The Rev. Lehlohonolo Henrietta Montjane says she's a city girl from Soweto who has made her home and ministry on Cape Ann.
The daughter of two Anglican ministers, she lived in South Africa during apartheid, the goverment-controlled system of segregation — and she lived through the changes when freedom for all races became reality.
On Friday, she is hosting a free film event featuring the award-winning documentary "Long Night's Journey into Day" at the Rockport United Methodist Church, with a post-screening discussion.
The film — the Grand Prize winner for best documentary at the 2000 Sundance Festival Film Festival, which also received an Academy Award nomination — spotlights the aftermath of apartheid. It focuses on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which investigated the crimes of apartheid, bringing together victims and perpetrators. The mission of the commission, chaired by the Rev. Desmond Tutu, was to create a path for forgiveness and a peaceful future as the new nation sought to rebuild its political and social structures.
"It gave us as South Africans a chance to look at the pain of apartheid in the eye and really grieve together. It helps us to move on and start the process of healing," said Montjane, who is also pastor of the Gloucester United Methodist Church. "Whether you are a Christian or a non-believer or agnostic, if you don't forgive, it hurts you more because you are walking around with this burden. That negative energy pulls you down and even affects your health."
Montjane, 47, is no stranger to the North Shore. Her parents studied at Gordon Conwell Seminary and later received their doctorates in divinity at Boston University.
"They were so hungry for an education because they were deprived of it in South Africa," she said. Her father has been an Anglican priest for 52 years.
"If I wasn't in Johannesburg, I was on the North Shore, and both feel like home," said Montjane, who first came to the United States in 1984 to study at university. At one point, her parents lived in Boxford.
Montjane earned a bachelor's degree (cum laude) in social work from Salem State College in 1988, after which she went on to earn a master's degree in social work from Boston University in 1990. She returned to her native country where she worked in the field of social work and human resources for more than a decade at the time South Africa was anticipating the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, a symbol of resistance to apartheid policies.
"I have a lot of (post traumatic stress) from apartheid, but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped all of us," said Montjane. "This documentary was so well done, and it shows a few vignettes of some of the TRC hearings and follows four different cases. It's a message of peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. But until all of us are free, none of us are free."
She also noted that the film starts with an American family being involved.
Montjane said she never planned on being a minister. Yet, she received a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology in 2004.
After seminary, she went to Calais, Maine, where she lived in a rural area. Then she served as pastor in Brockton and Whitman where she worked for five years before coming to Cape Ann last July.
"It's really a calling and then I got the call," said the mother of two boys. "I was having a crisis in the corporate world. I'm so bound by social work and Christian ethics that I treat people with dignity and love."
She referred to a term "umbuntu," which means "we are who we are because of other people,"
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: A free film event featuring the award-winning "Long Night's Journey into Day." After the screening, there will be discussion led by the pastor, The Rev. Lehlohonolo Henrietta Montjane, a South African native, who lived through apartheid.
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Rockport United Methodist Church at 36 Broadway,
Details: For more information, call Paul Weiss at 978-546-9210.