At the end of this month, from 29 September to 2 October, we will hold the 32nd Session of Provincial Synod at the Kopanong Conference Centre in Benoni, Gauteng. It is our first full meeting since 2005. Please join in praying the Synod Prayer for us all, as we prepare to gather, and through the duration of our meeting:
Almighty God, you teach your people the way of wisdom
and lead us in the paths of righteousness:
grant to the members of Provincial Synod
grace to seek your vision for your Church,
so that, anchored in the love of Christ,
committed to your mission in your world,
and transformed by the power of your Holy Spirit,
we may all embody and proclaim your message of redemption
in lives of faithful witness and service;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer, as I am sure many of you will have spotted, encapsulates our Vision and Mission Statement, set out in full here:
Vision: The Anglican community in Southern Africa seeks to be
• Anchored – in the love of Christ
• Committed – to God’s mission
• Transformed – by the Holy Spirit
Mission statement: Across the diverse countries and cultures of our region, we seek:
• To honour God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service
• To embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation
• To grow communities of faith that form, inform, and transform those who follow Christ
Priorities: To make this vision a reality, and help us form a comprehensive response to the many inter-relating socio-economic challenges we face in our region, we have identified the following priorities for acting at Provincial level, to support and strengthen the life and mission of Dioceses, for the years 2011 to 2020:
• Liturgical renewal for transformative worship
• Theological education
• Leadership formation
• Health: HIV and AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis
• The environment
• Women and gender
• Protection and nurture of children and young people
• Public advocacy
Two other themes – transformation, and holistic mission that is rooted in a full commitment to evangelism – run through and undergird all eight priorities, rather than being matters to be addressed separately.
Prayer is such a fundamental part of the Christian life. Since becoming Archbishop I have become far more aware and appreciative of the difference it makes to the life and mission of the church. Often we have very little sense of the impact of our prayers, and we can become discouraged. But let me assure you of how much I feel my ministry lifted up and supported by the persistent prayers of so many. At times of great challenge I am particularly conscious of this.
It also comes as a tremendous encouragement to be part of an international praying community. In the Anglican Communion, Sunday by Sunday we pray for each of the Provinces in turn, and on other days we remember all our Dioceses around the world, in alphabetical order. You can join in, using the calendar on the Anglican Communion website (www.anglicancommunion.org). As a Diocesan bishop, I always felt hugely uplifted whenever Grahamstown came round, and the same was true on Sunday 22 August when the entire Anglican world was praying for our Province. On these days, it is touching to receive messages of encouragement from around the world – sometimes from people I never expect to meet. And yet we find ourselves drawn close to one another through our prayers.
So I ask you to pray in the same way for our Synod, even if it feels a bit distant from your daily experience. Pray specifically for your own Bishop, together with your clergy and lay representatives, if you know who they are. And pray for all of us as we prepare to gather – that God will prepare our hearts and minds, so that we may grow in our own faith, and in wisdom, as we meet and share and discuss and debate and decide. Do use the Vision, Mission Statement and Themes as a focus for your prayers, as these will be at the heart of our deliberations – may we have ears to hear what God is calling us to do and be at this time. May we be bold in ‘provoking one another to love and to good deeds’ as the old translation of the Letter to the Hebrews put it (Heb 10:24) – not overwhelmed by the many challenges we face, but addressing them honestly, and putting our confidence in God, whose church this is. Please pray also for safety for all who travel. I must say this is a prayer for which I am always particularly grateful in the many journeys I make in Cape Town, across the Province, and around the world – especially when I get on an aeroplane, I am so very conscious of how fragile a human being actually is, and how dependent we are on God graciously holding us safely in being, every moment of our existence!
And in other news, we congratulate Bishop Jo on his election as SACC President for the next three years. This is an important responsibility, as the SACC rediscovers the heart of its vocation, and its voice, in post-apartheid South Africa. We also congratulate Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, Anglican Bishop of Natal, for being conferred with the Diakonia Award for devoted service to human rights, justice and democracy.
Yours in the Service of Christ
+Thabo Cape Town