In memory of Fr Andrew Nel, Chaplain of St Alban’s College 1996 – 2015
The role of a Chaplain is an essential part of the daily life of any church school and it would be fair to say that the eight Chaplains who have served St Alban’s College over the course of its 60-year history have left an indelible mark on the ethos and spiritual life of the school. Fr Andrew Nel was Chaplain of St Alban’s College for nineteen of those years, so his legacy is especially important, for he shepherded more of boys through the school than any other before or since.
Andrew arrived with an earring and a very different approach to any of his predecessors. Never afraid to challenge convention or spark discussion on contentious subjects, he was a conspicuous figure on campus and was very much a part of the lives of the boys. Every chaplain has a central role in delivering and developing the spiritual and pastoral programme of a school, and Andrew did this admirably at a time in which the school was growing in number and ambition. He was faithful to the Anglican Liturgy and Calendar, but also encouraged Chapel to become a collective community-building aspect of the lives of the boys and staff. He brought people into the fold and was rarely threatened by demands for things to be done differently.
Perhaps Andrew was at his very best as Chaplain out on the Form 3 Journey. When the first ‘Journey’ was conceived and developed by a team under David Goodwin and Shane Kidwell in 2004, Andrew was quite brilliant in playing his part in devising and overseeing the critically important Solo Section which was the heart of the whole Journey. That Solo Section was concluded by a Eucharist in the Bush, which was always profoundly moving and significant. Andrew introduced the same idea to the Annual New Boys’ Camp, which culminated with Staff, Prefects and New Boys having a Eucharist together at whichever camp or lodge was being used that particular year. Andrew brought the Eucharist to the boys where they were most receptive, and there is a generation of Albanians who have experienced the power of that brilliance.
Andrew was a strong support for boys and families in distress. In particular, he would reliably walk with boys and parents going through difficult disciplinary processes: leading up to a hearing, during the hearing itself and, most importantly, in the days, weeks and months beyond a hearing. Being a strong father and husband himself, he fully understood what families required in these situations.
Andrew moved to Parish Ministry in 2015 and here again his natural empathy, compassion and kindness shone through. He was a much-loved Rector (part-time and full-time) in a number of parishes in Pretoria East and had a strong impact in each community.
St Alban’s College and the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria was faithfully and well served by Fr Andrew Nel. He was a servant from first to last. He followed his flock long after they had left his immediate environment and would continue to check in on ex-colleagues who may be going though health issues, or parents who needed support in difficult times, or marrying Old Albanians who wanted nobody else to guide them through their big day.
The passing of Fr Andrew Nel comes as a shock even for those of us who have followed his journey of dealing with the illness that eventually took his life far earlier than we would have wanted. On that journey, he was supported by his wonderful wife, Olga, who had been by Andrew’s side throughout the whole of his ministry.
Olga shared Andrew’s journey with several of his closest friends, and their journal was always uplifting and hopeful. Andrew appreciated the blessings that the Good Lord had bestowed on him; we also appreciate the blessing that Andrew brought into our lives.
A good and faithful pastor has gone to his reward. May Andrew’s soul rest in peace.
Mr Tom Hamilton21