I am delighted to announce publically that we have appointed the Venerable Michael Weeder to succeed Dean Rowan Smith as the Dean of the Cathedral of St George the Martyr, Cape Town.
Fr Michael is currently the Rector of St Phillip the Deacon and St Bartholomew, Woodstock, and Archdeacon of the Groote Schuur area. A son of Cape Town, he is one of our most senior priests, with over 25 years in ordained ministry. Alongside extensive parish experience, he has a longstanding interest in social responsibility, community organisation, and the role of the church in the public arena – not only in this country but around the world. For example, he has conducted workshops in democracy across this continent, and been an election observer as far afield as Pakistan and Romania.
Closer to home, he is a founder member of the December First Movement, which has considered the impact of slavery’s legacy on questions of contemporary identity. He also has a longstanding interest in working with young people, within and beyond the church, and in encouraging and mentoring those moving through the process of ordination. Fr Michael brings together a deep spirituality, rooted in Jesus Christ, with a wide awareness of God’s world and its needs. There’s even a bit of the Barack Obama about him – in his experience of community mobilization, especially on behalf of the wounded and marginalised!
I am sure he will continue the great tradition at St George’s, of being ‘the people’s Dean’ – both serving the Cathedral community, and encouraging the Cathedral in its calling to serve God’s world. I am sure he will be a courageous and spiritual leader, who will take the Cathedral forward into a new chapter in its significant life within our church and city.
It is my intention to install him as Dean on 22 May. Between now and then, may I ask you all to pray for him, and his family – his wife Bonita, and children Chiara, Andile and Khanyisa - as they prepare to take this new vocation and ministry.
+Thabo Cape Town
Issued on 31 December 2010 by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. For further information contact Ms Sisanda Majikazana on 021-763-1320 (office hours)
Fr Michael’s CV follows below, together with some ‘Reflections on being Dean-Elect’ which he has written in response to various questions that have come to him, since his appointment was announced to the Cathedral community in December .
Curriculum Vitae – The Venerable Michael Ian Weeder
C/o St Phillip the Deacon, 101 Roger Street, District 6, Cape Town, 8001. Tel/fax 27-21-462 6355; cell: 083 384 4854; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal Information: Born in District Six, on 30 October 1957 (53 yrs old); South African nationality; married to Bonita; three children, Chiara (23 yrs); Andile (20 yrs); Khanyisa (19 yrs).
Summary of Qualifications: Matriculation from Good Hope High, Kuilsriver, 1975; Dip. Theology at St Paul’s Seminary, Grahamstown, 1981, 83, 34; BA (Hons) in History, UWC, 2002; MA (cum laude), UWC, 2006.
Employment: Anglican Diocese of Cape Town, in the following Parishes: St Philip the Deacon, District Six in plurality with St Bartholomew, Walmer Estate, 2008; St Michael & All Angels, Observatory, April 2007; St Philip the Deacon, District Six in plurality with St Bartholomew, Walmer Estate, 2000; St Michael & All Angels, Ottery, 1997; St Francis, Zweletemba, 1995; St Columba, Guguletu, 1994; The Parochial District of Ashton & Montagu, 1989-91; The Cathedral of St John’s, Portland, OR, USA, 1988; St Timothy’s, Factreton, December 1985; St Clare’s, Ocean View, December 1984.
Extra-parochial responsibilities from 1997 until 2007 included the Diocesan Post-ordination Training Programme (facilitating the ongoing formation of newly ordained clergy) and the Diocesan Vocational Conference (assisting in the selection of candidates for the priesthood).
Project Vote (PV): Served as Director from 1993 to1997, seconded from the Anglican Board of Social Responsibility (BSR) to PV, established to research South Africans elections readiness; and to develop and coordinate a national voter education programme for the 1994 elections.
The Board Of Social Responsibility: served as Director, 1991, to co-ordinate the social justice programme of the Diocese of Cape Town, as part of the staff of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Community Organiser In Mitchells Plain: 1980, employed by the Parish of Christ the Redeemer, Westridge to work with young people in the church and the community.
Young Christian Students (YCS): Schools’ Organiser, 1979, employed to promote formation of action-reflection groups at schools. Extensive use was made of an analysis that integrated the experience of race into a class perspective on South African society.
The Department Of Coloured Affairs: Clerk, 1978.
Some Indicators Of Interest And Influences:
Lebanon & Nicaragua: To study the role of religion & revolution, 1982; A Faith & Order Commission of the WCC visit to Nicaragua, 1988; Election Observer to Romania & Pakistan, 1994; Elections Consultant for the US based National Democratic Institute in Lesotho, conducted workshops on democracy in Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia, 1995/6; Peace & Solidarity Tour to North Carolina & Chicago as guest of the Quaker American Friends Services Committee, 1997; Co-produced Lydia Williams: A Fervent Simplicity, a documentary on slavery, 1998; A founder member of the December First Movement: a socio- cultural deliberation on identity, established to explore the impact of slavery on consciousness and practice, 1997; Organiser for the ANC - Eastern Boland Region, 1992; Secretary of the Black Anglican Clergy Fellowship, 1986; Co-ordinator of an ANC unit in the Western Cape and de facto chaplain to members of the underground in my care, 1986-88.
Some Reflections on Being Dean-Elect, Prompted by Questions put to me.
My mum was an Anglican from the Parish of St Athanasius, Garden Village, my dad was Catholic, a member of Sacred Heart, Somerset Road, Green Point. The paternal part of my origins is well rooted in Cape Town and my DNA reflects the history of a port-city: slavery and nineteenth immigrants personified in our case by one Louis Evon, my great-grandfather. His death certificate identified him as a “French Creole from Bourbon”, the present day island of Reunion. He was a fisherman. My mother’s lineage tells a similar story prefaced by the proud insignia of the San. We lived in District One, till I was about 5 years and then we moved to Kensington via a brief stint in Bridgetown.
Calling, the City and the Cathedral
My mother and I would often commute into the city on a Sunday to worship at St John’s on Waterkant. It was there that I had my first sense of being called to the priesthood. I remember seeing the priest, sub-Deacons and altar-servers, haloed by the luminous early morning light, processing along the aisle … the smell of the incense, its rising smoke garnishing their way. That memory still speaks to the presence of God in my life then and now. When St John’s was de-hallowed and closed down in June 1970, I was thirteen years old and we were living in Elsies River. The Cathedral, the new home of many of the ex-St John ‘s parishioners, was too far and we made our new spiritual home at St Andrews, Eureka Estate.
The eighties found me part of a generation of young people who had grown up in the Cape Flats and found new meaning in Christianity, refracted as it was through the biblical values of justice and by our experience of the struggle against apartheid. In the hey-day of this period our faith was tested by our experience of our Mother church. The occasion was in October 1982 when Vernon Peterson and I stood outside the Cathedral Vestry door. The previous week or so the SADF has invaded Lesotho and South Africans and Basotho nationals had been killed in the attack. I was part of a group of Mitchells Plain activists who had secured permission from the Cathedral leadership to observe a 48-hour fast in its precincts, to register our protest against this atrocity on the part of the Apartheid government. That Friday a local daily carried an article under the heading ‘ANC fast at the Cathedral”, or words to that effect. We hurried to the Cathedral in the belief that I, a first-year seminarian, along with the quiet diplomacy skills of Vernie, could convince the Dean of our faith-based intentions. One of the then Wardens, firmly and without malice, guarded the Vestry entrance with the words, “the Dean is not available”. We relocated our action to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Kensington. One of the ways the love of God is expressed is the manner in which he raises us up from defeat and the often accompanying emotion of despair. But in a similar manner he tickles our fancy-stoked egos. Maybe our God of perfect timing and humour is suggesting, “Okay, okay … Here’s the Cathedral and its doors are open to you. Djy wil mos hie’ gebid het … nou daar! (You wanted to pray here … so here it is!). Get on with it.”
To be Dean of this great Cathedral has been beyond my imagination (or desire) and I will embrace the ministry here with delight and happiness, and, I pray, with a good dollop of humility. A comrade and brother-priest, Fr Austin Jackson, notes that “the Anglican Cathedral in South Africa has evolved into a post ecumenical space in the religious and sociological imagination of the nation (in) …. the way in which its liturgical tradition has over many years served as a refracting instrument for the different social and political pathologies and blisses in our society”. I recognise therefore that inasmuch that my life as a priest has resonated with the best practice social justice tradition of our Cathedral, my election as Dean also has a collective component to it. I sense that, given the history of our city, people and country, that a person such as I am is representative, perhaps in a small way, of the many communities exiled from its bosom and alienated from their legacy. The cathedral provides a distinguished and hallowed space for the projects and the loves that viscerally motivates us.
I have been married to Bonita for 26 years and we have been blessed with three children, Chiara (23), Andile (21), Khanyisa (19). Bonita is director of the District Six Museum.
I am Rector-in-Plurality of St Philip the Deacon in District 6 and St Bartholomew in Walmer Estate. I was instituted here in 2001 but subsequently did a stint in St Michael and All Angels, Observatory (July 2007-March 2008). This re-awoke in me an appreciation of liturgy and reminded me of the extent to which we have sometimes been negligent of our specifically Anglican tradition in our haste to embrace the new. I have never experienced the sheer joy of the Sung Mass and the majesty of worship as I did many a Sunday at St Michael’s. It is a special place. I am more inclined to a contemporary liturgical expression of Anglo-Catholicism but my township upbringing (and later priestly ministry in those areas) socialised me in the spirituality of the mid-week bid-uur, the mission outreaches of the many evangelists who graced our lives with koortjies and the necessity of personal piety, and the blessings of the charismatic movement. Evensong remains the most beautiful service in our tradition.
The Heritage/Tradition of the Cathedral
The Cathedral by virtue of its place in the continuum of South Africa’s history from its colonial inception to its gradual and active response to the injustices of society has achieved a significant visibility and a related value-associated place in the life of the city. It is where the Archbishop has his parish home and it is the custodian of his Chair, the symbol of his authority and hence the place he would often declare the mind of the Church in matters of our faith and contemporary issues of concern. Given its locality in relation to the Houses of Parliament, the Cathedral has a coterminous role as the indicator to government of our faith-based understanding of the needs of our people and a listening post for the nation. It is thus also a national asset. It is also a parish, a spiritual home to which people travel from all over the Peninsula and the Cape Flats Sunday in and Sunday out. It is also a place of faith for those for whom Cape Town is a seasonal domicile – diplomats, parliamentarians, business people and a regular influx of professional tourists associated with various philanthropies, entertainment industries service sectors and so on.
You were strongly involved in the struggle against apartheid. Can you share with us a moment in that period that marked you for life?
Meeting Aunty Ivy, the mother of Ashley Kriel, at her home in Bonteheuwel and listening to her account of how she learnt of the death of her son. It was a Thursday evening as she travelled on the bus home from Mowbray. She read in the SOUTH of how he had been shot and killed and that he had actually been in Cape Town for a while, unbeknown to her. The callous reference to Ashley by her fellow passengers as “a terrorist vark”. For me she represented the quiet strength of the many, many mothers of children who never lived to see this New South Africa. I remain grateful to them, our country’s young martyrs.
Are you proud of the Anglican Church's role in the struggle against injustice or do you think it should do more?
As a Church we have benefitted from our colonial past and with that privilege comes a special responsibility to correct the compounded, accumulated, systemic injustices that bedevil our country. We can never be smug about our esteemed status. We could have done more and we should be clear-eyed about our selective response to apartheid. Given that Diocesan property such as its churches and schools were white-owned, the Group Areas Act could not have devastated our communities to the extent that it did without a measure (albeit without malice) of co-operation from our then leadership. Leliebloem Children’s Home; Walmer estate; St John’s, Waterkant; All Saints, Robertson; St Mildred’s, Montagu … all speak of either our silence or our acquiescence. But the roll of honour of those who defied and led by examples of solitary and sacrificial courage is immense. They opened the way for the many who came into the fold of the resistance to apartheid. Present day examples include the involvement of Hout Bay Parish, its Rector, Fr Godfrey Walton; Archdeacon of the Waterfront, Fr Karl Groepe; and Jessica Fortuine, a Churchwarden. I recently read a comment on Facebook which bewailed the fact, it said, that Anglicans would rather support other causes and neglect those of their own Church. The response of a friend of mine, Belinda Jackson, sums up our true stance: “The causes of others are the causes of Anglicans”.
How do you relax?
I love Jazz, a music form distilled by timing and rhythm. Spirituality likewise is about proportion and perspective. Over time I have come to a better balance between my calling as priest and as husband and father – my family, and my children in particular, help me not to take my seriousness too seriously!
The previous Cathedral Dean has played an important role in reaching out to the gay, lesbian and transgender community. What will you do to uphold that tradition?
My experience as a priest informs me that new beginnings must be located in prayer. In the accompanying listening (mostly to God but also to the faith community and to the needs and blessings of society at large) one must try and find what is your place and role in God’s agenda. My calling is to serve and contribute to my and the collective quality of life. I hope and believe that in doing that we make God happy.