The Seasons of Christmas and Epiphany
Dear People of God
Warm greetings and a wonderful Christmas to our Diocesan Family. God has blessed us with another opportunity – another year to experience the joy of Christmas. This year has unfortunately been such a strange and challenging year with so many deaths of loved ones.
So many people were very sick. We are grateful for those who recovered and also thank God for the wonderful health workers who have been taking care of the sick and dying. Although we are still not out of the woods yet, we continue to trust and hold on to our Shepherd to guide us through. Time continues to move forward and so the liturgical year brought us through Advent to the new season of Christmas which is soon followed by Epiphany.
During the season of Christmas we are reminded of the incarnation of Christ – of the wonderful, mysterious story of baby Jesus being born in simplicity and poverty. During Epiphany the focus of the readings are on the wonderful way in which Christ was “manifested to humankind, to the world and to the entire creation” (Lectionary 2020:15). However, this time around, the covid-19 has turned our lives totally upside-down. We have been confronted with the uncertainty of life and we understand so much more about our vulnerability and the frailty of life. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we listen for the good news about the incarnation for each of us. Richard Rohr a Franciscan monk reflects on the incarnation and writes: Looking at how Mary gave birth to Christ, we see that it’s not something that’s done in an instant. Faith, like biology, also relies on a process that has a number of distinct, organic moments.
What are these moments? What is the process by which we give birth to faith in the world?First, like Mary, we need to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit. We need to let the word take such root in us that it begins to become part of our actual flesh.Then, like any woman who’s pregnant, we have to lovingly gestate, nurture, and protect what is growing inside us until it’s sufficiently strong so that it can live on its own, outside us. . . .Eventually, of course, we must give birth. . . . (Rohr: 2020)Rohr is encouraging us to look at our own lives during this past year and become aware of what God has stirred in our hearts and what took root in us.
What have we been receiving from God, through the Holy Spirit that have been growing in us? Our faith has been challenged in different ways, but hopefully it has been growing and developing. What is the gift we have been receiving and God is calling us to share with the world – with our family and friends, our community? In which way is God calling us to serve? Like Mary, we are called to become aware of God within - nurture and take care of the small voice until God leads us to share that good news with others.
We are called to hold this tension between what is happening on the outside and what is happening on the inside in love. We cannot only focus on the world with its challenges and noises and be unaware of the small, gently voice of God calling us closer every day. Our awareness of Christ needs to grow within so that the light of God can shine through us into the world which so desperately needs light and love and peace.
Advent Pastoral Letter
Dear People of God
Advent Sunday introduces not only the beginning of a new season in the church calendar, but also the beginning of the new liturgical year of the church. At some level it feels good to be able to have a beginning of something new because the year 2020 has been a very challenging year with covid-19 and lockdown. It has been a year with many losses – jobs, opportunities, people, good health and so much more were lost. Therefore the start of Advent is a positive reminder that nothing stays the same and that time moves on. There is an end and a new beginning. It is a hopeful reminder something new is coming…
“Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) summarises the theology of the Season of Advent as the three comings of Christ, past present and future” (Lectionary 2019/2010: 70). Advent is the season we remember the birth of Jesus and the coming of salvation to the earth and we are reminded that Christ will come again and we need to be ready.
During this year, the pandemic brought us all in different ways in contact with our own vulnerabilities. We had and continue to experience loved ones getting sick and even passing-on. These experiences encourages us to look at our own lives and ask ourselves whether we are ready to meet God face-to-face. Looking at one’s own vulnerability is no easy task and could create lots of anxiety and fear. Fear about leaving our loved ones behind and fear about death. The season of Advent encourages us to remember that Christ has come and will come again. Through a process of life, death and resurrection, Christ saved us and offered us the opportunity to experience God’s love for us anew and live lives which are intimately connected to God. This process is a process of transformation. Jesus took some of his disciples with him and allowed them to witness his transformation – his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36). Rowan Williams (2001:670) explains, “Transfiguration is one of the true and legitimate descriptions of the Gospel entrusted to us and of the Christian life which we are called to be living and leading others in the living of.” When we enter the Church through our baptism, we go through a process of death to live – we leave behind our old life and start a new life with Christ. We are reminded in scripture, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2Corinthians 5:17). This is what we read in scripture and what we hear in sermons and what we know by heart. However, the pandemic has challenged us to check how much of this a reality in our lives is. Do we live like people who are “new creations” in Christ and therefore we do not live in fear but in hope?
This Advent we are all called to spend time with God in silent waiting and allow God’s Spirit to whisper in our hearts. In order to be able to hear God, we need to stop being anxious and worried and stop running around. We need to stop. Become aware of God – the light of the world. God’s interaction with us is gentle and soft. God does not force or aggressively proof a point. God is love. God is light. John O’ Dononhue reminds us that “light is generous and gentle”. into the darkness May we use Advent to be more aware of the gentle presence of Christ in us anew.
Please take note of the following important dates and diarize them:-
Thursday, 15 October 2020 Chrism Eucharist (renewal if vows) at Bernard Mizeki, Scenery Park for priests and deacons. Starting time 10h00;
Sunday, 22nd November 2020 Diocesan Family Day (somewhere in East London West). Precise venue, more detail about targets and time to be announced in due course.
Wednesday 16th December Ordinations to the Priesthood at the Grahamstown Cathedral. More details will follow closer to the time
The beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrates his 89th birthday today. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-apartheid activist has dedicated his life to making South Africa a better place for all, and we look back on his incredible journey.
Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. He was a high school teacher for three years before he began studying theology. He became an ordained priest in 1960, and spent the next few years in England working on his Masters in Theology.
In 1975, he became the first ever black person to be appointed as Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg. He was also Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu acted as Bishop of Cape Town from 1986-1996, becoming the first black person to lead the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa.
In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his untiring effort in calling for an end to white minority rule in South Africa. He became the second black South African to be listed under Nobel Laureates after Albert Luthuli.
He retired from the Church in 1996 to focus solely on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and was later named Archbishop Emeritus. On his last address as the Archbishop of the Province of Southern Africa, he was awarded with The Order for Meritorious Service (Gold) for his outstanding service to the country.
While bestowing the award, then President Nelson Mandela said: “He is renowned for selfless commitment to the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden. With his colleagues he remained an effective voice of the people of South Africa when so many of their leaders were imprisoned, exiled, banned and restricted.”
Since Apartheid’s fall, the Arch Emeritus Tutu has campaigned for gay rights and spoken out on a wide range of subjects, among them the Israel-Palestine conflict and his opposition to the Iraq War.
His historic accomplishments and his continuing efforts to promote peace in the world were formally recognised by the United States in 2009, when President Barack Obama named him to receive the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He now lives in Cape Town with his wife Leah, and together they run the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.
INVITATION TO CHURCH WARDENS-ZOOM MEETING 2020-08-11
Pentecost greeting in the name of our saviour Jesus Christ.
We are well, wishing you the same. We are all in lockdown situation and live in, it is unfortunately that it has been disruptive in more than one way to the life of the Church; such that meetings and therefore communication in fellowship as is customary in the Church has been adversely affected.
For us in the Diocese, the Month of August is not just only the Month of compassion and Women’s Month, but also for Family Fellowship, where we congregate at Diocesan Family day. Covid-19 has robbed us of that opportunity this year! In spite of all such adversity we will not be distracted, nor the wind taken out of our sails! As soldiers in the army of Christ we soldier on!
To this end we call on all Church wardens in our Parishes across the Diocese to please avail themselves for am update and strategic meeting for the Diocesan Family Day Collection Co-ordination.
This will be by a zoom meeting that will take place on Tuesday the 11th August at 17h00. Here is the Meeting ID: 790 9321 9879 Passcode: 3tBFM8. May God enable you to participate creatively in your meeting, wishing you God’s Grace as we are partners in God’s Mission. If you are unable to connect please contact Revd Dr. Beja (Chair of the Fundraising Committee)
On 084 657 6193 or Revd Canon Dr Beja (Chair of Diocesan Family Day) on 083378 1113.
Grace and Peace
DRAFT PRESS STATEMENT
The Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown, through the Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt Rev Ebenezer Ntlali, would like to register abhorrence at the escalation of incidents of inhumane acts of manslaughter. Such acts have been manifest in the senseless snuffing of life, particularly women and girl children -with the toll of these incidents taking a sudden surge with the easing of Lockdown during Level 3; as well as the targeting of the white farming community, particularly in the Province of the Eastern Cape.
The abuse of alcohol has been singled out as a contributory factor in these gruesome and horrendous acts of Domestic and Gender Based Violence perpetrated against women. The President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, has correctly characterised this as a second pandemic; given the proportions to which this detestable human conduct has attained. This statement accrues from a recent Zoom meeting of the Cathedral Chapter made up of the Dean, all Archdeacons and Canons of the Diocese.
The Bishop ventilated his vehement abhorrence towards this and by the Diocese, as well as on other matters of concern confronting the people of God in these turbulent and trying times. Paramount amongst such is the havoc and devastation brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic on the lives of ordinary people as well as the economy of the country. The predictions pertaining to the escalation of joblessness and unemployment amongst people of a Province that is amongst the poorest in the country is devastating to say the least.
The Diocese of Grahamstown and its constituent worshiping community subscribes to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ; namely, that of Love of God and Love of neighbour, which constitutes the foundational tenets of the Christian Faith; as well as the Commandment on the sanctity of Life. We also take seriously the injunction to be our brother’s keepers. To this end the Diocese reiterates its stand against all forms of violation of the right to life for all by all! We therefore decry all forms violence and invasion that constitutes a threat to the preservation of life for all God’s people! We add our voice to the clamour calling for taking individual responsibility for doing the right thing right, the first time and all the time. The trend that is being established in the country where the life of the next person appears to be of no value needs to be nipped in the bud. The Killing of Women and Farmers must cease and desist!
For our part as the Body of Christ and His ambassadors on earth, we will continue our militant mission in proclaiming the Good News of Eternal Salvation for the transformation of humankind and join forces with all engaged in the battle eradicate such scourges from within the ranks of society
ISSUED BY THE BISHOP OF GRAHAMSTOWN – The RT REV EBENEZER NTLALI THIS 25th DAY IN JUNE 2020
Please download the Bishop's Letter about the Coronavirus (CONVID-19)
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP OF DIOCESE OF GRAHAMSTOWN IN CHAPTER: GUIDELINES FOR MANAGEMENT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
The whole world is on alert as we face the outbreak of the coronavirus and, therefore we, together with Chapter, have met on Wednesday, 18 March 2020, to prayerfully seek God’s guidance. As Christians we trust God and continue to pray for an end to the spread of this virus. Let us use the rest of the Lenten season as a time of fasting and prayer - praying for God’s mercy and guidance and a special awareness of God’s presence. If we are not able to fast throughout, we ask that Fridays at least be kept as a day of fasting and prayer. The South African Government has announced preventive measures through the statement of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, our President. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has also responded with some general suggestions for our services, worship and pastoral care. Please read these and make yourselves aware of the content. However, our contexts are different, and it is therefore important for the Diocese of Grahamstown to reflect on our practices in consultation with measures and suggestions already shared in our communities. God has blessed us with the ability to think and understand and blessed us with science in order to be wise and find methods to protect ourselves. As the Body of Christ we therefore work together with the wider world in taking care of ourselves and listen to what the scientists and health workers tell us about Covid-19. We work together to protect especially the vulnerable – our elderly, our young children, those who are not well and the poor. We are called to do everything in our power to minimise the spread of the virus. The following are some guidelines to assist us in taking better care of ourselves: General 1. It is important to follow our rules on personal hygiene (e.g. regularly wash hands, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in a closed bin). 2. We encourage parishioners who are not feeling 100%, to stay at home and recover. 3. When showing signs of flu, rather have it checked by a doctor. Make sure you have the hotline 0800 29999 handy. Clergy and all in leadership positions We need to stay informed with the latest information in order to check the validity of information that is shared through social media. Fake news often causes more anxiety. It is also important to keep the parishioners informed of the latest information. Anglican Church of Southern Africa Diocese of Grahamstown The Bishop of Grahamstown The Rt Reverend Ebenezer St Mark Ntlali 2 We need to find our strength in God and allow the peace of God, which passes all understanding, to guide us and keep us grounded. The parishioners look to us for guidance. Diocesan Conferences and Gatherings Due to the 100 people rule, all conferences planned until the end of April be cancelled or postponed until a later date. Alternatively, gatherings or meetings planned at Diocesan level e.g. the Diocesan MU Lady Day, should rather be celebrated at parish levels where groups of people will be smaller. Services, especially Sunday Services 1. As we journey through Lent towards Easter and with the outbreak of the coronavirus, people are looking for ways to be encouraged and supported. Services are especially important at this time. Services will continue. 2. If we hand out books during the service, disinfection measures should be used. Where numbers might be more than 100 people, we suggest that more – and smaller - services (with less than 100 people) for the day, or for the week, be implemented. 3. Rectors need to be creative in finding ways to minister to our people without having situations which could encourage infections. 4. During all services, alcohol-based sanitisers need to be available at the entrance/ in the foyer of the church building for people to clean their hands before they enter the rest of the building. 5. Where only water is available, a mixture of water and Jik can be used, poured over the hands of people outside the church building, with disposable paper towels used to dry. 6. We encourage all people to avoid physical contact as much as possible. (e.g. wave to greet, no touching during blessings) 7. During the sharing of the Peace, rather avoid contact and find creative ways to make contact with others without physically shaking hands (e.g. waving). 8. There needs to be sanitiser available at the sanctuary, so people are able to clean their hands after touching public objects and surfaces used by different people (e.g. altar rail, lectern) 9. During Communion: Stand to receive rather than kneel. Using communion in one kind only, is the safest option and is recommended. Intinction by the priest (if chosen to do) needs to be done with the utmost care. Accidents can happen easily. Funerals As we minister to bereaved families, we need to encourage people to look at alternative ways and divide the services in order to create opportunities for more people to attend in small groups. E.g. a memorial services, a requiem mass and then the funeral service with burial. Weddings Reduce the number of people who attend services 3 = 2 = Baptisms If possible rather postpone the baptism. When baptising, allow the parents to hold the child themselves or if an adult, s/he should stand close to the font without touching anyone. Do not pour water over the person into the font and then use the same water for the next person. Rather, use a sterilised container to scoop the blessed water from the font and pour it over the person away from the font. Have a separate container to catch the water poured over the person being baptised. Pastoral Visits It is important that people feel supported and we find ways to connect with our parishioners. Isolation is difficult for most of us. All people involved in pastoral care need to take all precautions in personal hygiene before and after pastoral visits in hospitals and homes of parishioners. If people are not able to attend services, or if places of worship are closed Let us use creative ways to connect with parishioners, e.g. video clips, live streaming, and social media. We continue to trust God and hold on to our Shepherd. Jesus was not afraid to do things in a different way. May we be more aware of God’s love calling us to new ways of meeting God and “doing church”.
Grace and peace BISHOP OF GRAHAMSTOWN
Bishop's Lenten Appeal 2020
STATEMENT FROM THE CATHEDRAL CHAPTER OF THE DIOCESE OF GRAHAMSTOWN
6th February 2020
We as the Cathedral Chapter of the diocese of Grahamstown are aware of the widespread concern and anger following the arrest of a member of our church, and his subsequent court appearance on charges of sexual assault. The complainant is also a member of our church. We take this very seriously indeed and wish to make it clear that we stand firmly against all forms of gender-based violence. We are deeply disturbed by this incident.
When the report of the incident reached the Bishop, senior diocesan leaders were immediately sent to meet with the parish leadership and with the family of the complainant. Pastoral care and support has been provided to all involved. Clergy of the diocese have reached out to the family of the complainant and have been welcomed there. Ministry has also been given to the accused. Psychological and pastoral support has been extended to all others affected and has been well received.
We fully support the court proceedings currently under way. We have also launched our own internal processes. The accused has been suspended from all leadership responsibilities and offices in our church. On the advice of our diocesan Registrar (legal officer), we are waiting for the court proceedings to run their course and present their outcome and verdict.
In all this, we are guided by the ACSA Code of Conduct and Pastoral Standards, as well as our Safe Church procedures.
All of the above-mentioned supportive and intervention measures have been on the instruction of the Bishop, who is closely monitoring the situation and is holding all those affected in prayer and love. Let us all do the same in the days ahead.
Issued by The Dean of Grahamstown
Opening Service of St Bernard Mizeki Men's Guild
Sunday at 9AM-12 PM
Titi Jonas Multipurpose Centre Port Alfred