Dear People of God
This year is my fifth as Archbishop of Cape Town, and also sees the tenth anniversary of my consecration. All who are able are invited to share in celebrating this decade at a special service in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, at noon on 26 May!
Since becoming Metropolitan, I have continually been struck by the wonderful sense of common life shared across the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and the great distances between us – not just in geography, but in some of the human realities that we experience. I pray we can sustain this sense of togetherness by sharing news from around our church and praying for one another. St Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians, ‘We always give thanks to God for all of you, and mention you in our prayers …’ (1 Thess 1:2). Let us bear each other up in the same way!
A particularly urgent and important prayer request come from Bishop Adam Taaso, who asks for our intercessions for Lesotho’s elections on 26 May. In recent weeks, there has been a lot of tension within and between different parties, with outbreaks of violence, even murder. The churches are working with others to promote peaceful, free elections, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – himself Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 to 1978 – visited at the end of April. He appealed for an end to violence, and invited all the political parties to sign a pledge to pursue peaceful elections and to respect the results in due course. Please pray that these promises may be kept.
Another topic for prayer is the diocesan synods of Namibia and Port Elizabeth, on 24-26 May. May they be times of fellowship, planning and renewing diocesan vision and mission, and also of commitment to mutual accountability in the things of God.
Our most distant Diocese is the mid-Atlantic Island of St Helena. Last month Bishop Richard Fenwick and his wife Jane spent a morning at Bishopscourt. They were on their way to the UK, for well-earned holiday, as well as a busy programme of visits to congregations and others who support the Diocese. Jane – whose birthday it was – showed us a wonderful slide show of Island life, and Bishop Richard spoke about the church’s priorities. Work is due to begin soon on St Helena’s first airport, and this will mean major changes to nearly every aspect of Island life. Building work will bring a large influx of workers, and further challenges will follow when it opens, making travel and tourism to and from St Helena far easier. Please keep ‘the Saints’ in your prayers.
One of the joys of travelling around the Province and meeting Anglicans is that again and again I feel my heart lifting, as we recognise one another not only as brothers and sisters in Christ, but as sharing something very special within the family of ACSA. It is a precious, holy, gift, to know that we belong together, held in the embrace of God’s steadfast love. It is as if well-springs of joyful encouragement overflow when we meet – an encouragement that strengthens and inspires us, whatever challenges we face.
Yet meeting together over such big distances is difficult and expensive. This is why Provincial Synod is held every three years, with Provincial Standing Committee in intervening years; and though all Dioceses are represented, only relatively few people participate. So we must ensure ACSA ‘meets’ in other, more comprehensive, ways, and nurture our fellowship in Christ, and partnership in the gospel. These letters are one way of contributing to this goal. Social media can also help, like my Facebook page (‘Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’) and blog (http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org) and there are other FB pages for Provincial organisations, as well as Dioceses, Parishes and other groups. Please use what you can, and, whatever else, do pray!
But while all these are great for sharing news, they are not so good for in-depth reflection or debate. So let me first commend Southern Anglican: through its pages ACSA members can offer views on important questions that face the church, or face us as Christians engaging with the world around. Please do take the initiative to contact to the editor, Revd Loraine Tulleken, offering pieces for publication. This is our magazine, open to all, so let’s make it work by addressing what matters to us most, in its pages.
Second, I invite you all to join me at the Anglicans Ablaze Conference, ‘A Generation Rising Up’, from 3 to 6 October, in Johannesburg. With the backing of the Synod of Bishops, and supported by Growing the Church, this conference will help us celebrate together and explore more deeply our Provincial Vision – that we are ‘Anglicans who ACT: Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit’. For more information, contact GtC on email@example.com or 021 712 0408, or see www.anglicansablaze.org. I look forward to meeting many of you there. If you cannot come in person, please ‘be present’ by praying. And whether you can come or not, I encourage your parish to follow the 6-week sermon series, with material for Bible studies, on the Vision and Mission Statement. Download this at www.growingthechurch.org.za/events.aspx.
Last month Lungi and I and our daughter Pabi were in London, where I preached at St Martin in the Fields at a service celebrating the silver wedding of Pabi’s godmother, Tricia Sibbons and her husband Douglas Board. We got to know Tricia when she was a warden at St Martins, which has historic links with St Marys’ in the City Cathedral, Johannesburg, where I was curate. Tricia was the first Director of the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre, and now chairs its Board. She and Douglas arranged for me to address a group of London lawyers and business people, challenging them not just to help such initiatives by donations, but to use their influence to change the politico-economic systems that continue to place politics and profits before people and planet.
I was able to pursue the same argument a fortnight later at the World Economic Forum Africa Summit in Addis Ababa, where I was a panel speaker in sessions on ‘Fostering Political Stability’ and ‘The Future Role of Civil Society’. Please keep praying that such opportunities continue to arise for me to make the voice of the church heard, promoting gospel values, moral living, and priorities that reflect God’s justice, among those who shape how our world is run. They need to hear the clear message that the current world order creates poverty, damages the planet, and puts all our futures in jeopardy. I have asked Prof Gerald West to compile Bible studies for 2013 to help us reflect theologically on economics. I am also working to promote initiatives that particularly help tackle youth unemployment – I shall say more about these next month.
Scripture says, ‘Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another … ’ (Heb 10:24-5). Let us work hard at doing this, in person, and in prayer.
Yours in the Service of Christ,
+Thabo Cape Town