Tuesday 15 June 2010

To the Laos - To the People of God, June 2010

Dear People of God

Well, the World Cup is finally upon us! As I have said to journalists, though I know I ought to pray for the best team to win, nonetheless my heart is with Bafana Bafana! Nonetheless, I hope you will join with me in the following simple prayer, throughout the time of the Tournament.

God bless the 2010 World Cup:

bless those who compete, and those who watch,

bless those who host, and those who visit,

and help all who love the 'the beautiful game'

grow in the love you have given us to share

through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Meanwhile, the church’s year rolls on. We have just observed Pentecost, which completes the cycle of Lent, Passion and Easter, with our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Helper, the Sustainer, the Sanctifier, the One who leads us into all Truth. In Hebrew, the word for Spirit and breath are the same, and I sometimes think of the Spirit as being the oxygen of the life of faith – the breath of life, which we must keep on breathing if we are to stay alive! Our baptism signifies the coming of the Spirit to live within us, as those whose lives are dedicated to God, and we pray for the confirmation and strengthening of the Spirit within us at confirmation. The Spirit is for all of us, not just those we think of as leaders within the church.

In the confirmation prayers, we speak of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of discernment and inner strength, of knowledge and true godliness. This should give us confidence that, whatever we face, the Spirit will help us know what to do, and give us the courage to pursue it.

I thought of this last month when I was in the Diocese of Zululand, celebrating with Bishop Dino and his clergy and people the 140th anniversary of their founding. The Diocese has seen many turbulent times during those years – from the Anglo-Zulu wars in its earliest period through to the troubled times of the struggle, especially as the promise of democracy began to dawn. As I look back, I am sure it was the oxygen of the Spirit, whose inner strength gave courage to the people of God to hold fast in faithfulness, recognising the faithfulness of God to them through thick and thin.

As I visited Nongoma, Nquthu and Ulundi, meeting His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini, and iNkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as well as clergy and people of the Diocese, I realised how much we still need the discernment of the Holy Spirit, especially in understanding what is the authentic expression of the gospel within the various cultures of Southern Africa. We know that we do not have to become Victorian ladies and gentlemen – as some of the early missionaries and clergy thought! Yet we need great wisdom in understanding what parts of the traditional cultures of the countries of our Provinces are compatible with the eternal truths of the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit, that not only spoke all the languages of those present at the first Pentecost, but who also can translate the gospel fluently into all the cultures of today’s world, to whom we must continue to look, in our quest for discernment. Such discernment will also be our greatest help in knowing how to engage confidently with the many challenges and questions of contemporary politics.

Sadly, one lady collapsed and later died, at the Eucharist at St Augustine’s Mission at Nquthu. And yet her family said to me that there was nowhere where she would have wanted to be more, for such a thing to happen. It was a wonderful testimony that our faith in our Lord’s resurrection is for us far more than just words.

The week after my visit to Zululand, I was in London for more celebrations Рthe 50th anniversary of the Southern African Church Development Trust, founded by Harold Wilson and Arthur Spencer-Payne. As many of you will know from their work in your own parishes, the SACDT supports the building of community centres and churches, classrooms and hostels, educational programmes and student bursaries. It also funds special projects such as primary health care in mission hospitals and more recently Aids clinics, cr̬ches and educare centres across Southern Africa.

We had a wonderful Eucharist at the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. The Church community has long been a faithful friend of Southern Africa, almost next door to South Africa House on the side of Trafalgar Square, which, after so many years of demonstrations outside, now houses our High Commission – which was represented at the Service. Members of both the Wilson and Spencer-Payne families were also there, along with Revd Dr Jack Mulder, the Trust’s Director of Projects. Later this year, a plaque will be dedicated in the church of All Saints, Somerset West to mark the vision of the two founders. I then had an opportunity to speak at an inter-religious gathering at Blackburn Cathedral.

Back home, preparations continue for Provincial Synod. I promised to say more about the eight priority themes for our 2020 Vision. Let me address two here. First, liturgy – where we aim to strengthen the Liturgical Commission to do more in developing and disseminating resources that will support local congregations in worship that is vibrant, inclusive, contextual and life-changing, while remaining in touch with our liturgical heritage. We also want to look more closely at inter-generational issues and the perspectives of young people. Second, theological education, where the Province’s role is providing overall shape and direction, in both teaching and spiritual formation for lay and ordained Anglicans, in ways that serve the whole family of God in our Province, in the living out of our vision.

Finally, while I was in London, by chance was able to go to a service in the chapel at Lambeth Palace. It was a few days after Pentecost and Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke about the Holy Spirit as the ‘Divine Intruder’, whom we cannot keep out of our lives. Returning to Cape Town as winter is really upon us, and it is impossible to keep the wind from coming through the old window frames at Bishopscourt, I am reminded what a wonderful metaphor this is for the breath of God, which, as we read in John’s gospel, ‘blows where it will’ (Jn 3:8).

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

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