Tuesday 23 March 2010

To The Laos, March 2010

Dear People of God

This month I am sending a longer letter than usual, to tell you about the 5-day visit I made to Haiti in early March, and share some of my reflections on what it means to lament in solidarity with all who suffer tragedy, and to wrestle for an appropriate response both in our theological understanding and in our action. What does it mean to ‘strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees’ (Is 35:3), when all around there is ‘devastation, desolation and destruction - hearts faint and knees tremble, all loins quake, all faces grow pale’ (Nah 2:10)?

I travelled to Haiti with Revd Canon Robert Butterworth, our Provincial Executive Officer under the generous auspices of The Gift of The Givers and of Ms Louisa Mojela. We joined with Bishop Pierre Whalon of The Episcopal Church (of which Haiti is a Diocese) and Bishop Laish Boyd of the Bahamas. Our aim was to express the Anglican Communion’s solidarity with the Bishop of Haiti, Jean-Zaché Duracin, and those in his care, and offer what pastoral support we could. I also delivered a cheque for $15,000, given by ACSA parishioners, and discussed how further assistance from us might best be used – thank you to all of you who have made donations and are continuing to raise funds.

Best estimates suggest some 250,000 died in the 12 January earthquake, 300,000 were injured, and a million made homeless. Behind these numbers lies human tragedy on a scale we found almost ungraspable scale – while yet knowing that our Lord calls each stricken individual by name, and numbers the hairs on their heads (Jn 10:3, Lk 12:7). The devastation is overwhelming. Endless rubble fills the streets, while the air is heavy with the stench of rotting flesh, of bodies trapped in ruined buildings. There is little normalcy and vast emotional and physical disorientation: with landmarks collapsed and streets impassable, our driver often had great difficulty negotiating our way. The pain this caused him tore at my heart. He was always so polite and took such care of us. After three days, he told us with quiet grace of the destruction of his own home. We were overcome with guilt that we had not thought to ask him earlier.

Bishop Duracin has seen 17 years’ work ‘gone, gone, gone’. Clergy and ordinands; teachers, students and school-children; church-workers and parishioners have died. Buildings are in ruins. Institutions are destroyed. Welfare projects have collapsed. We visited one church high-school and could smell that there were still bodies of teachers and learners trapped in the fallen 3-storey structure that is too unstable to enter or even pull down at this point. The Cathedral of Holy Trinity, like its nearby Roman Catholic counterpart, is just a shell. So is the convent, and another diocesan school next to it. As we walked by, I smelt the bodies, and I could not help seeing a human leg bone protruding from the precarious structure. I cannot put into words how terrible this sight was.

Everywhere it is the same story. At the diocesan university a half-filled grave holds the bodies of 9 students with space left for those still under the ruins. Eight were pulled alive from the rubble. We spoke with the Vice-Chancellor and chaplain, a retired Canon, who were tearful and devastated. Their tears were contagious, and, after seeing so much pain over the previous days, I too was overcome with weeping, embarrassedly wiping my eyes with my purple sleeve, an archbishop at sea in the surges of grief that overflowed from everyone I met.

As the university was diocesan- not state-owned, they will struggle to afford rebuilding. Yet for the Bishop, rebuilding schools, colleges and seminaries is a higher priority even than restoring his own flattened house, so vital is education in reconstructing his country. I was deeply touched by this selfless child of God and servant of the people, who prioritises their needs above even his own home, just as ‘the Son of man had no place to lay his head’ (Mt 8:20).

On the Sunday morning our group joined in a service of the Eucharist, then shared lunch with the bishop and clergy, sitting together at a long table like Leonardo’s famous painting of the Last Supper. I spoke of the resurrection hope we have in Jesus Christ, who died in agony and was raised to new life. We then persuaded Bishop Duracin to take us to his house. It had been a beautiful home but now it was ‘gone, all gone’: building flattened, possessions lost, Land Cruiser crushed. He showed us where his wife had been trapped. She has been hospitalised in Florida, while he, for a long time, was denied a visa to visit. He had been forced to travel to the Dominican Republic to obtain one, and would finally fly out of the country with us later that day, to see her, to meet with Bishops of The Episcopal Church, and take a few days’ rest before returning to his people.

As he stood beside his home and spoke and wept, we all wept too, feeling his pain. This brave man pointed to everything he had lost and said, ‘We still have to sing alleluia, for in the midst of all this, Christ is risen.’ He then added, ‘The church is wealthy in Haiti. Our wealth is in our people, who have worked so hard to serve the poor, and we have found ourselves so blessed through our commitment to service. This wealth remains ours, and we will continue to serve those in need.’ Sleeping in the open, and then in a tent alongside his parishioners, Bishop Duracin has worked tirelessly to bring a sense of shape and direction to his people’s lives, so they, strengthened by the compassionate love of God in the midst of this indescribable suffering, can dare to act constructively and go on loving their neighbours through tangible acts of service. Today, all are neighbours in the tent cities that have sprung up on every available open space. My heart breaks for those who try to establish new shelters alongside former homes that still contain the remains of their loved ones.

The hope and purpose the churches can bring is vital to this devastated population. Everywhere we saw people wandering aimlessly, still in shock and overcome with hopelessness at the task of rebuilding their entire lives. The Government seems incapable of giving a firm lead. People even commented that their terrible former dictator ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier would at least have taken a grip, and started repairing basic services. The monsoon season is now due and shelter to withstand the rain must be provided, yet fear remains etched on too many faces, of people seemingly unable to take responsibility for their lives, their futures. The churches can help people draw strength from our Lord who has overcome death and promises abundant life, even in our darkest moments.

It is not all doom and gloom. Resilient street traders were visible. Others are beginning to rebuild homes. But the risk is that past weaknesses will be repeated. Before the quake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the Americas, with problems of inequality, corruption and unstable democracy. US economic policies have undermined previously prosperous sectors, including agriculture and cement. No wonder Haiti had inadequate building codes and city planning – no wonder disproportionate deaths and injuries resulted.

Haiti is the world’s oldest black-led independent republic and should have a special place in African hearts. Surely Africa can stand with her in her need for relief aid and long-term reconstruction. As we lobby for economic and trade justice for Africa’s poor, we must include Haiti as ‘one of our own’. I was pained to see so few African faces among international relief workers. While poverty remains for us a serious and fundamental problem requiring continuing attention, it is not the only story in Africa, and we must share our successes. I particularly call upon Corporate Africa to help in reconstruction, offering the experience we have developed here in building capacity, improving skills, growing expertise, in training and equipping staff to bring new services and develop new markets.

The insurers will no doubt call the earthquake an ‘Act of God' which in many cases will relieve them of obligations to make pay-outs. But what does it mean to say this is an Act of God? On one level, I do not know. I do not know why it is that earthquakes happen, why it is that we have shifting tectonic plates under the earth’s crust, that can move to such devastating effect. Before God, I can only say ‘Why?’ and share the tears of those who suffer. But I do know that humanity has choices and responsibilities. There is no doubt that many of the factors that made the quake’s impact so great are the consequences of greed, irresponsibility and injustice, in other words ‘acts of humanity’, in stark contrast to the standards the God of justice ordains for society. Will the world have the grace to let his justice prevail in rebuilding a better future for Haiti – and one in which its people participate fully, allowed to shape their own future?

Some people claim the earthquake is God’s punishment, especially as so many Haitians follow forms of voodoo. Jesus warns against such analyses when he says ‘Those 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?’ (Lk13:4). Yet it is true that in the trauma, turmoil and confusion there is much fear and superstition around life and death, and we must pray for clear preaching of the gospel. For God ‘did the impossible’ in raising Jesus Christ from death to life beyond the grave. Therefore all humanity can have hope, even in our darkest hours. We can have hope for our loved ones who have died, that they are held safe, beyond pain and suffering, in the everlasting arms of our loving heavenly Father.

And we can have hope for ourselves, because God is in the business of bringing newness of life in every deathly situation, if only we will open ourselves to accept this from him, and put our lives in his hands. Therefore we can dare to be those who sow in tears and reap in joy, who go out weeping bearing the seed, and come home carrying the harvest (Ps 126:5,6). It is not those who merely weep who reap, but rather it is those who, in their sorrow, nonetheless continue to believe and trust in hope, and therefore continue act in ways that will bring about new growth, new life, by God’s redemptive grace.

Our God is not distant, but in Jesus Christ, took human form – unafraid to become one with us, he shared in all the joys and pains, hopes and fears of human life. Most of all, he shared in the experience of human suffering and death. To such a God we can bring our agonies and grief, anger and despair, knowing he can truly empathise, and that his compassion is rooted in genuine understanding of our trauma. This is what it means to lament. Lament is to open ourselves with all our burdens, our sorrows, in honesty before God. It is not to diminish our suffering, but rather to lay it out, in its full extent, before the throne of grace. We do this to invite God to meet us in the enormity of our suffering, to touch us where we are, to acknowledge our griefs and pains, and then to take them up in his own hands, and to work in them his promises of healing and wholeness, of redemption and transfiguration, as he wipes away our falling tears. I pray that God will grant the people of Haiti the gift of lament, and call us into true lamentation alongside them, in the weeks and months ahead.

I thought of this as I watched the clearing up at the Anglican Cathedral. A piece of altar mural, painted by an indigenous artist, remains standing. It depicts Jesus' baptism. I was reminded that our own baptism signifies the beginning of our Christian journey. Through baptism, we are incorporated into the body of Christ, alongside all other believers. Because we are united with one another in this way, we are compelled to respond when any other child of God is hurting. Haitians are reeling in pain. How can we authentically share in that pain? How can we respond with integrity to their suffering, their need for hope and new life?

In practical terms, what might this mean for us? Alongside lamenting with our brothers and sisters, and praying for them, and continuing to give, perhaps parishes, religious communities and church-schools will feel inspired to forge partnerships with Haitian counterparts. Perhaps congregations will make a longer term commitment to sponsor a seminarian through training.

It was hard to leave. I felt guilty that I would return to the easy life of Bishopscourt. Volunteers we met felt the same. Yet somehow it was a privilege and a gift to have been allowed to walk alongside these people, to sit and eat, to sleep, to pray with them in all that they faced. My own prayer is that what I have experienced will teach me so that I may in future be more fully part of the ‘solution’ rather than the ‘problem’ in the issues we face within God’s world.

I returned conscious that I had seen newness of life and hope at work in Haiti: in the commitment of Bishop Duracin and his people to care for others; in the laughter of children and the singing that we found everywhere; and in gestures of kindness and generosity among strangers. I met it in those who still dare to say, by their words or actions, ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen – therefore we are risen.’

The scale of tragedy, suffering and need I encountered, and the realisation that God’s love and redemptive power was nonetheless greater, forced me to acknowledge that my gut understanding of what God has done for humanity was too small, no matter what I know in my head. I’m praying now for courage and confidence to live my life and ministry out of this expanding grasp of God’s infinite compassion. He really is able to do more than we are capable of imagining – are we ready to live on this basis here in Southern Africa as well as pray it for Haiti?

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Note: a longer version of this reflection, with more consideration of political aspects of the situation, is posted at http://www.africaforhaiti.com/Reflections_on_a_Visit_to_Haiti.html

Summit of High Level Religious Leaders on the Response to HIV

Note: This address was given on 22 March 2010.

Dear friends, I bring greetings to you all from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. I also want to express my thanks to the organisers of this Summit, for arranging such a valuable programme – and therefore I’d particularly like to mention Revd Jape Heath from the Steering Group who was instrumental in arranging my invitation.

I have recently returned from a pastoral visit to Haiti, where I found myself deeply stirred, in heart and mind and soul and body, as I saw the pervasive devastation and heard the deeply painful accounts of those who had lived through it and were now facing its aftermath.

As if that were not enough, the personal stories and testimonies that we have heard here today have been similarly soul-stirring. I am deeply grateful to those who have had the courage to share in this way. It makes me feel I am standing on holy ground – and respond with great care and sensitivity, responding not only to what was said, but also the breadth of sacred traditions that we represent here.

In this context, I will first paint a picture from the perspective of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, using broad strokes. Then I will end with a more detailed story from the windswept township of Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town.

When responding to HIV and AIDS, the question of stigma has been at the forefront of our minds within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa for some time. Many of you will remember my predecessor as Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, speaking forcefully on the matter at least a decade ago.

Before the end of the last century, we were realising that far too often the churches were, frankly, at least as much part of the problem as we were part of the solution. Yes, we were committed to caring for the sick. But when it came to stopping the spread of HIV, much of our stance was, I fear, unhelpful – fuelling stigma, with all its negative consequences.

Because of our disapproval of sex outside marriage, and because a small vocal minority have described AIDS as a judgement from God, not surprisingly, many have said that a cleric is the last person to whom they would disclose their status or go to for help. Further, Churches have fuelled society’s negative responses to HIV and AIDS. We all know the horror stories, which I won’t bother repeating.

Therefore, within Southern Africa, the Anglican Church has worked hard to change the way we speak about sex and sexuality, and HIV and AIDS. Since 2002 we have had a comprehensive strategy, within which major resources have been devoted to educating clergy and lay leadership around all aspects of the virus; and to producing age-appropriate and culturally sensitive material for sexual education within the church.

Tackling stigma has been a particular goal. An independent survey conducted in 2006 shows we have been making progress. People in our churches, by and large, have grasped that discourse around ‘God’s judgement’ is entirely inappropriate. However, in a minority of places, social judgement is still communicated – explicitly or implicitly – from our pulpits and, perhaps more frequently, our pews. The message coming across is that people have received their just deserts for immoral behaviour – whether sex or drugs – they have only themselves to blame and should be ashamed of themselves.

Let’s be honest. It is not easy for the church to get it right – especially when our spiritual teaching does indeed uphold faithfulness within marriage, and sexual abstinence outside of marriage, as the ideal. But at the same time, we should not appear to preach that only perfection is acceptable, nor that sexual sin is worse than any other. The true gospel of Jesus Christ addresses the real world: of fallible humanity, often falling short on all manner of moral issues; and of a God, who – though holy himself and sitting in judgement on all that is evil – is nonetheless a God of compassion and forgiveness. More than this, as it says in the letter of St James, ‘mercy triumphs over judgement’ (Jas 2:14). This is the message we must communicate effectively.

Churches have never had a good track record when it comes to speaking about sex. To address constructively what is largely a sexually transmitted disease has been a challenge – especially when some of our cultures have significant taboos around speaking openly on matters of sex. Teaching clergy and a widening circle of lay leaders remains key in changing the attitudes within congregations and communities.

Alongside this, we are finding it is important to develop ‘grass roots’ leaders who are role models within the wider community and among their peers, particularly among young people. An additional priority to which we have become conscious is the deliberate, active and open inclusion of those who are HIV positive in leadership around the disease; and indeed in church leadership more generally. Too often in the past, others have acted ‘on behalf of’ those infected or affected by HIV, which has reinforced the message of second-class citizenry and exclusion.

There is still work to be done to ensure and maintain good levels of accurate knowledge around the disease. We are also looking at why some clergy find it harder than others to address the issues. Gender equality – or rather, prevailing inequality – is another target area – and again one in which Churches have long been part of the problem. Churches must not be afraid to develop effective collaborative partnerships with other bodies, so that comprehensive programmes can be pursued in changing both attitudes and behaviours.

Let me end with a good news story from the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town.

When church-based support groups were set up a few years ago, we found that people attended the one farthest from their home. That has since changed. Attitudes have altered in both the churches and the wider community.

The main engine of change has been this: through collaborative working of clinics, NGOs and others, nearly all women with children under 5 know their status. This has proved to be a critical mass within the community, and it has become accepted for people to be open about their status, without stigma. Knowledge is fundamental in overcoming stigma and ignorance.

Or as Jesus said ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’ (Jn 8:32). This is our goal.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Sermon at St Cyprian's Sharpeville, on 50th Anniversary of the Shootings

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11

Lord Jesus Christ, word of God made flesh – take these words and speak through them, take our minds and speak to them, and take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. Amen

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God of St Cyprian’s, Sharpeville, let me say again how glad I am to be here. Thank you, Archdeacon and Wardens, for your invitation. Thank you to all of you for the warm welcome you have given me – especially Mrs Dinkabogile, the hospitality team, and those who have taken care of security.

Today of all days, I am glad to be with you – though, as you will have seen on your way to church today, I am not the only visitor to Sharpeville this morning, with everyone up to the Acting President coming here!

Fifty years ago today, events took place only a few hundred metres from where we now stand – and just a few metres from my mother’s and grandparents’ home at 4121 Rooi, where I later spent my summer holidays - events which proved to be a significant landmark in the opposition to, and eventual downfall of, apartheid. Fifty years on, politicians and TV cameras again focus their gaze upon Sharpeville. Fine words will be spoken, rallying calls will be issued – and then what? Most of us who have come visiting today will leave. I myself am flying to the Netherlands tonight, to take part in an international conference on the response of faith communities to HIV and AIDS – for which I ask your prayers.

But what do the events of 50 years ago mean to those of you who will be here tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that? What of the Sharpeville of today, and the issues which the community faces, here and now? Let me dare to address these questions – claiming at least some identification with Sharpeville, as my late grandmother’s home; the place where my late mother grew up; and where the family still owns a house.

And let me use the readings set for today, the fifth Sunday in Lent, as the lens through which to look at events of the past and their impact upon the challenges of today. I shall begin with words from our Old Testament Lesson, from the Prophet Isaiah: ‘Thus says the Lord … Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.’

Well, on the face of it this might seem inappropriate for us today. Is God telling us to forget what happened here? Is he saying we should live as though those traumatic events of 1960 never took place? No, that is not quite the message. There is something else going on in what he has to say to us here.

Let us look at how the verses continue. The Lord says, ‘I am about to do a new thing.’ We are not to be trapped in the past. The way we relate to the past, the way we understand it, must be through the eyes of this ‘new thing’ that God does among his people.

The ‘new thing’ that is the hall-mark of God at work among us, is the way he is always bringing about new life, especially where there appears to be none. This is what we find as the words of the Lord continue, in our Isaiah passage: ‘I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth – do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ In the barrenness of a wilderness he makes a way. We are not left, lost and abandoned, in a featureless wasteland. Instead, he shows us a route forward. We are not left, thirsty in the desert – he will provide rivers for refreshment. And this refreshment is ‘to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself, so that they might declare my praise’.

God cares for his people, whom he loves, he cherishes – whom he knows by name, every single one of us. It is out of love for us that he will not leave us in circumstances where we feel lost and abandoned in a wilderness, dying of need in a barren desert. His hand of love will reach out to us – and bring us a direction forwards; and refreshment; and, most of all, the promise of life at work where we perhaps can see only death.

We see this promise fulfilled most completely, of course, in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God takes on human form, becoming incarnate – experiencing for himself what it means to ‘live with skin on’. Our God knows what it is like to suffer as a human being – to suffer in our bodies, in our minds, in our hearts, in our memories. Our God knows what it is like to go through oppression, rejection, torment; to live with emotional anguish and physical pain. Our God knows what it is like to realise that we are dying. Our God knows what it is like to experience death.

But the message of God is that death is not the last word. Death does not have the final say. Death does not triumph, in the ultimate analysis. Because Jesus, who died, was raised to new life. And we, who are baptised into his death, were also baptised into his resurrection. This is why, in two weeks’ time, on Easter Sunday, we shall join in saying ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen – we are risen.’

Earlier this month I was in Haiti. It is an experience I can hardly begin to describe. The extent of the death and destruction that we saw was beyond imagining. It is estimated that a quarter of a million people lost their lives. That figure is likely to rise, and the true number will never be known with any precision. All over the city there are mass graves – but, worse than this, countless bodies remain trapped in fallen buildings that are too unstable to enter or even, at this point, pull down. And when you walk by, you can smell that this is so. And yet, God is there, doing his ‘new thing’.

I spent time with Bishop Jean-Zaché Duracin, the Anglican Bishop in Haiti. Seventeen years of work in his Diocese is largely gone: schools, colleges, seminary – collapsed; clergy and ordinands, teachers and learners, church-workers and parishioners – killed and injured. He himself has lost his house, completely flattened; his possessions are totally destroyed; his car was crushed like a sandwich on the ground; his wife was seriously injured and evacuated to the United States for treatment. As he wept, pointing to all he had lost, he said ‘We still have to sing alleluia, for in the midst of this, Christ is risen.’ This is the message he is sharing with all his people, so they can share it with others. In the midst of death, Christ still brings life.

Therefore we come to God, with all the burdens of pain, sadness, sorrow and grief. We bring them before the throne of grace, to the one who understands what it is to be human and to suffer. We do not have to pretend that suffering doesn’t matter. We can be honest that it touches us to the very depths of our being. And then we find that loving and compassionate hands – hands that still bear the scars of the crucifixion – reach out to us, and touch us tenderly. They lift the weight of the burdens that weigh us down. They hold refreshment to our lips. They wipe away our tears. And they take hold of our hands, and lead us on the way ahead, saying ‘I will never leave you or forsake you – I am with you always to the end of time.’

As we feel their touch, we also know that these same tender hands of love have received those who are dear to us, who have passed from us in death. Yes, we must grieve those whom we have lost – yet we do so, knowing that they are now safe with the one who has conquered death; and from whose right hand, as the Psalmist says, flow delights for evermore (Ps 16:11). ‘Do not remember the past’ says the Lord – do not dwell in the past, do not be trapped in the past. But look at the past with new eyes – with the eyes of Jesus Christ, who brings new life into every situation, who redeems and transforms.

As St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, ‘In all things, God works for God, for those who love God, whom he has called, according to his purpose’ (Rom 8:28). The events of Sharpeville, 50 years ago, are a living testimony to the truth of this promise. What happened that day was terrible – over 180 injured and 69 people left dead, the youngest 12, the oldest 57, and with an average age of 30 – and after a peaceful protest. Lives were lost, or shattered for ever. This we must not forget.

Yet it was also a turning point, a milestone, on the journey towards justice, towards freedom from oppression, towards opportunity for everyone. Justice, freedom from oppression, opportunity for everyone are central to the purposes of God. They are at the heart of the ‘good news for the poor’ which Jesus tells us he came to bring. They are at the heart of what God’s people, everywhere, in every generation, are called to proclaim and to pursue.

It does not matter what church you go to, or what political party you support. What matters is whether you proclaim and pursue the purposes of God – of justice, freedom, equality, and good news for the poor.

This was true of life in Sharpeville, and across South Africa, fifty years ago. It remains true of life in Sharpeville, and across South Africa, today.

Jesus warns his disciples about forming cliques, and wanting to control how other people further his good news for all humanity. They complain that someone who is ‘not of our group’ is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. ‘We told him to stop, because he was not one of us’ we read in St Mark’s gospel (Mk 9:40). But Jesus responds ‘Do not stop him … for whoever is not against us is for us.’ This must be the touchstone for today. It is not a question of which group you belong to; whether you are ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’. What matters is whether you are for Jesus Christ, and for the purposes of God for the peace and well-being of all his children in his world.

This is what God asks of us, and this is what God honours, when we dare to live our lives this way. As we pursue God’s purposes, he will work in us and through us, to ensure those purposes are furthered and achieved. In our Epistle reading, we heard how St Paul tells the Philippians that he has made Jesus Christ the central focus of his life. He says ‘I regard everything as loss, because of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord.’ Indeed, he gets quite carried away, with a rhetorical style that would put any politician of today in the shade! He says ‘I regard [all other things] as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.’

Nothing matters to St Paul as much as Jesus – and of living life as Jesus would have him live, following Jesus’ own example, living according to Jesus’ own righteousness – ‘the righteousness of God, based on faith’. This can help us in knowing how best to bring about justice and bring good news to the poor. It does not help us, it does not help others, if our actions are no better than those we oppose. This is not to say that we should be passive and weak – no, we must stand up and be counted, and we must raise our voices, for what is right and good and true and honest and just and fair. In a democratic system, under one of the best Constitutions in the world, we must use all democratic and constitutional avenues open to us.

I will be using just these avenues in the next few months to express two particular concerns.

The first is the question of how NERSA can raise electricity tariffs for domestic and most other consumers – while Eskom has secret ‘sweetheart’ arrangements behind our backs with major companies. Not only do they receive energy at favoured rates, they seem to be paying less than the electricity actually costs – and the rest of us are paying for this.

The second relates to allegations of the abuse of both the principle and the letter of BEE regulations, designed to redress the economic inequities of the apartheid era. There are reports which suggest that the ruling party, through Chancellor House and its stake in Hitachi, stands to receive vast sums, perhaps billions, in Eskom’s construction of new power stations.

The legality of this, if true, is certainly suspect at best. More than this, it is a fundamental abuse of all that good governance entails. It is completely unacceptable, and a blatant abuse of power, if government is both referee and player in such games of wheeler dealing, acting for its own self-interest. I feel it is my responsibility to use the opportunities the office of Archbishop gives me, to be God’s instrument for justice, especially economic freedom and equal opportunity for all, and not merely the well-connected few, in these matters.

Let us return again to the words of the prophet Isaiah. The Lord promises us a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, drink for his people. If we rely on him, we will find his right way forward, we will find his refreshment for us – and of course, here we think of Jesus, who is for us the water of life, promising that if we drink of him, we will never thirst. This is the way to find, as St Paul found, the power of the resurrection at work within our own lives, and the life of our families, our communities.

This is true for us in Sharpeville. It is true for us as we look back to the past, seeing the tragedy through the eyes of our compassionate Saviour. It is true for us today, with all the challenges of the political landscape, of municipal failings and flawed governance, of inadequacies in service delivery. And it is true for the people of Haiti, who dare to lament the death and devastation they experience, with hope in their hearts.

So let me end by summing up what I have been saying. God’s calling to his people, always and everywhere, is to be true followers of Jesus Christ, who came to ‘bring good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed’. This is equally true: whether in the face of the political impoverishment and oppression of the past; or in relation to contemporary economic hardships and crises of service delivery today.

It does not matter whether we are priests or politicians or people just going about our every-day life. What matters is that all those who strove in the past, and who now strive for God’s purposes of justice, freedom, equality, peace, good news for the poor, should receive our honour and recognition – they certainly are acknowledged in the sight of God. And we should follow in their footsteps, in what we strive for, and the way we strive for it – following the example of God in Jesus Christ, who offers us life wherever death appears to be at work.

So let us commit ourselves to this course, saying with St Paul, ‘Forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.’

May he bless us in this, and make us a blessing to others. Amen

Saturday 20 March 2010

Address to RSCM Ecumenical Indaba, 19 March 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Bishopscourt, for this Royal School of Church Music Ecumenical Indaba.

It is good to see old friends and to greet new faces. I’m particularly glad to be able to welcome Mr Lindsay Gray, Director of the RSCM, not only to Bishopscourt but also to South Africa. May God bless your time here. We hold you in our prayers as you meet, asking that God will bless your time together, and guide you in taking forward the conclusions that you reach here today.

‘Be filled with the Spirit’ writes St Paul to the Ephesians, ‘as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph 5:18,19).

The RSCM is certainly something for which many of us give great thanks, for all that you have contributed to the worshipping life of Christian people round the world, as you have grown and developed since your foundation in 1927. Good music, well-integrated with good liturgy, has the capacity greatly to enhance the mission and ministry of God’s people in God’s world.

Yet it is no secret that this is not always easy to achieve, and, if achieved, to sustain. The context of South Africa – indeed, Southern Africa, for many of our churches – provides more challenges than I suspect are faced in most areas of the world. Diversity is the codeword for our greatly differing languages, cultures, traditions, theological emphases, ecclesiological styles, resources, educational levels, and more besides.

Images of harmonies and symphonies come to mind!

Within Anglicanism we have everything from imposing cathedrals to tiny rural chapelries, from considerable affluence to great poverty, and spanning 7 nations and 13 languages. Others here today may have similar breadth. Addressing all these situations is no mean feat.

Yet they all have their strengths, and all can be sources of great enrichment and dynamic and stimulating cross-fertilisation – not least when we come together.

I like to hope that my own service of Installation as Archbishop, managed appropriately to draw on sources as diverse as Schubert and Kudu horns. David Orr, organist and Director of Music at St George’s Cathedral, participating in this Indaba, is one of those who composed some pieces especially for the service, including a particularly lovely rendering of the gospel, read in various languages and interspersed with choral responses – for which I remain grateful. Those of you who were there, indeed, who contributed music to the occasion, will be better judges than I of what does and doesn’t work on such occasions.

Within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, one of the ten priority areas we have identified for the Province as a whole, as part of renewing our vision through to 2020, is ‘Liturgical renewal for transformative worship’. As we unpack what we mean by this, we have given ourselves various touchstones.

The first is our desire for worship that is ‘vibrant, inclusive, contextual and life-changing, while remaining in touch with our liturgical inheritance’. As if this were not enough of a challenge, we have said that inter-generational issues and the perspectives of young people need to be taken into account. We have also looked at the wider picture, and identified the imperatives of justice and reconciliation, as well as of gender equality and poverty, as further matters that must be kept before us.

It’s a tall order – and of course, music plays no small part in this. I’m glad there are those among you today who would call yourselves primarily liturgists rather than musicians. Both are needed, working together in the service of the Church and its people, in the life to which God calls us.

Again, images of harmonies and symphonies come to mind.

And as you look at all the different options on which to draw, the different contexts for operating, the different needs to be met, you will know better than I, what these analogies might mean in practice – whether in terms of the harmonies of similar voices singing different tunes; or the glorious breadth of sound and texture that can be achieved with a full orchestra of different instruments, each contributing parts best suited to their own particular distinctive qualities.

Perhaps too our understanding of the Godhead as Trinity can help us here: God the Father, creator, as the great composer; God the Son, incarnate, as both conductor and leader of the orchestra that is humanity; God the Spirit, breathing life into the notes on the page, and animating us all in our performance.

Ah yes, reflecting on the Trinity brings me to a final point, perhaps the most important of all. For, no matter how carefully crafted are the words of our liturgies; no matter how precisely the liturgy is put together and choreographed; no matter how technically excellent the music – worship is actually not a ‘performance’. It is about our humble encounter with the living God. And as the Psalmist says, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, their labour is but lost that build it’ (to quote the version of Ps 127:1 in our Psalter).

Our worship must all be rooted and grounded in a living relationship with our living Lord – open to him, for him to meet us in and through it, and to use it as he wills. So, though we strive for excellence in our music, our liturgy, our worship – and though we bring our professional best to all our planning and preparation and execution – we must do so conscious of seeking his guiding and direction, and also his joyous inspiring and encouraging, every step of the way. For surely this is what it means to worship ‘in spirit and in truth’.

So, to conclude, I hope to hear you ‘making a joyful noise unto the Lord’ as you continue your work. May God bless you in your debating and discussing. And may he make you a blessing to others, through all you decide here, and take forward in the days and months and years ahead.

And to God be the glory, now and for always. Amen.

Friday 19 March 2010

Archbishop in Sharpeville on 50th Anniversary of Shootings

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, will preach in Sharpeville Sunday, 21 March 2010, on the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Shootings.

The Archbishop will be leading the 9am Service at St Cyprian’s Church, which stands 500 metres from the 1960 shootings.

In his sermon, Archbishop Makgoba is expected to reflect on what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, who came to ‘bring good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed’ – whether in the face of the political impoverishment and oppression of the past, or in relation to contemporary economic hardships and crises of service delivery. All those who strive for such ends should receive honour and recognition, regardless of what part of society they come from, since they are most certainly acknowledged in the sight of God.

This will be Dr Makgoba’s first visit to Sharpeville since becoming Archbishop at the beginning of 2008. The Archbishop’s mother and grandmother were from Sharpeville, and the family still own property there.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Archbishop of Cape Town to Visit Haiti

Press Release

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, will leave Cape Town on 2 March 2010 for a pastoral visit to Haiti.

The purpose of the visit is to give tangible expression to the mutual commitment shared across the world-wide Anglican Communion that 'when one part weeps, all suffer together'. The Archbishop will spend time in supporting Bishop Jean-Zaché Duracin, both personally and in the care of his clergy and people, following January's devastating earthquake. Dr Makgoba will present an initial cheque for $15,000 donated by his parishioners in Southern Africa, towards the Diocese of Haiti's relief and reconstruction work, and discuss how further funds raised in Southern Africa for Haiti might best be used. At the end of his visit the Archbishop will travel with Bishop Duracin to Florida, where his wife is in hospital in a stable condition, following treatment for injuries sustained during the earthquake. (Bishop Duracin himself visited the Anglican Church in Southern Africa in 1999, as part of a delegation from The Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Peace with Justice.)

The visit is being made in partnership with The Episcopal Church, of which the Diocese of Haiti is a part. The Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, will accompany Archbishop Makgoba, as will the Revd Canon Robert Butterworth, the Provincial Executive Office of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The Archbishop will go to Haiti under the generous auspices of the South African NGO, The Gift of The Givers Foundation. Dr Makgoba will be travelling with Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of the Foundation which has played such a prominent role in bringing immediate search and rescue and medical relief to Haiti and is now bringing longer-term relief to those in need. Dr Makgoba will accompany Dr Sooliman on visits to projects supported by The Gifts of the Givers, and the South Africans currently in Haiti under their auspices, who work closely with local partners, including the Roman Catholic and other churches.

Notes: The visit follows the endorsement given by Archbishop Makgoba for the 'Africa for Haiti' initiative launched by Mrs Graça Machel. The text of the Archbishop's message may be found at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2010_01_01_archive.html. Further details of the initiative are available at www.africaforhaiti.com.

Those who still wish to make donations via the Anglican Church can do so as follows: Account Name: CPSA Disaster Relief Fund; Standard Bank of SA Lts; Branch - Cape Town, IBT Cod 02 000; Account Number 07 007 834.

Archbishop Makgoba will return to Cape Town on 9 March 2010.