Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Archbishop Thabo's message on returning to worship

Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

It is with awe and trepidation that I welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acceptance of the representations made by religious leaders that faith communities will be responsible and careful enough to return to worship under conditions which will not allow the spread of the coronavirus.

In the next few days, once the government has published its new regulations, we will, with the help of our COVID-19 advisory team, consolidate the regulations and the guidelines that religious leaders have drawn up and update our own ACSA guidelines accordingly.

Until that happens, we will not be able to brief you fully on the conditions under which services can resume. I hope that we will be able to issue a Pentecost message on how we will proceed, especially as we face the cold weather ahead and note that older members of our congregations are among the most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus.

In the meantime, I want to assure you that the representations we made to the government are comprehensive and detailed. For example, they require enforcement of a limit of 50 on services, disinfecting surfaces between services, physical distancing in churches, the avoidance of shared hymnals and prayer books, the wearing of masks during services, restrictions on singing (because it has proved to play a big role in spreading the virus), avoidance of the common chalice at Eucharist, no gatherings after services and rigorous hygiene in church toilets.

As we wait for guidance and contemplate the way ahead, I urge you, as scripture says, to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents. We should not all start flocking to our parishes but take a lead from bishops and clergy as well as churchwardens or cell group leaders.

We worship a loving God who in Jesus constantly reminds us to “go and do likewise”. This is of course means thinking about and doing the right things. We are just as able to do that as the businesses that have been allowed to open under their own strict conditions.

God bless.


Monday, 18 May 2020

Archbishop's Eastertide News & Reflections – May 18, 2020

(Credit: Nelson Mandela University)
Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

With no end in sight to coronavirus lockdowns, we are having to plan ahead for Provincial meetings to take place online. Already, retired bishops are communicating on WhatsApp, as are members of the Synod of Bishops. Other groups are being encouraged to connect and pray together online, and Liaison Bishops are meeting with bodies such as the youth, Provincial organisations and the like.

Now our legal team, the Provincial Executive Officer, the Ven Horace Arenz, and the Provincial Treasurer, Rob Rogerson, have worked out a way in which we can hold “virtual” meetings of the Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee in September. More planning for the PSC will take place in an online meeting of its Service Committee this week.

As South Africa enters a new level of lockdown, we face a difficult path ahead. We are having to adjust to the reality that the virus will be with us for a long while to come, and that to balance the need to save people's lives with the necessity of preserving their livelihoods, we have to relax some of the restrictions - even as the epidemiologists are projecting an increase in Covid-19 cases that will likely peak in late August or early September.

As two of our leading experts, Professor Salim Abdool Karim and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, said recently, there is no way of stopping the virus from spreading. Instead, they warn, we have to find a way to live with outbreaks, trying to “flatten the curve” when they happen, while the government adjusts lockdown levels as part of a risk-adjusted approach to mitigate their effects. As President Ramaphosa said in his latest address to the nation, adjustments will be made according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infections.

For the Church, learning to live with the coronavirus means developing our own risk-adjusted approach to returning to worship. Over recent weeks, I have been heading a task team of church leaders put together by the SA Council of Churches which has done a thorough examination of when and how we can reopen our churches. The SACC has had constructive encounters with government, at which we have been represented by our bishops in the Gauteng dioceses, and we look forward to an agreement on the conditions under which we can open our doors again. We cannot stay in lockdown in perpetuity.

In the meantime, I urge you as parishioners to continue to give whatever financial and material support you are able to our ongoing ministry. Today I joined a meeting of the Deans of cathedrals in ACSA and heard some of their challenges, as well as the innovations which these senior clerics are effecting. I am grateful for their ministry. Another part of my rhythm is keeping up with young people. I was most encouraged by their postings this last weekend, and how they are keeping hope alive. At the invitation of Father Chesnay Frantz of Cape Town I have shared a two-minute message for them to help them keep up their hope.

The most distressing sights during the lockdowns have been the long queues of people lining up for food parcels. HOPE Africa and a number of dioceses have been working hard to alleviate hunger and the Deputy Provincial Registrar, Canon Rosalie Manning, has helped to access more resources as we partner with others in feeding programmes. We also support the SACC's efforts to advocate making food vouchers available, which both feed those in need as well as generate business for traders and thus support livelihoods.

Despite the challenges, I pray that we will keep up hope for the future even as we work through the reality of the pandemic, however long it takes. Hope, as Denise Ackermann has written, “is not that blithe sense that all will end well”. Hope is about acknowledging our fears, dealing with the pain, the reality and the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus. It is a journey beset with headaches, a journey with and in Christ and during which we know for certain that He is not here in the grave, but He has gone ahead of us. Hope is the story of our salvation, our lives lived with the assurance that “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” (1 Thess. 5:24)

During this time, I have begun to join Archbishop Emeritus Desmond once a week in prayer, and have found it strengthening. I urge you too to pray without ceasing, and as we move towards Ascension Day, I want to challenge you: what are you planning to do as we move into the next season in the Church's rhythms of worship and celebration?

God bless you.


Thursday, 7 May 2020

Online Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Easter

A homily preached during an online service of worship produced by the Anglican Communion Office for worshippers around the world. The full service can be viewed at the end of the text below.

Psalm 23; Acts 2:42 to end; John 10: 1-10
May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Welcome to you from the chapel at Bishopscourt in Cape Town, the home of Anglican Archbishops of Cape Town for 150 years, and a place that reflects the suffering, the struggle and the hope of South Africa over its history. This was an estate where colonisers once kept slaves, it was the the place from which my predecessors opposed apartheid, and it was the home which hosted Nelson Mandela on his first night out of prison 30 years ago. The crucifix behind me, commissioned by Desmond Tutu, was the one on which Mr Mandela gazed when he first received Communion here.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Archbishop's Eastertide News & Reflections – St Joseph's Day

With KK after presenting him with the Archbishop's Peace & Justice Award.

Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

Today being St Joseph’s Day, we remember and pray for all the workers of the world, particularly because of the anxiety so many are experiencing as a result of the coronavirus, their loss of income and even their jobs. Pray especially for essential service workers who are caring for COVID-19 patients, emergency workers, the police and army and those who continue to grow, harvest, deliver and sell food to us. We also give thanks for the great epidemiologists and other medical exports which we have, and for the acquisition of supplies of personal protective equipment for our health workers.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

[VIDEOS] In 12 languages - Archbishop's Midday Prayer for the time of the coronavirus

From the Bishopscourt chapel in Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo recites - in 12 of the languages used in the Province = the Midday Prayer he has composed for the time of the coronavirus:

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - isiZulu

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - isiXhosa

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - siSwati

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Sesotho

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Sepedi

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Portuguese

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Setswana

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Afrikaans

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - isiNdebele

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Xitsonga

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - Tshivenda

A Midday Prayer on the Coronavirus - English

[VIDEO] Reflections on keeping a balance in a time of coronavirus

Speaking from the chapel at Bishopscourt in Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo shares his thoughts on the principle, learned from his experience of centring prayer, of balance in processing what is happening to us. He reflects on four broad categories of applying balance. He also explains his focus on providing midday prayers in as many languages of the Province as possible.