Archbishop Thabo has sent this message, following the unexpected death, in his sleep, of Fr John Oliver, recently retired after 18 years at St Mark’s Church District Six, and Acting Chair of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum, with which he was also long associated.
My dear Emma,
From our holiday in Turkey, Lungi and I and our children send you, Sarah and Joseph our heartfelt condolences at John’s sudden death. It is hard to take in, and I wish so much that I were able to come in person and share the love and the prayers that we have for you. May our God surround you with his tender love, his comfort, his strength, at this time. Do not be afraid to weep and bring your grief before the throne of God, who bears our sorrows, and walks with us in all our pains and sadness.
As we visit the sites of the early Church, retracing the steps of St Paul who so powerfully taught that nothing in life nor death can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, we shall be carrying you in our hearts and thoughts and prayers. I shall be weeping for John, as Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus, even in my certainty that he now knows the fullness of joy of resurrection life. His is surely the welcome of a good and faithful servant. He has devoted so many years, and given so much energy and dedication, to his unstinting love for God, for God’s people, especially the poor and needy, and for God’s creation. I thank God for all he has been for us in Cape Town and beyond – for his long service at St Mark’s in District Six, for his unflagging socio-political commitment, for his music ministry, for his ever-ready camera!
I also thank God for John’s vision and drive in his work for inter-faith cooperation, and for so much he has achieved there. He has done more than we can measure in encouraging us all to stand together, in our commitment to upholding all that is good and true and just and holy, and opposing all that diminishes the flourishing of all God’s children. John will leave a lasting legacy across the City, the Western Cape, and beyond, having positively impacted so many lives.
On a personal level, I am so aware that I have lost a brother in Christ, a respected colleague and fellow-labourer in the vineyard of the Lord (as well as in the muddy Vleis of Cape Town!), and a dear friend. I shall miss him greatly, even as I thank God for all he was, and all he has done for so many. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Yours in the Service of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer
+Thabo Cape Town
[Message sent by the Archbishop and signed in his absence]