Fans catch up with ‘Running Bishop’

David Hill

Never underestimate the reach of community newspapers. To prove the point, consider the reaction to the story of the “Running Bishop”, published in the Southern Mail, sister newspapers Constantiaberg Bulletin, Tatler and Bolander in the last week of February (“‘Running Bishop’ hopes to make a quantum leap, Southern Mail, February 24).

It told of Abe Lincoln-lookalike, Reverend Christopher Gregorowski, who at 76 is about to run the Two Oceans half-marathon on Saturday March 26 for a children’s charity in Khayelitsha.

It nearly blew the retired bishop’s running socks off when a few days later he received the following re-sponse on Facebook which stirred memories of more than half a century ago.

It read (spelling unchanged): “Good afternoon bishop I sore your pitcher in our local paper and I am wondering if this is the man I sore 53 years ago handing out food parcels to a poor community in a shanty town called Stegman cottage Kirstenbosch also known as Protea.”

A delighted Bishop Christopher promptly replied: “I am indeed the person you knew 53 years ago. I began my ministry at St Saviour’s Claremont and was deacon and then priest-in-charge at the daughter church, the Good Shepherd Church in Protea, Kirstenbosch, from June 1963 to November 1966, before going to minister in the Transkei.”

Contact renewed, memories rekindled, and a new Facebook friend – thanks to the reach of our community newspapers.

And that’s not all. While out on his training run the day after publication, the bishop was hailed by another runner: “Hi, Abe, I’m the 3 432nd person!”

He was referring to the article’s emphasis on Bishop Christopher’s resemblance to Abraham Lincoln and the clergyman’s stock answer: “When people say that, I tell them they are the 3 431st person to say so!”

And then, from a regular walker on the route: “I’m so disappointed. I expected to see you in your purple dress, like in the picture in the paper.”

On the Monday – wheelie bin day – as he ran past a couple of weather-worn scavengers, well known to him, he received from the wife the customary “Morning, Pastor”, followed by “Sir! Sir! You look juss like Abram Ling…Colin!”

And there’s more… As the good bishop tells it: “My first sponsorship following publication was in an en-velope addressed to ‘Bishop Abraham Lincoln’.”

It seems the “Abe” label is sticking but Bishop Christopher doesn’t mind in the least as long as his mission to raise money to buy a new vehicle for Fikelela Children’s Centre in Khayelitsha is successful.

If you would like to sponsor the “Running Bishop”, call 021 469 3775 or email fikelela@ctdiocese.org.za to find out how you can make a donation.

For more information on the project you can also log onto their Facebook page at www.facebook. com/Fikelela-AIDS-Project-160125794142825/ or the website at www.fikelela.org.za

Or on one of his runs you can hand Bishop Christopher an envelope – if you can catch him!