Thursday, September 27, 2012

Synod of Bishops' Statement: 'For such a time as this'

This statement was issued by the Synod of Bishops on 26 September 2012.

"For such a time as this" (Esther 4:14)

The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) met together in Synod at the St George’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Centurion, Pretoria from 23rd to 26th September 2012. It was a joyous reunion and a time of deep fellowship for all. Our time was spent in an alternating rhythm of worship (both the Eucharist and Daily Offices) and work, with each informing and being informed by the other.

We were privileged to have an opportunity to meet with Governor Gill Marcus, Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and to be made aware of the extent of the global financial crisis and the long term implications it has for the nations of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa. Her address was challenging and inspiring. It would seem that the economic downturn will continue for some time, and that economic recovery will be slow, and that, as always, it will be the poor who suffer the most.

As we listened to our own bishops speaking about the national crisis in the South African mining industry, the massive challenges facing our education and health services, rising corruption in all sectors of the community, and the internal crises affecting the life of the people of God in our dioceses (most notably those in the Cathedral of Pretoria and the Diocese of Umzimvubu). We were struck by the fact that we are struggling with not only economic, but also social, collapse. Much of this crisis, we believe, reflects a desperate need both for principled leadership in church and society, and for Christians to live out their faith in community in ways that set the common good of all above the selfish desires of greed and personal self interest.

The readings in our worship have also spoken to us powerfully about anointed leadership. In a reading from the Book of Esther, Mordecai speaks to Queen Esther warning her that her destiny as a Jew is inextricably bound up with that of her people and suggesting that she has “come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). For such a time as this, we need Christian leadership that will stand in solidarity with all of God’s people. For such a time as this, we need prophetic voices that will speak God’s word with boldness and set before us the radical vision of God for a world transformed by God’s grace. For a time like this, we need faithful people willing to be conformed to the purposes of God rather than to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-2).

This has much to say to us about developing and nurturing Christian leaders within the church, for leadership not only within our churches, but also for our world. We have begun discussion on ways in which we could more intentionally promote the spiritual formation of God’s people for this purpose. We are discussing the formation and training of new bishops, and ways in which we could better guide and mentor those experiencing difficulties within their dioceses.

However, we also recognised that the socialisation, training and formation of people for leadership begins in the earliest years of life. In this regard we recognise the need for the church once again to play a prominent role in education, especially amongst the very young. We strongly affirmed the Archbishop’s Initiative in Education and its proposed objectives:
• To strengthen what the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is already doing in the field of education
• To encourage parishes in the ongoing upliftment of all their communities through partnership with local public schools
• To create more excellent church schools for all.

We also affirmed the Lent Course, “People of the Way”, that was produced by the Diocese of Johannesburg and encouraged plans to expand it into a three year discipleship programme for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. In addition, we continued to discuss, in depth, the need for excellence in the theological formation of our clergy and future clergy. We gave thanks for progress made at the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown and committed ourselves to support the College as it continues and develops its ministry.

The Synod of Bishops gave thanks for the “Anglicans ACT” Vision and Mission Statement of ACSA and for the way in which they are catching the imagination of our people. In particular we endorsed the forthcoming “Anglicans Ablaze” Conference in Johannesburg and the Bible studies that were produced in preparation for it. We also encouraged Dioceses and Parishes to find ways to participate in the Celebration of “Anglicans ACT” on 25th November this year.

Central to the life of ACSA is a rhythm of daily and weekly prayer and worship. It feeds our common life, theology, ministry and mission. Through this rhythm we and our people engage daily with God and one another through the Scriptures. We therefore welcomed the introduction of the Revised Common Lectionary to guide our Sunday Bible readings and worship as from Advent 2012. This brings us into line with most of the church worldwide. We gave thanks for the wonderful resource, “Word and Worship”, which has been produced by an Ecumenical team based at Ekklesia in Stellenbosch. Arising from this discussion we have asked the Liturgical Committee to investigate the possible revision of the Anglican Prayer Book 1989 or the production of a new Prayer Book.

We welcomed Bishop Graham Cray, Missioner to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, among us. He addressed us on the missionary nature of the church and its implications in our changed and changing cultures. One strategy is to encourage a “mixed economy” of traditional and “fresh expressions” congregations in our dioceses and parishes. In all of this we recognised, once again, that making Christian disciples is the key. We also took note, with great interest, of the “New Monastic Movement” that is emerging worldwide.

The Synod of Bishops gave thanks for the faithful and effective ministries of our bishops who are retiring or have recently retired: Paddy Glover (Free State), Merwyn Castle (False Bay) and Brian Germond (Johannesburg). We prayed for those who have recently been elected to serve as Bishops: Ellinah Wamukoya (Swaziland), Dintoe Stephen Letloenyane (Free State), and Stephen Moreo (Johannesburg), and also for the Diocese of False Bay, preparing for their Elective Assembly in the coming week. We welcomed the appointment of Bishop Rubin Phillip (Natal) as Dean of the Province.

The Synod of Bishops rejoiced with all of ACSA at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood. We gave thanks for the many ways in which the widening ministry of women continues to enrich the life of our church.

The Synod of Bishops gives thanks to God for the loving, wise and godly leadership of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In all these things we thank our God of holiness and love for continuing to inspire and guide us as we strive to oversee the life, mission and ministry of the church in such a time as this.

“Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

To the Laos - To the People of God, September 2012

Dear People of God

‘Cry aloud to the Lord!’ writes Jeremiah in his Lamentations, ‘Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night … Arise, cry in the night, at the beginning of the watches. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!’ (Lam 2:18,19).

South Africa has been rocked by the tragedy at Marikana mine – the death of 34 miners at the hands of the police, after a further 10 deaths, including of police, in the preceding week. But this is only part of a greater tragedy: the tragedy that the situation could be allowed to deteriorate so far; the tragedy of appalling working and living conditions; the tragedy of such a breakdown in relations between employers and unions and employees and government; and the tragedy that across our country similarly dreadful situations are festering. They are like smouldering logs that, if left unattended, are ready to ignite. What should be the church’s response to this?

First, we should know how to lament – how to cry out to God, in our pain, our frustration, our anger, our distress, our deep, deep hurt. We should not hold back in speaking the truth of what we see, what we feel, what we fear. We bring before the throne of grace all that is broken, all that is awry, all that ought to be better but is not. And in opening our hearts to God, we call on God to step in, to act, to respond to the great need in which we find ourselves. ‘Weep with those who weep’ wrote St Paul to the Romans (Rom 12:15), and so we must. Now is a time to weep. We mourn for all who have died; and we mourn for all else that grieves us. We bring it all before God with a purpose – we come to ask him to take it all, and redeem it, to change it, and to change us, and give us a fresh start, so we may make a good and godly difference.

And so we are not left helpless in our weeping, and we must not despair. St Paul also writes ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Rom 12:21). Though I have been twice to Marikana since those terrible shootings, and found conditions that shocked me, nonetheless I am optimistic, for ours is a God who shines light in every darkness. Though I felt the very ground crying out to my soul that ‘All is not well’, and though it felt that the whole area is on a knife edge, still I am hopeful. For this can be to us not a prophecy of doom, but a wake-up call.

All South Africans must rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just, South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy, and we must work and pray to bring it about. It is a task that we must all shoulder together – government, politicians and the public sector; with business; with civil society; with media and academia and all other networks and organisations; and, of course, faith communities. This is the vision encapsulated in 1994 and in our Constitution. Its achievement lies in our hands, if we recommit ourselves positively, and work hard, rejecting complacency and hopelessness in the face of the country’s challenges. God wants what is best for all his children, and will help us, if we strive for all that is good and right.

We should not be afraid to hold fast to his promises of hope. For when his vision for good is at the centre of our lives, it will shape us and our society. This – this ideal of human dignity and flourishing, at the heart of our Constitution – defines who we are, who we truly aspire to be, rather than any of the difficulties, challenges, setbacks that we experience. So, even as we mourn, let us ask God to bring his light into our darkness, and guide our feet into his life-giving pathways. May he bring comfort and blessing to all who mourn, and fresh courage and hope for tomorrow.

Please keep Judge Ian Farlam – our own Provincial Chancellor– particularly in your prayers, that he might receive every assistance, as he heads the Commission of Enquiry.

And now some more joyful news: the Revd Stephen Moreo of St George’s Parktown has been elected to succeed Bishop Brian Germond as Bishop of Johannesburg. Please pray for him and his family, Liziwe his wife, and their children Siyabulela Onalerona, and Bontle, as they prepare for him to take these responsibilities.

Finally, on behalf of us all, let me pay tribute to another Bishop of Johannesburg, Duncan Buchanan, who died at the beginning of September. He was a great friend and dear brother in Christ, who was also for me – as for so many – a father in God who deeply influenced my life and ministry. I offer heartfelt thanks for the rich life of this faithful servant of God, whom was successor to Desmond Tutu, as both Dean and Bishop. He was also a great teacher and pastoral counsellor, especially in leading, guiding, and shaping so many of our clergy, who trained with him in Grahamstown.

As Bishop he encouraged my vocation, made me a deacon and ordained me a priest. He pressed me to keep on growing; and exposed me to many ministries within and beyond the church – for example, as his representative on the Council of St John’s College. Indeed, he never stopped mentoring me. When I was first a Bishop, he loaned me his pastoral staff and gave me my first vestments. And when I became Archbishop he did not stop mentoring, advising, giving me feedback and commenting on these ‘To the Laos’ letters. He was a rare soul-friend, offering both caution and encouragement to press on. He would send messages, ‘Thabo, phone me!’ and remind me ‘God is not in the business of rushing – slow down and take time to discern the mind of God!’ I shall miss him deeply, and am filled with gratitude for his influence upon my life.

So I give thanks to God for his wisdom, his humour, his strong presence in any gathering. I thank God for his courage, and readiness to confront things that needed to be confronted, including in his leadership during the struggle to overcome apartheid. I am sure many around the Anglican world will also thank God for his significant contribution to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, helping a very diverse group to wrestle deeply together and produce the clear, yet sensitive, report on human sexuality that stands behind the resolution that was ultimately passed – a report that deserved far more attention than, sadly, it received. He was also a keen ecumenist, committed always and everywhere to building up the body of Christ. I am especially thankful I was able to spend some quality time with Duncan, connecting and reminiscing, at the Diocese of Johannesburg’s 90th anniversary celebrations, just a few months ago.

‘Dunc and Di’ as he and his wife were known to so many of us, were a wonderful team, a formidable team, in life and in ministry. We hold Di in our love and prayers, together with everyone else who loved Duncan and mourns his death. We are so sad that we shall not hear his laughter again, but we know that heaven will be a livelier place! Yet in our pain and grieving, we entrust him into the eternal arms of the Lord he loved so deeply, confident that ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, for nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Hamba kahle, faithful priest in the church of God. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Yours in the Service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tribute to the late Bishop Duncan Buchanan

Statement on the Death of Bishop Duncan Buchanan

On behalf of the whole Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I express my profound sadness at the death of Bishop Duncan Buchanan, a great friend and dear brother in Christ, who was also for me – as for so many – a father in God who deeply influenced my life and ministry. Therefore I also offer heartfelt thanks for the rich life of this faithful servant of God, whom so many of us remember as successor to Desmond Tutu, as both Dean and later Bishop of Johannesburg. He was also a great teacher and pastoral counsellor, especially in leading, guiding, educating and shaping so many of today’s clergy across our church, who trained with him in Grahamstown.

As Bishop he encouraged my vocation, made me a deacon and ordained me a priest. He opened many doors for me, pressing me to keep on growing; and he exposed me to many ministries within and beyond the church – for example, as his representative on the Council of St John’s College. Indeed, he never stopped mentoring me. When I was first a Bishop, he loaned me his pastoral staff and gave me my first vestments. And when I became Archbishop he did not stop mentoring, advising and giving me feedback, one of those rare soul-friends offering both caution and encouragement to press on. He would send messages, ‘Thabo, phone me!’ or ‘Thabo, take it easy!’ and remind me ‘God is not in the business of rushing – slow down and take time to discern the mind of God!’ I shall miss him deeply, and am filled with gratitude for his influence upon my life.

So I give thanks to God for his wisdom, his humour, his strong presence in any gathering. I thank God for his courage, and his readiness to confront those things that needed to be confronted, including in his leadership during the struggle to overcome apartheid. I am sure many around the Anglican world will also thank God for his significant contribution to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, helping a very diverse group to wrestle deeply together and produce the clear, yet sensitive, report on human sexuality that stands behind the resolution that was ultimately passed – a report that deserved far more attention than, sadly, it received. He was also a keen ecumenist, committed always and everywhere to building up the body of Christ.

Just a few months ago, in June, the Diocese of Johannesburg celebrated the 90th anniversary of its founding. I am especially thankful that I was able to spend some quality time with Duncan, connecting and reminiscing.

‘Dunc and Di’ as he and his wife were known to so many of us, were a wonderful team, a formidable team, in life and in ministry. Di, our hearts are sore for you, and we hold you in our love and prayers, together with everyone else who loved Duncan and mourns his death. We are so sad that we shall not hear his laughter again, but we know that heaven will be a livelier place! Yet in our pain and grieving, we entrust him into the eternal arms of the Lord he loved so deeply, confident that ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, for nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Hamba kahle, faithful priest in the church of God.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

+Thabo Cape Town

Death of Revd Dr Khoza Elliot Mgojo

Media Release

Death of Revd Dr Khoza Elliot Mgojo, Struggle Stalwart and Man of God

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I extend condolences to the family of Revd Dr Khoza Elliot Mgojo, our dear brother in Christ of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He has been a great friend of our church, and a much loved partner in the gospel, over many years, particularly in his terms of office as Presiding Bishop in those troubled years during the 1980s, and as President of the South African Council of Churches from 1990 to 1996, as our country faced the profound challenges of transition to democracy. His was always a wise voice of leadership, and a steady hand on the tiller. In his subsequent service on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he brought all the wisdom and insight of his years of servant leadership, for the sake of the healing of our nation.

We thank God for his life, witness and ministry over long years, and his steadfast commitment to the gospel imperatives of good news to the poor, through pursuit of justice, equality, and dignity for all God’s children. He will be sorely missed. Our prayers are with his family, and all who loved him and mourn his passing. Well done, good and faithful servant of God! May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

+Thabo Cape Town

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

President and Deputy Must Act Together on Marikana

The following media release was issued on 6 September 2012

‘President and Deputy Must Act Together on Marikana’ Says Anglican Archbishop after Visit

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has called on President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to pay a joint visit to the platinum mining area of North-West Province, warning that the region is ‘on a knife edge’.

Dr Makgoba said, in a statement issued after sitting in on peace talks in Rustenburg, ‘It would be of great symbolic importance for our country's leader and a former union general secretary to be seen working closely together to address the issues of workers and local communities.’

Professing himself ‘optimistic’, the Anglican Archbishop nonetheless added ‘I could not help but fear in Marikana yesterday that we are living through the calm before a storm.’ He warned that ‘the living conditions and issues in the mining community are the stuff of which revolution is made. There is real urgency in these matters, and I pray that the Presidency and all business leaders will act quickly and effectively on these cancerous developments. ’He called for Judge Ian Farlam to receive every assistance in the Commission of Inquiry.

He commended the progress made towards a peaceful way forward, and the constructive role of the South African Council of Churches and local clergy, and called on all South Africans to rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just, South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy, and to work and pray to bring it about. ‘Never again must “blood bath” become a possibility’ he said.

Full Text of Archbishop’s Statement

On 5 September, I returned to the North-West Province, with the President and General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). We visited Marikana and then the Rustenburg Civic Centre, to attend the talks between worker representatives, unions, mine management, and the Department of Labour. Finding a peaceful way forward was the prime concern of almost everyone present, though the atmosphere of hope was accompanied by the sort of robust speaking that can sound threatening, even terrifying, to those not used to South Africans’ frank talk.

As we drove away later – passing both Karee West, and Marikana Mine, Nkaneng camp, Wonderkop and the shaft head – it was as if the land spoke deep in my soul, saying ‘All is not well’. I could not help but fear we are living in the calm before a storm. We are on a knife edge. The dire states of everything from living conditions to issues in the mining community are the stuff from which revulsion follows and revolution is too easily made. We wish the peace efforts ‘Godspeed’, upholding all those involved, and those like the SACC and local clergy who are doing so much to support the process. Judge Ian Farlam deserves every assistance, every prayer, as he chairs the Commission of Inquiry.

I call on President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to pay a joint visit to the platinum mining area of North-West Province. It would be of great symbolic importance for our country's leader and a former union general secretary to be seen working closely together to address the issues of workers and local communities. I pray that the government will also act quickly and effectively, together with business leaders, to overcome these cancerous developments that have not only fuelled the Lonmin tragedy, but which infect every place where living and working conditions fail to deliver human dignity and economic justice.

Because I have faith in the living God, whose word to us is peace and hope and new life, I am optimistic that a better future is possible. But this visit left me with the sense that this country is like a smouldering log that, left unattended, lies ready to ignite at the slightest wind. There is real urgency in these matters. This is not a message of doom – it is a call to wake up and act. All South Africans must rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just, South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy, and we must work and pray to bring it about. Never again must talk of ‘blood bath’ become a possibility within our country.


The Archbishop will be available to talk to the media on 071 362 8510

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman 021 763 1320 (office hours)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Confirmation Sermon

This sermon was preached at the confirmation of young people from Bishops, Herschel, St Cyprian's and St George's Grammar Schools, Springfield Convent, and UCT, held at Bishops on 2 September 2012.

Readings: 1 Ki 2:1-4, 10-12; Eph 6:10-20; Mk 7:1-23

May I speak in the name of God, who calls us all to a life of worship, witness and service. Amen.

Let me start by acknowledging the presence of all the Heads of schools and chaplains here this morning. A special thanks to Mr Nupen , head of Bishops, and chaplain, Revd Terry Wilkie, for hosting us. It is always a joy to come to Bishops, especially for confirmation, and even more especially when one’s own son is being confirmed (sorry for embarrassing you, Nyaki!).

May I repeat my welcome to you all – most of all to you who are being confirmed today; but also to parents and guardians; families and friends; as well as educators, learners and the wider communities of these three, great, Anglican schools, Bishops, Herschel and St Cyprian’s. I also welcome those from St George’s Grammar, Springfield Convent, and, not least, a confirmand from UCT. It is a joy to have you all here.

Yesterday Anglicans in Southern Africa celebrated the life and ministry of Robert Gray – the first Bishop of Cape Town. As I follow in his footsteps I continually thank God for the great foundations he laid, in so many areas of life, and from which we continue to benefit. When he arrived in Cape Town in 1848, he set himself three tasks: to preach the gospel, build churches, and plant clergy. Well, he did all these, and far more besides. Education was one of his other great prioritites – with both Bishops and St Cyprian’s owing their establishment to him, and Herschel and St Georges Grammar following in the same strong tradition of Anglican commitment to excellence in education. So this week, we thank God for Bishop Robert Gray.

Earlier this week we celebrated another great Christian on this continent. St Augustine, who became Bishop of a place called Hippo, which is in current day Algeria – and was one of the most influential theologians of all Christian history. We tend to think of Augustine as a great intellectual. But even more important to him was that he had found God’s love. He knew that, above all, human beings are made for love – to know ourselves loved by God, and then to share that loving care and compassion with others. St Augustine famously wrote ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.’

Let’s think about restlessness, in the context of confirmation.

Confirmation is not like passing an exam. It is more like receiving a passport, so you are ready for travel, ready for adventure! God is inviting you to embark, for yourself, on the journey of life. In confirmation, you are responding, saying, ‘Yes, I am ready for the path ahead – and I will make my journey as a citizen of heaven, my allegiance is to God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

Today begins your journey of taking responsibility for your own life, for your choices about how you will live, what you will do, where your life will take you. St Augustine’s message to you is ‘don’t be afraid of restlessness – let it help guide you where you want to go’. Especially in our teens and our twenties, restlessness is often a large part of life. We are on a voyage of discovery, trying to explore: What do I want to do with life? Who am I really? How shall I become that person? Harness your restlessness, says St Augustine. Tap into the yearning that God has placed deep inside of you: a yearning to live an authentic life, a meaningful life; a desire to ‘be real’, to be ‘connected’.

Our first reading was about the advice King David – very old, about to die – gave to his son Solomon, on how to live well. ‘Follow God’s commands, obey him, and you will prosper in all you do’ he said. Now, we need to be careful here. This does not mean that tick-box, rule-following, behaviour will guarantee you win the lottery and never have a day of sadness!

Both following God, and the prosperity God offers, are far less superficial, far more profound. This is what our Gospel reading was all about. Jesus taught that it is what is inside us, which makes us who we really are. Our attitudes, our thoughts, our dreams, our imagination – these are what shape our words, our actions, and the sort of person we become. How much we earn, how big our car or house, how fancy the title of our job, these things don’t make us who we really are. And anyway, it is well known that money cannot buy happiness. Once people are above the poverty line, more money doesn’t make you more happy. Indeed, more money often brings more worries and more stress!

True success, prosperity, lies in that ‘being real’, that ‘connectedness’ of which I spoke. It is about finding the rest in God, towards which our restlessness urges us. The big question, then, is how do we pursue ‘being real’, that feeling of wholeness and peace?

I want you to think about times when you got that sort of a ‘high’ – a deep inner high of everything coming together. Perhaps it comes with sport – you really know, with every fibre of your being, when your boot, or bat, or racket, has connected just right with the ball. Perhaps it is when you achieve that near-perfect dive, or dance – when you are really in the zone. Perhaps you find that you and your oar; or you and your horse, are moving as one, without having to think about it.

Perhaps it is more of a mental thing – when your brain is on fire as the maths problems, the chess moves, the big ideas, fall into place like pieces in a jigsaw; or it’s like lights going off in your head. Or when you write, and the exact right words flow like a stream, welling up so deep inside, that you hardly know where they are coming from. Or when you create a piece of art that speaks with power. Or when you sing or play an instrument, or compose, and you feel in harmony with the universe.

Do you know that feeling? It is a strange combination of having worked hard to get there, and yet, when it happens, it feels almost effortless! Well, that is what it is like, when our restlessness for God finds rest in him. This is the life that God wants all of us to enjoy – deep peace, when we ‘connect’ with him.

But, like sport and study and music and everything else worthwhile, it takes effort to get to that effortlessness. And our second reading tells us something of what that effort looks like. It tells us to develop good habits that shape our imaginations, attitudes, thoughts, dreams – it tells us to set our hearts and minds on the good things of God. Then they become foundational for us – like a soldier’s armour and equipment, says St Paul. Or we might say like the tools in a toolbox; like the ingredients for the recipes from which our live feeds and we feed others; like the software on which we run, like God’s ‘apps’ for living.

Base your lives on truth, on love, on faith, on trust – and do it with prayer and reading the Bible. Get into the habit of having a running conversation with God about all you do – it is better than talking to yourself inside your head! St Paul also put it in other words in his letter to the Philippians, saying: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ – or, as another translation puts it, ‘let your mind dwell on these things’ (Phil 4:8).

Focus on the good stuff. That’s God’s message. If we let problems shape our lives, we will always be dragged down. If we focus on all that is best, that is what will shape our lives.

Last week, on Thursday, spoke at the Memorial service for the Lonmin miners . It was a sad occasion for all involved. You could feel and touch the pain and sadness around the service and in Marikana itself. I pleaded that politicians should not try to score cheap political points over this tragedy but respect the dead and their loved ones who were in mourning. After the service, somebody came to me and said, Archbishop, thanks for providing the space for us to mourn and wrestle with God, even more than for what you said. This was moving for me indeed. It seemed she was, in essence, expressing thanks for the restlessness and the space to find God even in the midst of pain and this tragedy.

So find time in your life to converse with God. I recently read about a study which reported that people from 18 to 30 years old spend more of their time texting, Blacberry messaging, using Facebook and other social media, than they do actually conversing with other people. This kills the ability to form relationships and risks annihilating the ability to receive this gift of Godly restlessness and rest. The study reports that this group text on average 88 times a day – how can they have adequate time to wrestle about the important thing?! So,ensure you find time and space to inculcate restlessness, for it is in through this that we also find the living and loving God.

Well – I have preached for long enough. It is enough to make anyone restless! So let me end by repeating St Augustine’s words: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.’ Dear Confirmation candidates, may God give you that gift of restlessness, and keep you journeying, until you find your rest in him! Amen.

The Carpenter's Shop AGM

These reflections were shared at the 31st Annual Meeting of The Carpenter's Shop, Cape Town, on 30 August 2012.

Dear Friends, it is a great joy and privilege to be with you this evening. Let me start by thanking Chuma, Colin and everyone for their testimonies. These speak louder than anything I will say tonight and I am grateful, as they will aid me in my comments tonight.

Thank you, Geoff, thank you, Dee, for your invitation to come to the AGM, and to share a few words. Thank you to the board members for what you do. I wish to also acknowledge Revd Terry Lester, a board member, and Rector of Christ Church Constantia.

It is good to be with you – having been unable to join you a year ago. Nonetheless, you are often in my mind. Geoff, I have to say that it was very clever – even very sneaky – of you to give me that ‘useful pot’ of recycled glass, made at the Carpenter’s Shop. For it sits on my desk, holding pens and other bits and pieces, and I see it almost daily. It is one of those prompts, which come to us in so many ways, to encourage us to pray for one another, as St Paul prayed for the Philippians: ‘I thank my God every time I remember you, always praying for you with joy in every one of my prayers for you, because of your sharing in the gospel ...’ (Phil1:3-5).

The word ‘gospel’ means, as we know, ‘good news’. To share in the gospel is to share in bringing good news to those who need it. And it is part of the human condition that all of us need good news, in one way or another.

If the Carpenter’s Shop is about anything, it is about bringing good news to the poor. So I thank God for your partnership in the gospel – that you have seen a need, and seen God’s vision for meeting that need: not merely in providing hand-outs, but in providing skills and support, so that people can be helped to help themselves. And it is good news for the whole person, in the way that you integrate skills training with other assistance, such as access to social worker assessments and support for rehabilitation, or facilitation reconnection with families, or helping with physical needs and health concerns.

And all of this is done within the context of spiritual support, and compassionate care. It really is good news for the whole person, as God sees us. For he made us with hearts and souls and minds and bodies, and to be individuals who live in good relationships with neighbours. And it seems to me that you are addressing the whole person, of those clients who come to you: their emotional, spiritual, mental and physical needs; their needs as individuals, to recover dignity and self-respect; and their needs in terms of having positive, affirming, relationships with others. It is all very, very, gospel-shaped: and for this I give thanks to God, for you, and for all you are doing.

Thank you, Geoff, for the way you have steered the Board. Thank you for strengthening ties with the church – particularly with St Thomas, Rondebosch. And thanks to the people of St Thomas, too, for rising to the challenge. Thank you for the way you, and those who work with you, have been able to consolidate and expand the work of the Carpenter’s Shop – particularly through taking the step of appointing your first full-time Director. Thank you, too, to Dee, for coming on board, and for the additional focus and direction that you have been able to bring. And thank you to all who work with you, and who support you, in so many different ways.

As I come here today, ‘thank you’ is a great part of what is on my heart to share. Also on my heart is a desire to bring encouragement – to you, and to all of us in the face of the great challenges we see within this city, within our nation. For it is all too easy to get downhearted. We have vast problems – some inherited from our past, but others rooted in our own time. Yes, we know that the difficulties are great, and that our capacity is weak – but it is will-power, effort, energy, hard work, on the part of those who are supposed to be giving a lead, that we all too often feel we are lacking – especially when they appear to focus more on power and money for themselves, their families and cronies.

And this is very disheartening and demoralising. The tragedy at the Lonmin mine did not happen in a vacuum. As I said at the Memorial Service in Marikana last Thursday, and at the inter-faith service the previous day in St George’s Cathedral, when things went very wrong there, they followed on from things going very wrong in too many other areas of our national life.

But the word of God to us is that we should not be disheartened. This week, I have been struck again by a verse from St Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, which we have been reading in our daily Eucharists at Bishopscourt. He says ‘Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right’ (2 Thess 3:13). God will strengthen you, strengthen us, first of all spiritually – so that we will not give in to the temptation to be disheartened, downcast, and to feel our efforts are worthless and so give up. For working for good, to bring gospel-shaped new hope, new life, to others, is, I am sure, as much a spiritual as a political or social battle.

Second, he will then strengthen us in our words and actions. For, as we continue to trust in God, and be inspired by his own message of new hope and new life, we will find his encouragement, his strength, within us, to persevere in doing good; and to hold up a light to illuminate a path forwards. This is God’s good news to us, today and every day.

So then, God’s message is that we should not let the problems become our central focus. That will only weigh us down and distract us. God’s message is that we should keep our eyes on the vision of good news that he sets before us, and we should support every area within our nation in which we see his promises reflected. When this is at the heart of our thinking, talking, planning, it will be the magnet that draws us in the direction in which we want to go and need to go.

And indeed, we can say this with confidence to our country, and the society around us. For behavioural scientists today tell us that to focus on our vision is far more effective than letting what is holding us back dominate our lives. They have found out what God has taught us since the beginning – that we should not, and need not, get tired of aiming for the good.

We should persevere with confidence, in whatever way God calls us – whether it is through the work of The Carpenter’s Shop; or in striving for the highest ethical standards in our own professional lives; or in speaking out within the public space; or wherever we have the opportunity to uphold and promote all that is gospel-shaped in our communities.

St Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, with which I began, wrote in the very next verse: ‘I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 1:6). Dear friends, let us dare to have that confidence too – have this confidence tonight, in your AGM, as you assess your work, and as you plan for the future.

And so let me end by sharing in St Paul’s prayer with which he then follows: ‘And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight, to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God’ (Phil 1:9-11). May it be so. Amen.

For more information about The Carpenter's Shop, see http://www.tcs.org.za/.