarkastad. The Presbyterian was born first, built in 1828 for the surrounding community, a family of the faithful fated to split. One half sired the second church in 1874. Built larger and more majestic, to cater to the Dutch reformed flock, the Presbyterians would continue to congregate in the smaller building, a literal stone’s throw away.

Years have passed, and the souls who attended morning prayers there would fade, relocate, disperse. Memory, it seems, was less resistant to time’s embrace than the stone of the churches and the shy hiss of wind in the uninvited grass.

Today, the Glen Lynden churches sit quietly in the warmth of the sun and orange sandstone dust. The cold breath of the wind from the mountains sings the hymns that no human voices have in years. Inside, the smell of old wood and cold preserves the pulpit and pews as they must have looked the day the last of the faithful left and locked up, leaving the interior to the spiders and those they trap in the window frames, the rafters and the backs of benches. One dusty day this year, little brother will celebrate his 172nd birthday in silence; with only the wind to come inside and blow out the memory of candles.