Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Monday, 1 November 2021

Explaining and Praying for the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 

The next 12 days will be critical to life as we know it on the planet, and especially for Africa.

In Glasgow, governments which have signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change hold the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the convention (COP26) to decide how to prevent climate  catastrophe.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has described the climate crisis as "code red for humanity". 

The current aim is to reduce carbon emissions – from coal, petroleum and natural gas – to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the temperatures seen before the industrial age. To achieve this, by 2030 global emissions must be halved, and by 2050 we must reach "net-zero", meaning the greenhouse gas we produce should be no more than that removed from the atmosphere.

But Mr Guterres warns that despite action already taken, we are headed for a "catastrophic" global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius.

The impact of the crisis is particularly serious for Africa. Scientists of the World Meteorological Organization say that the continent is warming, and sea levels along South Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts are rising, more rapidly than the global average.

Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture with the African Union Commission, says that if there is no change, by 2030 up to 118 million extremely poor Africans (those living on less than U.S.$1.90 a day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat.

Scientists at the University of Cape Town forecast that rainfall in eight African countries they have studied will decrease by well over 20mm in the driest months, and by more than 100mm per year in the worst hit nations.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the specialised United Nations agency which works to improve food security, says this will have a devastating impact on yields of staple and cash crops grown by small-scale farmers.

It explains: "This could have a catastrophic impact on poverty and food availability unless there is an urgent injection of funding to help vulnerable farmers adapt how and what they farm."

IFAD adds that developing countries need between $70 billion and $100 billion a year to be able to adapt, and by 2030 they will need between $140 to $300 billion. But at present the international community is providing only $22 billion a year.

So we face a Kairos moment – a moment of truth, a critical turning point – in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe.

Accordingly, I invite all people of faith to pray for COP26 on each day of the talks until November 12:  

 

Lord God,

We give thanks for the world in which you have placed us

For the beauty which surrounds us

And for the natural resources you provide which sustain us

 

We pray for all those gathered in Glasgow for COP26

We pray for the heads of state and government representatives

We pray for the negotiators and scientists

We pray for the climate activists 

That all will unite in a common effort to avert climate catastrophe

 

We also pray for those in fossil fuel industries whose livelihoods are at stake

And for the rapid development of renewable energy sources which will create new jobs 

 

Lord God,

We ask you to move the hearts of leaders of the industrialised nations which produce most carbon emissions

That they will hear the cries of developing nations, which suffer the worst effects of climate change

And that COP26 will generate the resources needed to help poor nations adapt to meet the crisis

 

In your name we pray.  Amen 

 

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Sermon at Anglican schools' confirmation service

 

Combined Confirmation Service for Anglican Schools in Cape Town

Bishops Diocesan College, Rondebosch

10 October 2021

Readings: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16; Mark 10: 17-31

 

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God, heads of participating schools – Mr Antony Reeler of Diocesan College, our host this year; Mrs Heather Goedeke of Herschel; Mrs Shirley Frayne of St Cyprian’s; and Mr Julian Cameron of St George’s Grammar School – also friends and families, I am pleased to join you to share in this important milestone in the lives of the confirmation candidates under the challenges of Covid-19.

A warm welcome to you all. Thank you for inviting me today and, most importantly, thank you to the school chaplains – the Revd Monwabisi Peter of Bishops, the Revd Lorna Lavello-Smith of Herschel and the Revd Andrew Weiss of St Cyprian’s, for preparing the candidates for confirmation. A special welcome to those who attend this service for the first time in their new capacities. A special welcome also to the parents and godparents of those to be confirmed.

Thanks, Revd Monwabisi, for being our host, for preparing the service and for a wonderful service booklet. It is always a joyous occasion when Anglican schools in our diocese meet and worship together, but in the face of this devastating pandemic it is all the more important that we stand together in solidarity at this time of crisis in our land and the world. Many of us have lost friends and relatives to Covid-19, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

Today we come in the presence of God to give witness to the special gift with which God, out of his goodness, will endow you, the confirmation candidates: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your lives. The rite of passage that you pass through today will help you to practise your faith more effectively in every aspect of your existence, expanding your relationship with God and strengthening your spiritual lives.

The gifts of the Spirit equip us for worship, witness and service. Of these three, I always say worship is the most important because everything else we do flows from this. In worship we praise and give reverence to God. It begins with fear of the Lord – meaning that we should stand in awe of the Lord. Fearing, or standing in awe of God, is one of the gifts of the Spirit. So through worship we show respect for and love of God, admiring God with those who believe in him.

The Gospel reading today, Mark (10:17ff), presents us with Jesus’ encounter with a rich young man. In the mind of the young man, the concept of eternal life probably had an eschatological meaning, referring to life in the age to come and not a concept which gave him any sense of security in the here and now. In this passage Jesus takes a word the man uses, and throws it back at him for deeper consideration. Jesus might be saying that, in an absolute sense, goodness belongs to God our Creator alone. Whether Jesus could be seen as good was in a sense subject to growth and testing in the circumstances of the incarnation, in which He would learn obedience through what he suffered.

Despite the rich young man's need for a sense of security for the future, judged by the standards of the law he felt himself to have attained a measure of goodness. What he now expected was to be told to undertake something difficult and praiseworthy, to make good anything that might be lacking.

Friends, it is this popular idea of striving for goodness based on merit that Jesus attacks. The lesson Jesus taught is that the kind of human achievement the young man aspires does not produce what is described as “good” in God’s sight in the way Jesus uses the term. In fact, this man was breaking the first commandment: for his possessions were his god. As his teacher, Jesus responds by giving him a liberal dose of that which will bring him to Christ: that he would be justified by faith and not by works. The command that he sell his possessions does not necessarily apply to all of us – it was an admonition to that particular person in that particular situation, arising out of the reality that he was entrapped by his possessions.

Neither did Jesus promise him eternal life in return for the sacrifice of his riches; he promised him only a secure treasure in return for an insecure one. Jesus outlines a way of life which involves ridding ourselves of whatever would hinder us from following him. The disciples were astonished when Jesus pointed out how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, for it was the prevalent opinion in Judaism that riches were a mark of divine favour. But it is also true that it is possible to part with one’s possessions in some good cause without becoming a true follower of Jesus; having one's life shaped by one's faith involves our hearts and minds, not simply actions. This of course has implications for depending on wealth and possessions for happiness.

In our Old Testament reading, Job begins in this passage with the heartfelt wish that he could find God so he could press his case. He is voicing a longing for God's presence. “What I would give to know where to find God,” is his plea. Job has already given everything to end up where he is: his family, his wealth, and his physical health, and now he seems on the verge of giving up his spiritual health as well, just to reach God. This longing, this desperate need for an answer to the whys of suffering, then at least some sense that God is near, concerned, interested and caring, is sure to resonate with anyone who hears it.

As learners at our Anglican schools, what can we learn from this example? What is one thing that each of us can take back to our schools, communities and families?

Those of you who have heard me before at these occasions know that I have an abiding passion that our church must promote the common good in our society by providing – and not only providing but actually radically expanding – opportunities for quality, affordable education in schools which are fully inclusive and reflect the demographics of our country. I am repeating myself because it bears repeating: While I know that most of our schools are committed to opening up places for boys and girls whose parents don't have the means to send them here, I do wonder whether the wealth and relative privilege reflected our most exclusive Anglican schools is not sometimes an obstacle to an in-depth understanding of the society in which we live. As I have said before, for all the facilities and educational opportunities we provide, they will count for nothing unless we are preparing a representative cross-section of society to serve and develop a nation which meets the needs of all.

Since I last spoke to schools in Cape Town on the challenges we face, we have seen public outbursts of hurt and anger, especially from alumni, at their experiences of marginalisation, exclusion, and discrimination at our schools. In response, last year's meeting of the church's Provincial Standing Committee – the body which meets annually to oversee the running of the Anglican Church across Southern Africa – asked me to appoint a task team to look at this problem broadly and propose ways we could address it. The team is headed by the Wits University educationalist, Professor Mary Metcalfe of Wits, an Anglican herself, and recently provided us with a progress report.

In a perceptive and nuanced assessment, the task team says it is on a rigorous journey of learning about what it describes, and I quote, as “the complex and often unrecognised or ‘invisible’ features of discrimination experienced by members of school communities.” It continues: “Our society, and the values and attitudes that we absorb daily, constantly reinforce a dominance and exclusion, and practices of disciplined reflection need to be embedded in the institutional culture of schools if discrimination is to be addressed at the depth required.”

The task team says we need to make a conscious decision to challenge the deeply-held assumptions underlying our thought and action, and it calls for us to commit to a process of learning more about all forms of discrimination. It recognises that despite making mistakes along the way, many schools have made determined and consistent efforts to provide greater opportunities for students’ voices to be heard, and that in turn some students have felt empowered to help build a new culture at their schools.

Importantly, it recognises that if the team is to develop helpful recommendations, they need to be owned by schools. It says that recommendations which are not the outcome of authentic engagement and which have not been enriched by the experiences of those who must adopt the recommendations will exist on “paper” only and will not be incorporated into the essence of the life of schools.

So although a lot of work lies ahead, and the task team says the pace of change needs to accelerate, it has made a good start in helping us to provide the framework for addressing our current challenges and providing an education that prepares our young people for the 21st century.

Confirmands, it is at turning points such as this in your lives and in the life of our communities and our country that our destiny is shaped. Destiny is a matter of choice, not of chance. I appeal to you, as you embrace Jesus's call to be his disciples, to allow him to shape you and form you in accordance with His will for your lives. And in our national life, I pray that all of us will embrace our New Struggle, that we will awaken our consciences and demonstrate solidarity and commitment to a culture of values-based decision-making and care for one another in ways including the protection of women and children. In that way we can be of service to our schools, our families and our beautiful country.

As I conclude I want to thank all the educators and learners, who during the turbulent times of Covid-19 have ensured that learning and teaching has continued to take place.

The God who began that good work in you, will perfect it into the day of Christ Jesus (Phil.1:6). Congratulations on your confirmation, and may God bless you, your family and South Africa.

And as you know, God loves you and so do I.

Amen

 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Archbishop's Charge to Provincial Synod 2021

 
Anglican Church of Southern Africa

36th Session of Provincial Synod

ACSA Discipling Communities for a Changed World”

Charge by the President of Synod, the Most Reverend Dr Thabo Cecil Makgoba

Archbishop and Metropolitan

 

September 21, 2021

 

Readings: Proverbs 3: 9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 9: 9-13

 

May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

 

Welcome & Acknowledgements

 

Members of Synod, sisters and brothers in Christ gathered in your Diocesan hubs, members and friends of our church watching online, a very warm welcome to the opening Eucharist of this, the 36th Session of Provincial Synod.

 

A special welcome to those of you attending Synod for the first time. Although I will miss meeting you in person, I hope you will feel included and encouraged to play your full part in proceedings. I also want to recognise members of the Order of Simon of Cyrene and all our Provincial office-bearers, those with full-time jobs who give generously of their time and effort to the Church. Speaking about generosity, I encourage all members of Synod to give generously at the offertory, since your giving will support bursaries for theological education in the province. A report in the Addendum to the 2nd Agenda book emphasises the need for a Province-wide conversation on critical decisions that we need to make on re-imagining the training and formation of our clergy.

 

Since Synod last met in 2019, one bishop in service and several retired bishops have died. We recall the tragic loss to Covid-19 of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, as well as the deaths of Bishops Mlibo Ngewu, formerly of Mzimvubu, Tom Stanage, formerly of Bloemfontein, Edward MacKenzie, Suffragan in Cape Town, Merwyn Castle of False Bay, Eric Pike of Port Elizabeth, and Derek Damant of George. We acknowledge too the deaths of former members of Provincial Synod: Ms Agnes Mabandla, Dr John Healy, the Revd Malusi Msimango, the Revd KL Mashishi, the Revd Canon S Mupfudzapake and Mr Kenson D Qwabe. We also pause to remember clergy and their families, as well as the many others who have died due to Covid-19. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

 

Also, since the last Synod, there have been a great many changes in the bench of bishops. I take pleasure in welcoming newly elected bishops to their first Provincial Synod in their new capacities: Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe of Natal, formerly of Mthatha, Bishop Tsietsi Seleoane of Mzimvubu, formerly Suffragan in Natal, Bishop Luke Pretorius of St Mark the Evangelist, Bishop Joshua Louw of Table Bay and Bishop Vikinduku Mnculwane of Zululand.

 

We acknowledge with thanks to God the ministries of those who have retired or resigned: Sebenzile Elliot Williams of Mbhashe, Adam Taaso of Lesotho, Oswald Swartz of Kimberley and Kuruman, Martin Breytenbach of St Mark the Evangelist and Dino Gabriel of Natal.

 

For several bishops still in service, this will be their last Provincial Synod before retirement. We recognise the faithful witness and ministries of Bishop Andre Soares of Angola and Bishop Luke Pato of Namibia.

 

Church Governance under the Coronavirus

 

In the time of the coronavirus, we have faced considerable challenges in governing the church, from meetings of parish councils to convening synods and elective assemblies. Fortunately, hard work by IT specialists and our lawyers have guided us through the difficulties, and we will address some of the results as we work through the First Agenda Book.

 

As a result of the pandemic, we have been slower than we would have liked in filling episcopal vacancies and have had to rely much more than usual on Vicars-General during the interregnaHowever, we are beginning to overcome the backlog, and we congratulate the new bishops elected during this week by the Synod of Bishops: Bishop Brian Marajh of George, to be translated to Kimberley & Kuruman, and Dr Vicentia Kgabe, to be Bishop of Lesotho.

 

There has been a lot of comment about the number of elective assemblies in the past few years which have decided to delegate the election of a new bishop to the Synod of Bishops. Many rush to brand such a decision as a failure to elect, but as I told the Diocese of Natal recently, it is far from that. Of course, dioceses ideally want to make the decision themselves, and there is a proposal in the Second Agenda Book which seeks to address the matter. However, when a diocese chooses to delegate, I regard it as a spirit- and God-filled act. The Synod of Bishops takes the invitation to elect very seriously – and of course God can also work through the Synod of Bishops!

 

Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola

 

In the realm of church growth and church governance, the most exciting development to come before this session of Synod is giving birth to a brand-new Anglican province in Southern Africa – the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola. When I addressed Synod in 2019, I said one of my hopes and visions was that “one day in the not-too-distant future we will inaugurate a new Province in the Communion: an independent, stand-alone, Portuguese-speaking Province in Southern Africa.”

 

Even I did not imagine that the dioceses in Mozambique and Angola would have been able to act so quickly. As a result of the intensive planning and work of Bishops Carlos Matsinhe, Andre Soares, Manuel Ernesto, and Vicente Msosa, supported by Mrs Mototjane in the PEO's office, the PEO, the Revd Dr Makhosi Nzimande, the former PEO, Archdeacon Horace Arenz, Provincial Officers and our lawyers, we received the approval of the Communion for a new Province in August. On September 1, the day on which we commemorate Robert Gray, we adopted the Canons and Constitution, and on Friday IAMA will be inaugurated, with Bishop Carlos as the Acting Presiding Bishop and Bishop Andre as Dean of the Province. And all this has been done virtually, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Their hard work is an example to us all.

 

Of course, it is a bittersweet moment for ACSA. The Diocese of Lebombo was established in 1893, and these important dioceses of our Province have enriched our lives immensely over the past century. Now, in a part of God’s vineyard in which there were four dioceses a few months ago, there will soon be 12, with nine now. Next year, God willing and Covid-19 permitting, we will hold the re-scheduled Lambeth Conference. If it can indeed go ahead, we can be proud and pleased that our part of the world will be represented by not one Province but two. Praise be to God.

 

Discipling Communities for a Changed World

 

Across all the countries of the Province, the last 20 months have been as challenging as any through which any of us have lived. They recall the memorable words of the English novelist Charles Dickens, who writes in the opening paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities”:

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...”

 

Our personal lives, our deepest relationships, have felt both horrific spikes of violence and destruction, but also the kindness of strangers as people have reached out to give succour and refuge to others. We traversed through a winter of despair when those already living in chronic poverty took on new burdens as unemployment spiralled. Hunger has haunted the faces of children. Domestic violence has scarred the lives especially of women and children. Both in South Africa and across the Western world we have witnessed the spectre of racism. The phrase “I can’t breathe” became the grim reminder of both the pandemic of racism and of the virus. We have heard cries for greater democracy on the streets of eSwatini, we have seen devastation and unparalleled violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. We have heard the echoes of the incessant bombardments of war in Cabo Delgado. Amid it all, the pandemic has ravaged our lives and livelihoods. We have experienced vaccine nationalism, in which the prosperous countries of the world have hogged life-giving inoculations, and we are still experiencing some vaccine hesitancy, despite the magnificent work being done by ACSA’s Covid-19 Advisory Team under the leadership of Canon Rosalie Manning.

 

During this Synod, one of the most controversial issues we will debate is whether vaccinations should be made mandatory, which is a sensitive issue not only here but across the world. Anti-vaccine lobbyists defend their right not to be vaccinated, which is all well and good if they are willing to stay at home in isolation. But as soon as they move into spaces occupied by others, their rights become limited by the rights of others. In the words of the legal philosopher Zechariah Chafee, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other person's nose begins.” In a deadly pandemic, the right of your neighbour to life inevitably circumscribes your right to do as you like.

 

In the church, there is a strong case for clergy to be vaccinated because we are necessarily near other people, we visit vulnerable people to provide pastoral care and numbers of people in our congregations are vulnerable by virtue of age or comorbidities. The labour writer Terry Bell has put forward a powerful case for employers to make vaccinations compulsory, citing the cardinal principal of trade unionism, “an injury to one is an injury to all”. And is it expecting too much to require travellers sitting near others on aircraft flights to be vaccinated? Let us take seriously our prophetic role in society when we debate this matter.

 

In this time of suffering, unprecedented in its nature in the last hundred years, we have often felt bereft of answers and struggled to remember that tremendous reassurance that the Lord is with us. We have often felt the burden of failure, but we have also been encouraged by Madiba’s exhortation: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” In the words of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century, we are indeed passing through an hour of “faith seeking understanding”.

 

As we try to get up on our feet again, as we look to our faith in groping towards understanding, we can take encouragement from today’s Gospel reading. The parallels between the age in which Matthew lived and our own reality are stark. His work as a tax collector put him into a particular category of people in a deeply unequal society. Scholars tell us that two percent of the population at the time of Jesus comprised the ruling elites. Another five percent were people like Matthew – retainers or agents who served the elites and the Roman Empire. Ninety-three percent were the poor, the peasants, those excluded from the benefits of the economic system, a system built on their labours.

 

Those figures call to mind statistics which Moeletsi Mbeki gave us at a seminar at Bishopscourt a few years ago. At the top of the pyramid, he told us, there is an elite who earn more than R60,000 a month. They constitute less than half a percent of working age people. Then there are independent professionals who make up two percent of the population, and a middle-class comprising just under 10 percent, who earn between R11,500 and R60,000 a month. Against that, 38 percent or nine million people are blue collar workers earning less than R11,500 a month, while 50 percent of working age people – a total of 12 million South Africans – are either unemployed or part of what he described as an "under-class". Recently we learned another shocking statistic, that the official unemployment rate among people under 25 in South Africa is 46.3 percent, meaning nearly half of our young people have no jobs. The resolution on youth unemployment on our agenda could not be timelier.

 

The organisers of the Camissa Project, the series of discussions on black theology being hosted by St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, portray the challenges of Covid-19 vividly. "Race, class, gender and disparities were starkly exposed,” they say. “The frailties of life and ongoing exploitation were displayed for what they were by the stroke of a pandemic. Oppressed people worldwide experienced this pandemic as yet another burden in addition to the pandemics brought upon them in five hundred years of imperialist invasions, colonisation, oppression, enslavement, and capitalist exploitation. Similarly, gender-based violence has been described as a pandemic, hugely exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

 

Palestine in the Roman era and Southern Africa today are worlds in which Jesus was and is now at home, populated by people battered from every side; people upon whom, in Matthew’s words, Jesus looks compassionately for “they were like sheep without a shepherd”; people crying out for shepherds to raise their voices, to speak prophetic words, to instil hope and to work for justice. It is worth noting that Jesus’s invitation to Matthew was to leave the space he occupied as a tax collector. It was a challenge that reminded Matthew that a system which was built on corruption, that robbed the poor, that created desperation as a matter of course, was no place to find growth or fulfilment, no environment for becoming fully human.

 

Scholars tell us that Matthew’s Gospel is deeply influenced by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. When Jesus looks on the marginalised, he does as the prophet Ezekiel also did – he admonishes those who abuse their leadership for their own interests and protect ill-gained wealth or prestige. Hear the words of Ezekiel:

Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”

 

Rowan Williams, in his new book, “Candles in the Dark: Faith, hope and love in a time of pandemic”, has pointed to how Covid-19 can offer us a way forward into a world which better reflects the values of Jesus. He writes that the pandemic has turned upside down the belief, especially among the affluent, that humankind is steadily bringing our environment under control. Instead, the pandemic has created what he calls a “new and unwelcome solidarity in uncertainty.” He continues:

 

The Christian gospel repeatedly tells us that we are always involved in a situation of shared failure and shared insecurity; it tells us that this is overcome only when we stop denying it by closing our hearts to each other; and it announces that our closed hearts can be and are broken open to each other through the action of God in Jesus and the Spirit.”

 

And he adds that in the time of the virus:

 

Perhaps we have learned more about our dependence on one another; perhaps we have learned something of the need to accept the limits and risks of living in a world we are never likely to tame successfully and totally. Or perhaps we have had our eyes opened to who is least safe in our neighbourhood – and not just our immediate neighbourhood, but our global neighbourhood...”

 

In this time of an ongoing pandemic, as we work out what it means to “disciple our communities for a changed world”, as our Synod theme says, if we have learnt anything, then it must be that we must use our gifts, rekindle our imaginations, harness our spiritual energies, and employ our skills, to choose again that fundamental option for the poor. As the story of the call to Matthew reminds us, it is never too late to leave our old ways and follow Jesus into implementing the Kingdom.

 

Choosing to focus on the poor and the marginalised has implications for how we organise our lives as the Church. I have occasion to meet with the Provincial Treasurer to pray and reflect on challenges that confront the Province broadly and some Dioceses specifically. Covid has made this time of reflection important particularly given the financial strain that many dioceses are experiencing. With so much change taking place in the secular world, both locally and internationally, we as a church need to begin a process of re-imagining ourselves, how we can remain relevant in a very changed world and meet the needs of our people. It is a time to look to our roots – at that which made us the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. We need to look to our clergy being well trained, not only ahead of their ordination, but beyond – with a strong emphasis on life-long learning. Looking at leadership development at all levels of the church, we must not lose sight of our role as servant leaders. We need to look to our laity and their gifts and skills and how they can assist the church to deal with the complexity of so many areas of church life – management, finance, property, education, leadership training, medical, legal, and so many more diverse disciplines. For our Bishops we need to remember that we are the servants of the servants of Christ and that we have a pivotal role in shaping the dioceses that we lead through our prophetic witness, building on the work of our predecessors and leaving a legacy of growth in mission and ministry and in the sustainability of our dioceses.

 

Choosing the option for the poor also has implications for our prophetic ministry to the world beyond our stained-glass windows. I have previously spoken of my participation a few years ago in the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management in Hong Kong. At that meeting, four major international Christian groups – the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission and the Lutheran World Federation – brought together theologians, economists, church leaders and others to discuss how we can develop a new form of global governance and a new economic model, one that transforms the market economy from a self-serving mechanism for elites to one which is less exploitative, one which distributes resources and income more equitably, and which serves both our environment and all the world's people.

 

Ahead of COP26, the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, we are called to re-evaluate our relationship to our environment, and I am pleased to see that Synod representatives have put the issues of plastic pollution and the future of gas and oil exploration on our agenda. I was struck recently by the strong words used by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world's top experts on sustainable development, at a recent meeting. He said the world’s food system is based on large multinationals and private profit, and on what he described as “the extreme irresponsibility of powerful countries in regard to the environment, and a radical denial of the rights of poor people.” In the 1980s, when the fight against apartheid reached its peak, many of us adopted the Kairos Document. It recognised that South Africa had reached a “kairos” moment – a moment of truth, a critical turning point – requiring a deeper commitment to the struggle. Today the climate emergency offers us another Kairos moment – an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the crisis.

 

In these frightening times, the Lord calls us to re-imagine our economies, to put people before profits, to enhance a sense of belonging and to repair the frayed social fabric of our communities. Part of repairing that fabric must involve intensifying our efforts to eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence. I have written in my memoir, “Faith & Courage”, of my first exposure as a priest to the depths of depravity that men can sink to, when I volunteered at a shelter for woman victims of violence in Johannesburg and witnessed the horrifying cruelty men can inflict on women.

 

Turning to the issue of how this affects us within the Church, one of the most difficult exercises in providing spiritual ministry is to learn to listen and hold space open for those who are hurting. In the Province our Safe and Inclusive Church Commission has helped us to do this even at the most difficult moments. We have amended the Canons to ensure that we can deal with abuse more transparently. Now we need to amend them also to help us challenge patriarchy and its values and practices within the church. It is not only critiques of our behaviour that will bring change; we need sustained teaching and modelling of an ethic of care and dignity (what we call “Seriti” in Sepedi) until everyone is free and safe, and treated equally in all our churches.

 

The societal challenges that we face are daunting, but we can respond to them in faith and hope. After the unrest in parts of South Africa in July, one of the acts of hope we saw emerged from people who found solidarity with each other and began to demonstrate against looters and rioters, to declare “not in my name” and to help clean up in the aftermath. It was a small beacon of hope, the kind of hope that Jurgen Moltmann spoke of in book. “Theology of Hope”, as “forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionising and transforming the present.”

 

We are called to be a church for such a time as this, shepherds for such a time as this. But when we hear the call of Jesus, we need, like Matthew, to follow quickly. It is part of the genius of Matthew that he also points us to practical ways of transforming lives to guarantee us a welcome in heaven, for example in Chapter 25. And he challenges not only the elites and the retainers; although they have a greater responsibility because they have resources and power, all of us, the 90 percent, have the responsibility to carry out compassionate ministries, to act with justice and to contribute to a different, transformed world. Every sheep is also a shepherd. No one is exempt from being part of ushering in the Kingdom. All of us are challenged to enhance the agency of the poor. That is what it means to be salt and leaven.

 

In many ways the Church in these challenging times hears the echoes of Jesus’ request to his friends on the night before he died, to watch with him. As we know, he was asking his friends not only to stay awake but to pay attention to the depths of reality. The English theologian Oliver O’Donovan points out that although the psalmist and the Old Testament prophets regularly call on God to wake up, this call is never sounded in the New Testament. The call there is instead that we should stay awake to God, that we should be alert to God’s work in the world. O’Donovan writes: “God has already awakened, has already acted. All that remains now is for the faithful to be awakened.”

 

Amid all the joys and sorrows, the hopes, and anxieties of our times, we are called to alertness, to mindfulness and to train our hearts to embrace the times and places when the glimpses of God appear. That surely is the task of the Church, just as it was for the disciples in their challenging hour, “to watch and pray’. And then, as with Peter, to feed the sheep. Every local congregation, big or small, every group, every individual occupying a pew, is both sheep and shepherd, and it is synergy which embraces both roles that will release the energies, creativity and discernment that will take our church forward confidently into the world that lies ahead. Let us use this Provincial Synod to equip us to take that journey.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 2 August 2021

Climate emergency is a "Kairos moment" - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has told national government and business leaders that the climate emergency presents South Africa with a “Kairos moment” – a critical turning point and an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the crisis.

He was speaking on Friday July 30 to the third meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), a body set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020.
In its account of the meeting, the newspaper Mining Weekly reported that President Ramaphosa agreed with Archbishop Thabo. It quoted the president as responding: “I welcome this, particularly as he [the archbishop] raises the fact that climate change is a moral issue and calls on us to look at this challenge that faces us – and, may I add, opportunity really – as a Kairos moment.”
Other speakers at the meeting included the Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, the CEO of Anglo American, Mark Cutifani, and the CEO of Eskom, André de Ruyter.
The full text of Archbishop Thabo's contribution, which includes resource material provided by Green Anglicans, follows:

Third Meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission
30 July 2021
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 
Thank you for affording the faith community an opportunity to give an input into these critical deliberations. I see it as a recognition by wider society that climate change is not only an environmental, economic and social issue but essentially a moral issue, which needs a moral basis for the solutions it requires, and that the religious sector has a role to play in establishing this moral basis.

 
    That is not to say that faith leaders can be holier than thou in the debate over how to avert climate disaster. Six years ago, fellow Anglican bishops from all six continents – some from areas already far more seriously affected than us by climate change – came together in South Africa and recognised that we are as responsible as anyone else for the crisis we face. As I said at the time, “the problem is spiritual as well as economic, scientific and political. We [that is, we in the churches] have been complicit in a theology of domination. While God committed the care of creation to us, we have been care-less...” We have been guilty of thinking that God put humankind on earth to control and exploit the world, unmindful that humankind is but one part of a complex environment, part of a delicate network of interdependent units of creation. 

 
    As a result, we have in our churches committed ourselves to begin at home: to ensure that energy conservation measures are implemented in church buildings; to nurture biodiversity on church land; and to support sustainability in water, food, agriculture and land use. In our campaigning on the issue, for example at the Paris climate talks, we have taken it upon ourselves to advocate for the most marginalised in this debate.

 
    So for example, in Paris we supported the Least Developed Country group, representing 48 countries – mostly in Central, East and West Africa – in aiming to curb rising temperatures not by the two degrees was being advocated at the time but by no more than 1.5 degrees. We have also pressed for the voices of women to be heard more clearly. In the words of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, the Bishop of Swaziland and Africa’s first woman bishop, and I quote: “Women are more often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, so the contribution of women is essential in decisions around climate change.”

    Today I think I can claim that the religious community recognises that, in the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “Climate change is the human rights issue of our time.” And as I have also said of climate talks, we don't only need initiatives to develop renewable energy, sustainable development and resilience; people need help to adapt, and when that is not possible – when people face loss and damage to the extent that no further adaptation is possible, there must be assistance to help them to move on. 

    In the 1980s, when the fight against apartheid reached its peak, many of us adopted what was known as the Kairos Document. It recognised that South Africa had reached a “kairos” moment – in ancient Greek, a moment of truth, a critical turning point – requiring a deeper commitment to the struggle on the part of the churches. Today we are standing at  another Kairos moment for SA – an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the climate crisis. 

 
    And it's doable: just look at Chile. Already 43% of their energy now comes from renewable energy and they will shut eight coal-fired power plants in three years time. Their goal is 60% renewable energy in the next ten years  and 70% by 2050. They have 5,000 renewable energy projects already operational – 5000 places creating jobs and hope. 32,000 more projects have been approved and by 2023, taking into  account jobs lost from the coal sector and new jobs created, they predict an  increase of 23,000 jobs overall. We can have the same objective, given the political will. 

 
    Decentralised renewable energy projects offer hope to young people. Imagine small factories placed in areas where youth unemployment is highest  - building solar voltaic panels, wind turbines, solar geysers. Imagine targeted training courses preparing young people for careers in renewable energy so that we don’t have to employ  technicians from abroad. New factories can be created in areas where the coal mines are closing. China created 2.2 million jobs in solar photovoltaics, why must we still import these items?

 
    For a just transition we need to prioritise the areas where jobs will be lost. New green jobs will require international  climate finance. Part of the $100 billion a year of climate finance for 2020-24 first promised over a decade ago still isn't forthcoming. South Africa should be a champion of climate finance in places like the G20, as we advocate for the Global South. 

 
    Given our economic challenges it is tempting to see gas as a quick fix. But large oil and gas explorations create environmental pollution, push rural people from their land, pollute our precious water sources and create wealth for the ‘one percent’ who have shares and stocks.  As the rest of the world moves away from oil and gas, we would run the financial risk having ‘stranded assets’ which were unsellable. Things are moving fast! 

 
    Let me end with the words of Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

 
    “Know that you can make a transformative difference to the future of all life on earth. You are not powerless. Your every action is suffused with meaning and you are part of the greatest chapter of human achievement in history.” 

 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town

 

The Archbishop's Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town, Church of the Good Shepherd, Protea Village, July 22, 2021: 

Readings: Song of Songs 3:1-4a; Psalm 63:1-9; John 20:1-18

May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

Members of Synod, sisters and brothers in Christ, wherever you may be: Good evening and welcome to this 66th session of the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town. It's hardly necessary to say that we meet in extraordinary times. As far as I have been able to establish, never in our history have we met in Synod during a pandemic, and very rarely have the lives of our parishes and Diocese been as topsy-turvy as in the last 18 months.

And of course, apart from the pandemic which has disrupted Synod, when it comes to the question of sharing the dividends of our democracy fairly among all, over the last two weeks the chickens have truly come home to roost. The looting and the burning we saw mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week may have been set off by developments around our former president, but the speed at which the mayhem spread spoke to the ills and the toxicity of our divided society. I will return to this subject in a few minutes.

Perhaps it has only been in times of war that our lives have been turned upside down in the way they have since the coronavirus struck early last year. As I began writing this Charge, soon after Level 3 was imposed and before the events of recent weeks, I have to confess to you that I felt trapped in the heaviness of now, battling to find a ray of light at the end of a tunnel. However, an important counter to that feeling has been reflecting on how magnificently you have all risen to the challenge of bringing ministry to fellow Anglicans during this long-running crisis, one unprecedented in our lifetimes. It has been especially exciting to see how those of you with the means have brought virtual, online ministry to your parishes. I am privileged tonight to greet not only members of Synod, but also members of our congregations who are sharing in this Eucharist from the comfort of your homes on a cold winter's evening. Welcome to you in Christ's name.

Among members of Synod, a special welcome to Bishop Joshua – attending Synod for the first time in your capacity as Bishop of Table Bay, and, thank God, having overcome Covid-19. My warm thanks to the leaders of the Diocese for all you have done for us since last Synod, and are doing for us over the next few days: to Bishop Joshua, to the Dean, to Chapter, to Standing Committee, our legal advisers, to our Diocesan Administrator, Canon Charleen van Rooyen, to Diocesan staff, to the Synod Advisory Committee and to the Synod Manager, Keith de Vos. Charleen, you and your staff seem to have survived your big move remarkably well; we hope you are settling down in your new premises. Our greetings and thanks also go to the ministries and institutions run under the auspices of the Diocese: the various chaplaincies, the Warehouse, and the schools and homes which nurture the precious lives of the young. I also thank you all for upholding in your prayers my family and my ministry. Please do keep in your prayers our Archbishops Emeriti, Njongonkulu Ndungane and Desmond Tutu – the latter will celebrate his 90th birthday in October and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest in December.

A special mention tonight for victims and survivors of the pandemic: we pray for those who are grieving or suffering as a result of death, losing relatives and friends, and for those who have lost their jobs or had their wages cut. I know you will join me in sending heartfelt condolences to the lay and clergy families of those in the Diocese who have died. In the wider church in Africa, we extend condolences to the family of our beloved Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who died at the beginning of the pandemic, and to sister Provinces in Africa who have lost bishops to Covid-19.

Since Synod last met, a number of clergy have died. Please observe a moment's silence for them – as well as for all people who have died in the pandemic. Let us give thanks to God for the ministry of the Revd Terry Wilke, Canon Rowan Smith, the Revd Bob de Maar, Canon Suzanne Peterson, the Revd Patricia van der Rede, the Revd Ashley Petersen, the Revd Mlamli Mfenyana, the Revd Andrew Henderson, Bishop Edward McKenzie and the Revd Nevil Callander.

The 18th century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, wrote of another epoch that “an event has happened upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.” The same can be said of the events of the past year-and-a-half. Even before the recent violence, it has been a time of “multiple pandemics”: of Covid-19 with its inhumane losses and its legacy of grinding poverty with job losses, food insecurity and social fragmentation; of horrific violence, including a sharp rise in the scandal of gender-based violence and violence against children; and an era in which naked, unmasked racism has re-emerged in all its evil manifestations, in many parts of the world.

Even in the midst of so much suffering during the pandemic, unscrupulous people have profited from it. We have seen unmitigated corruption and looting from the public purse; corruption which amounts to theft from those who are most vulnerable; looting which has so damaged the credibility of politicians that last week’s appeals to the “have-nots” to stop looting from the “haves” were but a cruel joke. These are things, to use Burke’s language, of which, because of their depravity and gravity, it is difficult to speak and yet, things about which we dare not be silent.

What would our ancestors in faith and struggle have said about these times? What insights would they have offered? I have often recalled the hermeneutic offered by Steve Biko, who our church commemorates on the 12th of September. The Collect we have adopted for that commemoration reads:

Lord of the Cross, you taught us

in the life of your servant Bantu Stephen Biko

that it was better to die for an idea that shall live

than to live for an idea that will die:

grant us the faith to take up our Cross daily

and to follow Christ ;

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God now and ever.

In the spirit of Steve Biko, let us take up our Crosses daily, and mobilise together across barriers in society to fight the evils we have experienced during the pandemic and the greed which is destabilizing our society. Let us emulate the courage of those, in South Africa, in the United States and elsewhere, who have taken up the struggle for recognition that Black Lives Do Matter and that we need to build a society and an economy in which that is fully reflected.

The events of the past two weeks demand that, as leaders and followers, we need to reflect deeply on what our country has become. We cannot go on as we are. We need to re-set our compasses and choose a different direction. In the spirit of Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:16), we are under a burden and a demand to preach into what is happening, an obligation to preach a Gospel of peace with justice – and woe betide us if we do not speak.

Those wedded to a capitalist model have to acknowledge that our current financial and economic systems are not serving the common good; they are creating joblessness and inequality, to the extent that unemployment is running at 32.6 percent, youth unemployment is 46.3 percent, and the World Bank says we are the most unequal country on earth. We have to recommit to closing the gap between the excessively rich and the debilitatingly poor.

As we begin our Synod proceedings today, we commemorate Mary Magdalene, “the apostle to the apostles”. Her witness offers us important insights in these times when all of us are challenged by our various pandemics, whether of the virus named Covid-19, or of violence perpetrated on women, children and the victims of gang warfare in too many of our communities, or of the violence of poverty and dispossession.

Note how Mary Magdalene and her companions are there at the place of the Crucifixion and at the empty tomb, determined and resolute. In contemporary terms, they are the women in our communities who gather around the bodies of young people brutally killed in gang warfare, or who bury young girls who have been molested, raped and murdered. By not leaving – indeed, we are told that “they stand” – they display resilience, not weakening under the weight of what goes on around them. They won't be silenced, and their resilience becomes something shared, allowing them to face an uncertain future together. They challenge us likewise to remain resilient, to refuse to overlook the pain of our current conditions, the poverty and the widening gaps in income and the stares of hungry children.

Their witness offers us the rays of hope and light I was looking for when I started this Charge. So do the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He points out that by casting doubt on what he calls “the assumption of guaranteed security” that the prosperous in our world have enjoyed for decades, the pandemic brings home to us that we are always “in a situation of shared failure and shared insecurity”. The hope is to be found when we recognise this shared reality, and take the opportunity to open our hearts to one another.

Faith, says Rowan Williams, “invites us to confront our shared fragility with honesty and compassion, recognising our need of one another, our need for the neighbour to be well and safe — instead of falling back on our fearful attempts to be safe at the neighbour’s expense.” Ends quote. If only the G7 countries, and others in the Global North, would hear this, end their vaccine nationalism, and move speedily to help the rest of the world get vaccinated at the same rate in every country. For our part, those of us in the Global South must stand, raise our voices, share our skills, strategise with others and keep vigil until those who have power in the private and the public sectors make good on their early Covid-19 commitments.

It is not only in the international domain we need to act, it is also right here at home, here where our much-lauded Constitution guarantees the right of access to basic health care. Yet those who have access to technology to sign up for vaccines are at an advantage. Those with money, access and private health care have an advantage over those with very little or none. In a time of national crisis, people without voices or resources remain invisible or only partially visible.

In an ongoing or post-Covid world, we need to think and pray about what a new kind of missionary focus, one that intuitively reaches out to encounter and engage with others, would look like. I was interested to hear recently of something that Nicky Gumbel is reported to have said: that when the fearful run away from an encounter with suffering and sickness, Christians run towards it – and it makes a great difference to church growth. But it is not only in the realms of physical health and church growth that we need what I think of as a new missionary praxis – we need it as a way of facing up to all of our society's social pathologies.

In our own Diocese, the patterns of ongoing privilege and exclusion which I spoke about a moment ago at a national level still bite deeply in Cape Town, for example when it comes to the continuation of apartheid spatial planning. The poor and people of colour who depend on public housing continue to be shifted to the outskirts of cities, to dormitory suburbs, far from places of work. Voices are thankfully being raised now for the release of vacant sites, to release national land and re-purpose buildings so that we can move towards that most basic of human rights, the right to shelter. As churches we need to find ways of leveraging power to shift the needle.

The challenge may be daunting, but we need to replicate Steve Biko's emphasis on jointly seeking composite answers and creating communities of sisters and brothers. Now is a time when the pandemic – and the last week’s events – have brought new perspectives to old fissures, exposed new wounds and highlighted unresolved tensions. In the light of these signs of the times, we have to engage again, and with an even greater urgency.

We must not forget, as we set about these critical ministries, that the Church has its own legacies of compromise and complicity with the wrongs of the past. Our words, our resolutions of opposition to apartheid, to exploitation and to the injustices that have shaped our culture do not absolve us or wipe away the ongoing systemic consequences of those involvements and benefits. They will continue to undermine trust and attempts at reconciliation. Yet we cannot forego the slow task of building a more solid foundation for the future. Our churches have the reach and the inner resources to continue to be places of healing, reconciliation and hope.

In this year of Archbishop Tutu’s 90th birthday, and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest, we turn to his wisdom. “Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or to our loved ones,” he says “are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth.”

Early on in the pandemic, the great Indian novelist Arundhati Roy posed the question: “What lies ahead?” She answered, “Re-imagining the world. Only that.” Christians, with our unique spiritual gifts, with compassion written into our very DNA, must, as part of our missionary impetus, ask the same question and bring our anointing into shaping the future.

As God's people in the Diocese of Cape Town, we need a new missionary praxis, one in which we examine anew the relevance of all our practices and structures with a view to moving from maintenance to mission. We must live out our conviction that, indeed, our Redeemer lives! Rooted in that certainty, we must – we can – renew, re-imagine and rebuild. We can bring about fairness, equity, generosity, sharing and caring for the environment. We can both realise and share the dividends of our democracy. May we have the courage to continue our journey until, in the words of Chief Albert Luthuli, we will have built “a home for all.” May God hasten that day.

God bless you, your families, this Diocese and South Africa. Amen

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

 

Thursday, 29 April 2021

World Religious Leaders Call for a People's Vaccine

 

 

 

Nearly 150 religious leaders from across the world, including Anglican leaders such as Archbishops Rowan Williams, Albert Chama of Central Africa and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, have issued an appeal for an end to vaccine nationalism. 

Their appeal was given widespread publicity, including on CNN International (view here) and by The Guardian, London, which reported:

Faith leaders are calling on states and pharmaceutical companies to produce and distribute enough vaccines to immunise the entire global population against Covid-19, saying there is a “moral obligation” to reach everyone.

Almost 150 religious leaders from around the world – including Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, and Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Roman Catholic church – are urging an end to vaccine nationalism. The Dalai Lama is also supporting the campaign.

Full Guardian report: Global faith leaders call for drug firms to vaccinate world against Covid

The full text of the appeal, entitled World Religious Leaders Call for a People's Vaccine, follows:

As religious leaders, we have witnessed the personal stories behind the Covid statistics - we have, every day, heard the cries, shared with us, of the suffering, the frightened, and the bereaved. We have witnessed too the profound love shown by those working at the frontline, and by those who have reached out to help their neighbours.

The Covid crisis has reminded us all of our interdependence, and of our responsibilities to care for one another. We can each only be safe when all of us are safe. If one part of the world is left to suffer the pandemic, all parts of the world will be put at ever-increasing risk.

The access of people to life-saving Covid-19 vaccines cannot be dependent on people's wealth, status, or nationality. We cannot abdicate our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers by imagining that the market can be left to resolve the crisis or pretend to ourselves that we have no obligation to others in our shared humanity. Every person is precious. We have a moral obligation to reach everyone, in every country.

Right now, despite the incredible success in developing so many safe and effective vaccines in record time, and the relief of seeing them being rolled out, with deaths starting to decline as a result, it pains us greatly that access to the vaccines is so inequitable. Rich countries have been able to ramp up vaccination efforts and secure doses whilst in most low- and middle-income countries vaccines are only beginning to trickle in. At the current pace of vaccine production and distribution, people in much of the world may not be vaccinated until at least 2024. The consequences for the poorest individuals, families, and communities, will be devastating.

Neglect would undermine the dignity not only of those left behind, but also of those who have left them behind. 

This unprecedented public health crisis calls, above all, for global solidarity, for all people to stand together as brothers and sisters. The same spirit of unity and common purpose that has driven scientists to develop Covid-19 vaccines at breathtaking speed, that drives the care of those tending to the sick, must also inspire the leaders of government, civil society and the private sector to massively ramp up vaccine production so there are sufficient doses for every person in the world to be vaccinated.

We call on all leaders to reject vaccine nationalism and embrace a commitment to global vaccine equity. As religious leaders, we join our voices to the call for vaccines that are made available to all people as a global common good -- a People's Vaccine. This is the only way to end the pandemic. Let us work together to build a more just and peaceful world. To love is to take action.

Signed by 145 leaders:  

1. Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President, Sojourners\ 2. Imam Ahmed Ghanem, Göteborg mosque, Gothenburg, Sweden\ 3. The Most Revd Dr Albert Chama, Archbishop of Central Africa and Chair of the Anglican Alliance\ 4. Adrian Cristea, Executive Officer, Dublin City Inter-faith Forum\ 5. Ann Scholz, SSND, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)\ 6. His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London\ 7. Anthony Nanson\ 8. Avera Health\ 9. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Netherlands\ 10. Fr. Bernhard Bürgler SJ - Provincial of the Austrian Province of the Society of Jesus\ 11. Blessing Makwara, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe\ 12. The Revd Canon Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland\ 13. Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, President of the Board at Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice\ 14. Rev. Brian D. McLaren, USA\ 15. Brigid Lawlor, Province Advocacy Liaison, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces\ 16. The Rev. Cn. Bruce W. Woodcock, Asia and the Pacific Partnership Officer for the Episcopal Church\ 17. Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference\ 18. Rev. Charles Berahino, Executive Secretary for Peace and Diakonia at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC)\ 19. Rev. Chris Hudson, Moderator, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland\ 20. Christopher Cox\ 21. The Rev. Christopher Frye, St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chambersburg, PA\ 22. Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church\ 23. The Rev. Clelia P. Garrity, LCSW, Diocesan Missioner for Global Refuge Missions\ 24. Rev. Colin Holtz, President, Faithful America Board of Directors\ 25. Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, Salvation Army Territorial Commander, United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland\ 26. Revd Duncan Dormor, General Secretary, USPG\ 27. Fr Damian Howard SJ\ 28. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, Scholar in Residence, National Council of Jewish Women\ 29. Bishop David Musumba, Free Pentecostal Fellowship in Kenya\ 30. Rev. Derrick Jones, Supervisor of RCA Mission programs in Africa\ 31. Dominican Sisters, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA\ 32. Rev Dyfrig Rees, General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents\ 33. Eddy Ruble, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship\ 34. Edwin Graham, Coordinator, Northern Ireland Inter-faith Forum\ 35. Sister Eileen Gannon, Sparkill, NY\ 36. Elijah M. Brown, General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance\ 37. Emmanuel Ahua\ 38. Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice\ 39. Rev. Erik Oland S.J., Provincial - Jesuits of Canada\ 40. Esther Mombo\ 41. Franck Janin, President, Jesuit Conference of European Provincials\ 42. Franciscan Action Network\ 43. Rev. Fredrick Gilbert\ 44. Gustavo Calderón, S.J. Provincial de Ecuador - COMPAÑIA DE JESÚS\ 45. Hazel Loney, Lay Leader, Methodist Church in Ireland\ 46. Haider Ibrahim, Chairman, Islamic Shia communities in Sweden\ 47. Rev. Hodari Williams, New Life Church, Atlanta, Georgia, USA\ 48. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Imam\ 49. Very Revd Dr Ivan Patterson, President, Irish Council of Churches\ 50. Rabbi Jacob Siegel\ 51. The Rev. James L. Reisner\ 52. Fr. Jan Roser SJ, Provincial\ 53. Sr. Jane Herb, IHM Sisters of Monroe, Michigan - President\ 54. Jason Miller, Franciscan Action\ 55. Javier Perez, Director of Global Missions Programs & Impact, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship\ 56. Rev Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life\ 57. Rev Dr Jennie Hurd, Chair of the Methodist Church Cymru Synod\ 58. Jennifer Lau - Executive Director, Canadian Baptist Ministries\ 59. P. Jesus Zaglul, Casa Generalicia de los jesuitas, Roma\ 60. Jim Winkler, President, National Council of Churches\ 61. Sr. Joan Mumaw IHM\ 62. John Celichowski, OFM Cap., NAPCC Novitiate, Santa Ynez, CA\ 63. Rev. John Chan, Canadian Baptist Ministries\ 64. The Most Reverend John Davies, Archbishop of Wales\ 65. Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh, Church of Ireland\ 66. Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism\ 67. Rev. Canon Joseph P Collins\ 68. The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion\ 69. The Rev'd Fr. Johannes Mokgethi-Heath, Act Church of Sweden\ 70. Rev. Julia Bowering, Canadian Baptist Ministries\ 71. Rev Judith Morris, General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Baptists\ 72. Judith Toner, member NY State UCC Global Ministries Committee\ 73. Judy Byron, OP, Inter-Community Peace & Justice Center, Seattle, Washington, USA\ 74. D. Kang-San Tan, BMS World Mission\ 75. Pastor Kay Woike, Church of the Nativity, United Church Of Christ\ 76. Ven. Kofi deGraft-Johnson, CAPA Secretariat, Nairobi, Kenya\ 77. Dr. Krish Kandiah, Greater Good Global\ 78. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Former Senior Rabbi, Reform Judaism\ 79. Dr. Lauren Jinshil Oliver, founder, CirclesWork.net\ 80. Lawrence Couch, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd\ 81. Lawrence Gilley, United Church of Christ, Deansboro, New York, USA\ 82. Dr. Lesmore Gibson, All Africa Conference of Churches\ 83. The Most Reverence Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada\ 84. Louise Hannem, Canadian Baptist Ministries\ 85. Janice Tsang, Co-convenor of the Anglican Health & Community Network (AHCN)\ 86. Lucas Lopez Perez SJ, del equipo de la Conferencia de Provinciales Jesuitas de Amerrica Latina y el Caribe\ 87. Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr. President Emeritus Hispanic Clergy, President & CEO, Esperanza\ 88. Rt Revd Luke Pato, Bishop of Namibia and Co-Convenor of the Anglican Health & Community Network\ 89. Friar Marco Moroni, Sacro Convento of Assisi\ 90. Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church\ 91. Right Reverend Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland\ 92. Mary Ellen Holohan,Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Member of Congregational Leadership Team\ 93. Rt Revd Dr Michael Beasley, Bishop of Hertford and Co-Convener of Anglican Health & Community Network\ 94. Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte OFM\ 95. Mohamed Temsamani, Chairman of United Islamic Associations of Sweden\ 96. Archbishop Mouneer Anis\ 97. Margaret Rose, The Episcopal Church\ 98. Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International\ 99. Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation\ 100. Mary J. Novak, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice\ 101. Rev. Maxwell Doss - General Secretary, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka\ 102. Merritt Johnston, Baptist World Alliance\ 103. Rev. Nathan Empsall, Executive Director of Faithful America\ 104. Nathan Jones, Oasis Waterloo\ 105. Nick Park, Executive Director, Evangelical Alliance Ireland\ 106. Rabbi Nora Feinstein\ 107. Patricia Millen, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia\ 108. Bishop Paul Horan, Diocese of Mutare, Zimbabwe\ 109. Paul Parker, Quakers in Britain\ 110. Peter Pay, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church\ 111. Sister Pegge Boehm, PBVM, Sisters of the Presentation of the BVM of Aberdeen SD\ 112. Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development\ 113. Sister Quincy Howard, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice\ 114. Rev. Randy Stanton\ 115. Rebecca Linder Blachly, Director, The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations\ 116. Revd Richard Teal, President of the Methodist Conference\ 117. Richard Walters, The Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, Inc.\ 118. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism\ 119. Roberto Jaramillo Bernal, S.J., Presidente de la Conferencia de Provincias, Jesuitas de America Latina y El Caribe\ 120. Sr. Rose Marie Jasinski, CBS\ 121. Dr. Rowan Williams, UK\ 122. Sacro Convento of Assisi\ 123. Rt Revd Sarah Groves, Moravian Church\ 124. Rev. Fr. Seamus Finn OMI, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate- US Province\ 125. Sheila Katz, CEO National Council of Jewish Women, USA\ 126. Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice\ 127. Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth Leadership\ 128. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Justice Team\ 129. Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace\ 130. Rev. S.J.Wilson, Atlanta GA\ 131. Rev. Dr. Stephen Wigley, Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church\ 132. Susan Gunn, MaryKnoll Office for Global Concerns\ 133. Rabbi Suzan E. Lipson\ 134. Rev. Sylvestre BIZIMANA, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Burundi\ 135. Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, Executive Director, Religions for Peace USA\ 136. Fr. Ted Penton, SJ, Secretary of Justice and Ecology, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the US\ 137. The Most Revd Dr Thabo Cecil Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town\ 138. Rev Dr Tom McKnight, President, Methodist Church in Ireland\ 139. Bishop Venson Shava\ 140. Vicky Heslop, Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre\ 141. Wanda M Lundy, Siloam-Hope First Presbyterian Church/ New York Theological Seminary\ 142. Rev. Wayne A. Laws, Minister of Social Justice & Mission at Mountain View United Church\ 143. Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne and Chair of the Trócaire Board of Directors\ 144. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, Curia Generalizia, Rome\ 145. Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Executive Director, Center for Islam and Public Policy.

 

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Celebrating Easter while waiting for Covid vaccines

 

 

 

The text of the sermon preached at the Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, Easter 2021:

Lections: Romans 6:3-11; Ps 114; Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Mr Dean, Cathedral staff, clergy, wardens, lay leaders, choristers and members of the congregation both here and online, and I want to call you Canon Andile [Weeder], because you are enabling us to project and ensure that we all hear the word of God. Thank you for your dedication and support at this difficult time in our lives. Thank you for who you are and for what you do for God and God’s people in this city and beyond. And thank you all for being here tonight. I also want to wish my predecessor, Archbishop Njongonkulu, a happy birthday - he turned 80 yesterday.

[Text continues below video]

Our readings this evening speak of transformation, the transformation of our lives, firstly through our baptism, as Paul explains to the Romans, and then through the Resurrection of our Lord in Mark’s account, that saving act of God which assures us that death does not have the last word, that life ultimately triumphs over death. 

Mark is very deliberate in the way he frames the Easter narrative. He says, very poignantly, “early in the morning, the first day of the week, the sun had just risen.” He is clear that there is a definitive shift out of darkness, out of the shadows of the past week, a week characterised by betrayal, denials, death, the brutal display of state power, and the desire of religious authorities to destroy a force that was disruptive for them. Something new has dawned; the entrance to a tomb blocked by a stone is now a space filled with good news, delivered by an angel sitting on the right-hand side, the place of power and authority, assuring the women that the crucifixion was not the end of the story, that Jesus “is risen and gone before you.”

Note that the angel doesn’t send the women to Jerusalem, the site of political and religious power, but instead to Galilee, to the margins, the place in which Jesus’s ministry had brought transformation. It was in Galilee that a little girl was raised to life. It was in Galilee that the strength of the faith of believers was such that they made a hole in a roof through which to lower a sick man into Jesus’s presence. It was in Galilee that Jesus changed water into wine to spare embarrassment to a couple at a wedding. It was a place where those doomed to the margins of society, unnoticed by elites, were taken out of the shadows and transformed by Jesus. And the angel tells the women to go back to Galilee, where they will meet the Risen Lord, who continues to work miracles, to transform situations, to give voice to those on the margins and to bring the hope of Easter. 

In many ways the past year has been a time of darkness. It has been gruelling, a year of grief and anxiety, a year of challenge and adaptation in which we have had to rethink the way we do things. The long months of lockdown have been hard for many, especially for the women and children who are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Competition for resources has added to racial tensions. And the suffering continues for those impoverished by the lockdown, those who have lost jobs, whose businesses have been destroyed, whose dreams have been shattered. Even as humankind achieved new heights in a ground-breaking mission to Mars, the pandemic has forcefully reminded us that our human existence is conditional, impermanent and reliant on the infinite grace of the God we worship.

The stresses created by the pandemic have sadly sometimes brought out the worst in us. There are those who have stolen from the common purse, who have plumbed the depths of the scandalous corruption in our society, who have stolen the very breath of those struggling to breathe in intensive-care units. They have denied others, especially the poor, the means to cope with the effects of the pandemic. Their behaviour is all the more sad when we think back on how we hoped that by throwing us together to face a common crisis, the pandemic would make us rise to the occasion by creating a different future. 

Across the world we spoke of different economic models, of systemic ways of caring, of respectful relationships and honouring difference. But with time we seem to have slipped into a business-as-usual approach where the few benefit and the many suffer. We stand accused of missing the moment and condemning our sisters and brothers, and the earth which nurtures us, to relentless injustice and human wrong. In our own country we see again how our democracy is being tested, how constitutionalism stands at the crossroads and how too many with power abuse it to their own selfish ends.

And yet – and yet, we recall again the good that we have seen emerge from this crisis, the sacrifices of frontline health workers, of those who ensure that we have food on our tables and keep our environment clean, of all who take great risks and with generosity of spirit have kept us going. Their dedication is perhaps epitomised best by those in hospitals and other institutions who have gone above and beyond their everyday duties, and have taken the trouble to hold up cellphones to enable those who are ill or dying to speak to members of their families. 

Above all, we can celebrate the achievements of the world’s scientists, who have achieved the extraordinary feat of developing, in record time, vaccines to fight a pandemic which threatened to destroy us all. We owe much to our scientists, including the world-class researchers South Africa has brought to this task. 

Now that we know science can beat Covid-19, we face the next big challenge: to live up to the highest ideals of our different faiths and moral codes, and to ensure that everyone, whether rich or poor, whether they live in Africa or in Europe, are vaccinated quickly. The scientists have done and continue to do their work splendidly; now it is for leaders in other fields, in government, in the pharmaceutical industry, in the transport business, to match the achievements of the scientists and to find ways of rolling out vaccines which ensure that the citizens of every country on earth receive their jabs at a similar rate. 

Internationally, the prospects are looking bad. Vaccine nationalism has already taken hold. A quick check this week showed that while the United States had vaccinated 16 percent of its population, we had covered less than half a percent of ours, and many countries haven’t seen vaccines at all. As I told Dr Fauci in a recent letter, the voluntary vaccine supply mechanisms, such as COVAX, and the bi-lateral agreements used to procure vaccines across the world, are failing. And they are failing especially for the Global South, where we can with justification say that the poor of the world are suffering from vaccine apartheid. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement this week that agreements with pharmaceutical companies will bring us enough doses to vaccinate 41 million of our people, and that the most vulnerable among us will begin receiving our jabs in the middle of May, is welcome. But in view of the fragility of some of our health insfrastructure, the President will understand if I am sceptical of how quickly the roll-out will progress. Those covered by the private healthcare industry and on medical aids can feel more confident. But I am worried that, as is often the case, it is the poor and the marginalised who will suffer. 

We know very well that there are large areas of our country where political corruption has poisoned public healthcare systems. We know that political leadership has been woefully lacking in the worst areas affected: shame on those who have left hospitals and clinics short of people, equipment and protection. I have read that on the current strategy it would take 18 years to vaccinate our entire present population! We cannot allow that to happen.

Make no mistake: we are a world-class country. Our medical scientists are world-class. Ten years ago, we built world-class soccer stadiums and ran a world-class World Cup. Distributing and administering vaccines is not rocket science: it’s just a matter of getting the logistics right. If humankind can send a spacecraft 470 million kilometres to Mars and gently drop a landing rover onto the planet’s surface, surely South Africans can come up with a co-ordinated plan to collaborate in getting vaccines quickly to every corner of our country? 

It is time for the unheard, the unlistened to, the unnoticed and the young in South Africa to draw on the hope that Easter gives us, and to raise their voices. Insist that those who have power and resources, including government and business, come up with a clear, achievable, published timetable for getting everyone their vaccines. 

My call today, to all people of faith, and those of no faith, is: we are never alone; let us renew our determination, let us remember our resilience, let us bemoan the corruption which brings death, let us weep for the 52,000 people who have died in the pandemic so far. But above all, let us challenge our government to be transparent and fair in the roll-out, for while vaccines will not do away with Covid-19, they will help us cope better with it. And let us take those vaccines as soon as they become available. 

Let us also challenge vaccine nationalism - you can't put a flag on the vaccine and hope that the virus will not cross borders – and let us challenge the vaccine apartheid practised by those who play God and determine who is condemned to suffer and die on the cross of coronavirus. Let us fight against those with money and who are greedy, who put profits above human life, and who determine who can have access to a vaccine and who not.

Easter provides answers to the deepest questions of the human spirit. Easter provides a degree of certainty and answers to questions that have puzzled the probing minds of philosophers and theologians over the generations. This is the Easter message. It says that love is the most durable power in the world; that we will solve Covid; that we will get our families, friends and neighbours vaccinated. And through a devotion to equality and justice we will solve all our problems and challenges. 

Easter says we can live with hope. Hope, says Denise Ackermann, is not a “blithe sense that all will end well (or alles sal regkom)”. Rather, to live out hope “is to try to make that which I hope for come about – sooner rather than later.” Every time we take action aimed at giving practical expression to our hopes, we join the journey to Galilee and we honour the command of the angel at the tomb to “Go and tell.” If we don’t take up this challenge the peddlers of fake news and false hopes will colonise people’s hearts with untruths that lengthen the time in the tomb. 

Now is the moment for boldness, to retake those places where once death held sway and say “He is not here, He has gone before you.” Into all those places we must take our Easter anthems of alleluias because whatever else has occurred, the tomb is empty. Therein lies our ultimate hope. Amen, alleluia. 

God bless you, your families and God bless South Africa. 

And most importantly, remember…God loves you and so do I. 

 

 

Friday, 2 April 2021

A Homily for Good Friday

 

 Reflection on the Via Dolorosa, recorded for a Good Friday Service arranged by the SA Council of Churches on SABC2: 

 May I speak in the name of God, who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen

 I've been asked to reflect on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering which Jesus followed on that original Good Friday as he carried his cross to Golgotha, helped only by an African, Simon of Cyrene.

 [Transcript continues below video]

 

For all of us in South Africa and the world, I dare say that we have all been given heavy crosses to carry in this past year. Reflecting on the account of Jesus's walk to the place of his crucifixion in Mark, Chapter 15 verses 16 to 21, it was a journey of betrayal, a journey of suffering, a journey of demeaning others, a journey of grief and a journey of sorrow. 

But in the Christian tradition, drawing on Paul's words in Philippians Chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, we read that journey as one that helps us to know Christ; to share in his suffering by becoming like him in death, and then to know the power of his resurrection. Just as Paul at one and the same time shares both the suffering of the Cross and the joyful triumph of the Resurrection, this has been the experience of all of us, at least in this past year, and no doubt throughout many years for some of us.

We have seen during the time of the pandemic both death and life at work in many different ways. In a Christmas message I said that in the past year my mind and heart have been flooded with the lives, the hardships, the challenges and the resilience of everyone I have encountered; everyone whom I think of, whom I cry for and whom I pray for every day. And I recall especially those who have died, whose names and faces I will never forget; those who died without saying goodbye to their loved ones. I remember also those whose families are going hungry, those who have had struggles beyond the usual challenges they face, and those, dear friends, for whom the stringent lockdowns have brought enormous psychological problems. And let us never forget the victims of gender-based violence, the incidence of which has gone up during the pandemic. 

So we have faced our fair share of trials in the past year, experiencing just a little of what Jesus must have suffered on the via dolorosa: the mocking, the spitting and the beating. Like the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, we have carried these trials, these charges and this suffering. In South Africa in the past year, these crosses were not only carried by Christians. They were carried by people of all faiths, and of no faith. Today, as the South African Council of Churches, the Anglican Church, other member  churches, as people of faith, we pause today and want to say:

“Thank you, God, you were in solidarity with us, for you were in solidarity with Christ in those painfully lonely, dying moments. And you're in solidarity with us through the crosses we carry, for within those crosses lie our redemption and victory and hope.”

We are never alone. We were crucified with Christ and we will be raised with Christ. Paul, in a beautifully poetic manner, says in the Letter to the Colossians that through the Cross of Jesus Christ, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven by making peace through the blood of the Cross. 

So my call today, to all people of faith and no faith, is: we are never alone; let us renew our determination, let us remember our resilience, let us bemoan the corruption which brings death, let us weep for the 52,000 people who have died in the pandemic so far. Let us reflect on the thorns around Jesus Christ's head, and remember our own thorns which have brought pain to our hearts and souls during this past year. 

Let us renew our resolve that we will speak out and really speak up for the people of Cabo Delgado in Mocambique and for the people of Tigray in Ethiopia. Let us speak out on the issue of the world's climate, for the changes in climate are impacting most severely those who are contributing least to those changes. 

Let us challenge our government to be transparent and fair in the roll-out of vaccines, for although they will not do away with Covid-19, they will help us as humanity to cope better with Covid. And let us take those vaccines as soon as they become available. Equally, let us join the voices of those who are calling for vaccines to be free, or at least affordable, and easily accessible. Let us challenge the pharmaceutical industry in Africa to manufacture vaccines ourselves – I am sure we can make more drugs ourselves instead of importing them. 

Let us also challenge vaccine nationalism - you can't put a flag on the vaccine and hope that the virus will not cross borders. Let us challenge the vaccine apartheid practised by those who play God and determine who is condemned to suffer and die on the cross of coronavirus. Let us fight against those with money and who are greedy, who put profits above human life, and who determine which people can have access to a vaccine and which not.

Dear friends, as Christians, as people of faith, as people of hope: 

We know that the Cross repaired the damage that was caused by frail and sinful human beings. It transfigured all that our sins had marred. It rescued the lost. It mended the broken-hearted and it healed the wounded. So let us hold onto our trust in God, for Good Friday leads to Easter. The Cross leads to eternal life. The darkness of sin is transformed by the body of Christ. And we too are saved, even in a time of coronavirus.

God bless you, and God bless South Africa. Amen.

 

 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Blessing of Inkwenkwezi Music Centre

 

Blessing of Inkwenkwezi Music Centre at Herschel Girls School, Cape Town, on March 30: 

1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 31; John 12: 20 -26

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, dear people of God, Mrs Goedeke, Mrs Heidmann, Ms Taylor of the Music Department, other heads of schools present here, the Chairperson and members of Council, educators, parents and learners; Bishop Joshua, Archdeacon Mark Long and the Revd Jaques Pretorius: it is a joy to be with you this evening in Holy Week and share in this exciting milestone in the life of Herschel Girls, as we dedicate this music centre to the glory of God for the use of this school. 

Let me extend a warm welcome to you all. Thank you for inviting me and most importantly, many thanks to all who were involved in the planning and preparation of this day. Thank you to the chaplain, the Revd Lorna Lavarello-Smith, for preparing the liturgy and the service booklet. And a special welcome to the parents and guardians who are present. 

In today’s reading from the Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corr. 1:18ff), St Paul says emphatically that all humanly-devised philosophical systems end in meaninglessness because they have a wrong concept of God and God’s revelation. Also, that in God’s providential ordering of human affairs, to know God implies harmony with God’s mind and character, which are alien to the world. Therefore, the crucified Christ is the power that saves and the wisdom that transforms seeming folly into the ultimate and highest discernment. In short, we are utterly dependent on God.

When I was here in February 2020 I highlighted that the task of the school is the development of a girl child – intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually – through instilling ethical and moral values, self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of worth; through developing creativity, flair and the capacity for  independent and critical thinking with an ability to lead when facing the challenges of today. The Inkwenkwezi Music Centre – appropriately titled for a school which bears the name of an astronomer – will play an important part in enabling the nurturing of the young women of Herschel to that end. 

The music we hear today, the hymns we sing, remind us that we are called to be those who seek to serve, to understand the context of despair, of darkness and of sadness. Never have we needed that focus in our lives more than in the past year. It has been a gruelling year for most, a year of grief and anxiety, a year of challenge and adaptation in which we have had to rethink the way we do things. Even as humankind achieved new heights in a ground-breaking mission to Mars, the pandemic has nevertheless forcefully reminded us that our human existence is conditional, impermanent and reliant on the infinite grace of the God we worship. 

And it is testament to God’s grace that God has given our scientists the skills and insight which not only empower us to send landing vehicles to Mars, but which enable the extraordinary feat of developing, in record time, vaccines to fight a pandemic which threatened to destroy us all. We owe much to our scientists, including the world-class researchers which South Africa has brought to this task. Now it is the task of others, especially those in the pharmaceutical business and in government, to match the achievements of the scientists and to find ways of rolling out vaccines which ensure that the citizens of every country on earth receive their jabs at a similar rate. 

In Africa it is as if we are suffering from vaccine apartheid, so far behind are we in receiving and administering the vaccine. Getting this right is not rocket science, it is rather a logistical challenge which we are perfectly capable of overcoming if we repudiate vaccine nationalism and remember that in God’s eyes we are all created equal.

Friends, it is God who has called us to union and communion with Christ and it is by faith in Christ that we are justified. So, as we bless this Music Centre today, it is my prayer that through it we will praise the Lord. For as Psalm 150 says:

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre”.

God bless you, and God bless the teachers, staff, benefactors and learners of Herschel. God loves you, and so do I. Amen. 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Pastoral Letter concerning Easter and Covid-19

 

Dear People of God

With Easter approaching and scientists and government officials in South Africa warning against a "third wave" of coronavirus, our Covid-19 Provincial Advisory Team and I are anxious that the Church at all levels should be extra-cautious to keep every member of our congregations safe over the next few weeks.

In consequence, I want to draw your specific attention to the revised and updated coronavirus guidelines the Advisory Team issued on March 18, and in particular the supplementary guidelines issued on March 24 on funerals in cases of Covid-19 related deaths. Please read them carefully and implement them strictly.

In addition, on the advice of the Advisory Team, Maundy Thursday services must be kept to a one-hour maximum and foot-washing in any form is NOT permitted. Foot-washing cannot be performed under health protocols, since we would not be maintaining social distance, we would be breaking the prohibition on touching and we would increase the possibility of droplet spread because of the proximity of others and the time washing takes.

These matters, especially concerning funerals, are sensitive for our people and we are conscious that clergy in particular have a hard time explaining them to grieving families. But we have no choice if we are to prevent our people from falling ill and dying. You should feel free to invoke my authority in enforcing the restrictions.

A blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter to you.

† Thabo Cape Town

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