This morning (17 November 2012) we shall consecrate Bishop Ellinah in Swaziland - here is the news as we prepare for the service!
On Friday, Lungi and I left home for Cape Town airport to travel to Swaziland for a momentous occasion in the history of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa and the wider Anglican church. We were travelling to consecrate the first woman to the episcopate in our Province – twenty years after having passed a resolution enabling women to be ordained priests and three years late confirming that women might also be bishops. We travelled, aware that the Church of England General Synod will discuss the latter issue from this coming Tuesday, and so let us all we send our prayers to this Synod and pray they may know God' s guidance in their deliberations.
On the plane we found ourselves sitting not far from first woman to be Defence Force Minister in democratic South Africa, Lindiwe Sisulu; the first woman may of Cape Town in democratic South Africa, Nomaindia Mfeketo, and our first, and youngest woman honorary lay canon, Delene Mark. Perhaps it was coincidence, but I could not help but notice! It felt as if it was almost choreographed – foreshadowing the new ‘first’ for women, for which we were heading.
We arrived in Swaziland and were met with song and dance and great rejoicing. Bishop Rubin and Bishop Dino joined me, with, of course, Bishop-Elect Elinnah, for a media conference at the lounge in the airport (see http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=45432). We were joined by Revd Canon Edgar Ruddock, from the UK, representing the USPG – now known as US. Later, at the rehearsal for today’s consecration service and at dinner we were joined by groups from the US, UK, Scotland (Swaziland has longstanding links with Brechin Diocese) and many women clergy from around Southern Africa. It was a great reunion.
On our way home after the rehearsal at a massive venue, the heavens opened, as if in approval of, and showering blessing on, all we were doing, with lighting, thunder and heavy rain. We battled our way back to the hotel in the Dean’s car, through this heavy downpour.
Now it is Saturday morning and we are preparing to go down the hill to the consecration. We are staying in a beautiful hotel on the hill, overlooking the hills and valleys of this mountain kingdom. It is such a beautiful country in spite of its social challenges. The sun is bright. We were woken up by the sound of birds but also by a neighbour in a room adjacent to us, who started praying out loud at 3 am. We endured till 4 am but as she was not ending and getting louder and louder we got up – but then found someone else had requested quiet. How ironic that the hotel security had to be called to say she must pray softly, or move to the seminar room!
So now we are all awake, and ready. I counted at least 7 bishops here so far, including one from the Scottish Episcopal Church. Words can hardly express the calm and yet deep excitement of today. I feel the prayers of so many people here, around our Province, and across the world. Ellinah herself is calm and reflects the sense that we are surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who indeed have trod this journey of faith before, though not in the same way as we are about to walk this new stretch of God’s path for us today, through our own time and context.
Keep us all in your prayers – especially Bishop-Elect Ellinah, as we now proceed to the Consecration!