Monday, 24 December 2018

Archbishop Thabo's Christmas sermon, 2018

(Photo: St George's Cathedral)
A sermon preached at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in St George's Cathedral, Cape Town:

Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20 or John 1:1-14

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Welcome to this beautiful service in this beautiful cathedral among multitudes of God's beautiful children, all of us made in God's image. This is one of my favourite nights of the year, a night on which I feel a certain magic. I'm not sure whether it's the spirit of kindness I feel emanating from all of you, or the joy I see in the eyes of our children, but whatever it is, this time of year always puts a smile on my face, especially when the sun goes down and the night comes alive with the twinkling of the Christmas lights.
And this Christmas, I also feel a renewed energy in our country, a little like the way I felt when our children took us a few weeks ago to the Global Citizens' music festival in Johannesburg. (Although I have to admit that I couldn't stay long enough to watch BeyoncĂ©!!) This Christmas, I believe we’re about to re-enter a new age, an era where we define the new South Africa.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - Advent 2018

As published in the monthly newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town:

As this edition of Good Hope went to press, I was on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, where I and two of my fellow bishops consecrated the new Bishop of St Helena, the Right Revd Dale Bowers.

St Helena is part of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa which in the past has received less attention from the Province than other dioceses; its remoteness making it accessible until now only in weeks-long voyages by sea. My visit is the first undertaken by the Metropolitan in more than 30 years, and as far as we can establish a bishop for the Diocese has never before been consecrated on the island. Yet Anglican ministry in our Province began on St Helena: the first Anglican chaplain was appointed in 1671 and St James' Church in the main centre, Jamestown – where we said Morning Prayer on the day of the consecration – is the oldest surviving Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. The Diocese, which includes a parish on Ascension Island, is the fourth oldest in the Province, after Cape Town, Grahamstown and Natal.
Bishop Dale with the Archbishop.

So it was a special joy to be able to take advantage of St Helena's newly-built airport and to fly there with the Dean of the Province, the Right Revd Stephen Diseko of Matlosane, Bishop Allan Kannemeyer of Pretoria, and my chaplain, the Revd Mcebisi Pinyana, for the consecration. The consecration service took place on November 11, so it was also preceded by a civic Remembrance Day service in which we commemorated the end of the First World War exactly 100 years earlier. The local Catholic Church hosted an ecumenical lunch to welcome us and to honour Bishop Dale. He is only the second of the 16 bishops of the Diocese actually born on the island; please pray for him, for his, wife, Penny, his family and for the people and clergy of the Diocese.

Turning to more solemn Provincial matters, our only institution for full-time residential training for the ordained ministry, the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), is undergoing serious financial trouble. So I am issuing a special appeal to parishes as your Archbishop: please make a special love gift to Cott this Christmas. You can send it to Canon Charleen van Rooyen, the Diocesan Administrator. Also, you don't have to be selected and paid for by a Diocese to study at Cott; anyone with an interest in getting a sound theological training – for example, a retired layperson wanting to study further – is free to apply to study at the college, even if it is not with the intention of being ordained.

Also as we went to press, the sad news came in that Mrs Tobeka Mzamane, wife of Bishop Sitembele Mzamane, formerly Bishop of Mthatha, Dean of the Province and in retirement Vicar-General of Mzimvubu, had collapsed and died. Also, Bishop Stephen Diseko, currently Dean of the Province, lost his sister, Elizabeth. Please hold them and their families in your prayers, and we send our condolences and messages of comfort to them.

In the Diocese, you will by now know that Bishop Garth Counsell retires at Easter next year. He will be on sabbatical from December until February, so I will be appointing a Vicar-General in the interim. I am already suffering “termination anxiety” at the prospect of his retirement; I have really loved working with Bishop Garth and have felt upheld and supported by his ministry and leadership. I hope that God will send us another servant as loving, faithful and able. A number of farewell functions are being planned to thank him and Marion for their love and service to this church and Diocese. His annual end-of-year dinner for the clergy turned into something very special – a kind of going-away dinner for the Counsell family. Thank you to those who arranged it.

As we wind down for the year and Christmas approaches, my warm thanks to everyone on the staff of the Diocese and at Braehead House and Bishopscourt for their dedicated service to the Diocese and Province this year.

I wish you all a peaceful and merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. May our New Year's resolutions be about loving God and our neighbours as ourselves, and treating the environment with care and compassion.

God bless.

†Thabo Cape Town

Friday, 23 November 2018

St Helena's weekly flight attempts to land.... a 3rd time

Friday morning in Jamestown.
Friday November 30:

Last night we had dinner at Wellington House and Bishop Dale came to assure us that the plane was on schedule for today. After a good tuna steak and rum-and-raisin ice cream, we walked home. 

This morning was a bit warm and up until 10:30am we had a bit of sunshine.

Town is buzzing with people, reminding me of the little town of Grahamstown on a Friday, full of energy. The numbers of people are far lower here but the spirit is the same.

We walked up Main Street and along the Jamestown harbour and met more people wishing us well with our flight today. The news is that flight has left Windhoek on its way here and we hope in the next four hours there are no dramatic weather changes.

The rest of our story can be told in photos I took, and from St Helena-related websites:

Packed at our hotel and ready to go.
To the airport - it's cloudy, but not too windy.
St Helena's runway is exposed to what pilots call "wind shear".

We're at the airport. 

The prospects look good. 

Checking in. 
Alleluia! The plane has landed.
We landed at OR after 10 pm tonight... Now back to Cape Town to sort out my disrupted schedule and reconnect with my family. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Exploring St Helena - and getting exercise...

Brother clergy climb Sister's Hill.
Archbishop Thabo continues to blog from St Helena as a result of repeated postponements of the flight taking him, Bishop Stephen Diseko, Bishop Allan Kannemeyer and Fr. Mcebisi Pinyana back to Johannesburg after the consecration of Bishop Dale Bowers:

Wednesday November 20:

At 7:30 we joined the weekly Mass at St James, celebrated by Bishop Dale, then had breakfast. I had run out of hypertension medication so my chaplain, Mcebisi Pinyana, and I enjoyed a walk through light drizzle to the hospital pharmacy. On our way back, an old lady ran across the street and said Eric had books I was looking for. This is how news travels on the island.

The books were piano lessons for beginners. I borrowed them and went to St James to practise the piano. Joy, my teacher in Cape Town, will be happy to know that I fitted in about 30 minutes' practice! I know it's a schlep for her to teach an adult but she is the best teacher for me.

Back at my room I continued to read “Justice” by Michael Sandel, a recommended read indeed. Then I dozed off; I did not l know that I had so much sleep in me! My siesta was disturbed by a call from my university friend and brother-come-businessman, who had heard that we are stuck on St Helena and wanted to send a private plane to fetch us. I assured him that the islanders are hospitable and perhaps God is willing us to rest.

I fell back into siesta again and at 13:55 the reception called and woke me up. Joy – another wonderful ‘deacon’, not ordained but diaconal in her varied services – came to check if we wanted any help. She also brought us lovely thank-you notes. Jamestown and the island are small and we are now “known” around town. It takes longer to move from place to place than when we arrived, as everyone wants to say a word or two and inquire how we are.
Jamestown, with Jacob's Ladder in background.

The four of us re-grouped and decided to climb Sister's Hill as brothers. Sister's Hill is the hill on the opposite side of the Jamestown valley from the hill which we use Jacob's Ladder to climb. We walked to the top and could see the new Rupert's harbour not far from us in the adjoining valley. Our aim was to walk to Rupert's valley from Jamestown but at a dilapidated watchpost we decided to enjoy views of the ocean and the different view of Jamestown.

In the area - Munden's Point - three Bahraini dissidents were held by the British at the request of the rulers of Bahrain from 1957 to 1961 - the last prisoners to be exiled to St Helena.

After some while we descended. We had hoped to get something from the stores on our way back but they close early on Wednesdays, so we went to one which was still open and bought what we could. It has been cooler and the wind is gone.

Talk is that we might leave on Friday but I suspect it might be Saturday – or whenever!

We each have meal vouchers from the airline for 20 pounds a day. We eat sufficient breakfast for the day and use our vouchers at dinner. Lunch is siesta. For Wednesday dinner we across the Castle Gardens to eat at Anne's Place, where we had a delicious home-cooked meal. I enjoyed the yellowtail and vegetables. (Scrolldown the Castle Gardens page)

After  dinner, I still needed about 1430 steps to complete my aim to walk 10,000 steps a day on my mobile phone Stepz App. It monitors my daily activities and since being on St Helena my walking is in the green area on the App, meaning 10k or above. So I went up towards the Post Office and back towards the harbour and around the fountain at the gardens and reached my goal for the day.

More photos from our walk - and the vouchers which give us sustenance....


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Stranded in the South Atlantic!

Bishop Dale braais fish for us.

Our goodbyes to the Saints were delayed last Saturday when the weather forced the cancellation of our flight home, resulting in an avalanche of cancellations.

So we were here on St Helena for a second Sunday. My chaplain, Mcebisi Pinyana, preached at St James' Church, Jamestown, and instead of being at St Mary's in Orlando East in the Diocese of Johannesburg, I celebrated at St James, accompanied by great music and the choir. (The church is alongside a prison! See photo below.) 

Bishop Allan Kannemeyer preached at another parish, while Bishop Stephen Diseko celebrated, and Bishop Dale Bowers went to St Paul's Cathedral. It is a rare happening on the island that you have so many bishops in so many parishes on one Sunday.

For lunch we joined Mrs Penny Bowers' parents, Bobby and Pat, and their family as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. (Also see a photo below.) Larry the churchwarden and Ivy Ellick, the Diocesan Registrar, continued to pamper us with attention, for which we are most grateful.

On Monday, the four of us visitors took a long walk after breakfast, choosing a new route and covering about 10 km in total, according to my phone App. We walked up the Jamestown valley inland as if going to the next valley, Rupert's, and then at Constitution Corner we came down again past St John's Church and through an area called Maldivia. 

We were tracing Maldivia Lodge (see photo), where Dinuzulu lived during his exile on the island, but we were also just enjoying this safe island on foot. I dedicated the afternoon to admin and correspondence with the office via WhatsApp. 

On Monday evening, we joined the Bowers for a fish BBQ. It was a good opportunity to say thank you to this generous family for hosting us and spoiling us. 

It is windy and cloudy but we are assured that the flight from Johannesburg will land and that we will be able to depart for South Africa. A number of people have said their goodbyes and some said they will also come to the airport. St Helena's cricket team is coming in from Botswana on the flight.

The extra days have been relaxing and reminded me to firm up the dates for my pre-Advent retreat soon. Until we meet again, thank you Saints and all who prayed for our visit here.

Subsequent to the Archbishop writing this, the following tweets on Tuesday from the St Helena Independent:

St James Church backs onto Her Majesty's Prison!
Celebrating Penny Bowers' parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

Maldivia Lodge in 1903. (Acknowledgements: St Helena Island Info)