Monday 15 April 2013

To the Laos - To the People of God, Easter, and Theological Education

Dear People of God

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! We are Risen! Alleluia! In this glorious Easter Season, may all the fullness of Christ’s gift of abundant life, overflow for you in joy and hope and peace!

As you may recall, in 2011, at the suggestion of Revd Prof Barney Pityana, Rector of the College of the Transfiguration, Provincial Standing Committee declared 2013 the ‘Year of Theological Education’ with the theme From Root to Branch. Our aim is to affirm and consolidate theological education as central to the Province, and particularly promote and develop the role played by COTT. This is at the heart of our fundamental strategy of ensuring that both ordained and lay leaders are well-equipped for guiding, directing, and encouraging the life of ACSA and its members: in our ministry within our parishes and in our mission to the world at every level.

One of the central objectives of this year is to provide a firm financial basis for COTT. We are therefore asking every Anglican who is able to donate R100 (or more, if you feel moved to do so!) towards this, through your parishes, in a special collection that will be made on Theological Education Sunday, 18 August. I am writing about this now, so that you may prepare for this special Sunday – not only by putting a small donation aside each week in readiness, but also through praying regularly for the College, and for all who teach and study there. May they grow in wisdom and knowledge and love of God, and so be prepared to fulfil their God-given vocations. (A note for clergy – we are expecting to produce a range of all-age resources for use on 18 August. Do watch out for these!)

However, it is not necessary to wait until August if you want to support COTT and its work. If you would like to make a donation, this can be done by making a deposit directly to the Provincial Trusts’ Board bank account, details of which are as follows:

Bank: Standard bank of S A Ltd
Branch: Thibault Square
Branch code: 02 09 09
Account number: 07 056 2423
Account name: Provincial Trusts’ Board

Please mark any donations clearly as ‘Theological Education Fund’

We are very blessed to have this resource of a full-time seminary within our Province, and one of the ways we are able to show our gratitude to God is to ‘give back’ through making its facilities available to those in greater need.

You may remember that, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, one of the ways we committed to supporting that Diocese in its rebuilding was to fund a seminarian through three years of study in Grahamstown. It has been a great joy to have Jean Daniel Fils at COTT, and he will be completing his qualifications later this year – thanks to the considerable generosity of so many of you.

Closer to home, the dioceses in Zimbabwe have, as you all know, have had to struggle against considerable persecution in recent years. Thanks be to God, this seems to be over, and finally, through the courts, their cathedrals, churches, other properties and institutions and organisations have all been returned to their uncontested control. At the beginning of this month, the Diocese of Manicaland is holding special services in their Cathedral and another church, to mark their return and to ask God’s cleansing and healing of all the past traumas that have been perpetrated there. They too need our sustained support as they recover and go forward, and, moved by all that they have faced, I have stuck out my neck and pledged that we in ACSA will sponsor two bursaries for three years’ study at COTT – believing in faith that, once again, we will come together in providing this tangible long-term investment in their future.

The effect of my pledge is that there is a need to raise a bursary of R65 000 per annum for each of these Zimbabwean students. This amount will cover the tuition, boarding, book allowance and a monthly student allowance. I believe that this very tangible support will reap immense long term benefits for the church in Zimbabwe. Therefore I urge generous support for our sister church.

If you would like to support the Anglican Church within Zimbabwe, you can make a donation to the same account as given above, but clearly mark all such donations as ‘Zimbabwe Bursary Fund’.

Investing for the future of our brothers and sisters in Christ in this way can be seen as participating in the essence of Easter – the bringing of new life, new hope, which Jesus does, so fundamentally, through the cross and resurrection. Newness of life within the church is very much in evidence at the moment, with both a new Pope and a new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Let me quote from both of them. First, from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon at his enthronement, comes a message of Christian confidence:

"There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed."

It was a glorious service, and Lungi and I were so glad to be there. It was good also to have the chance to meet him and his family in person the following day. We promise our new ‘ABC’ our support, and prayers, and we continue to pray for the Anglican Communion, hoping all may share in the new energy and enthusiasm he brings at this time. We hope that soon we will be able to host Archbishop Justin in our Province.

Second, Pope Francis, in his message ‘Orbi et Urbi’, to the city of Rome and to the world, on Easter Sunday, also spoke of the tangible hope that Christ’s death and resurrection offer to us all:

"Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14)."

For us in Southern Africa, the same is true – that we can expect to know the reality of Easter impacting upon us, whoever we are, wherever we find ourselves. All we need to do is to hear Jesus’ call ‘Follow me’ and to have the courage to step out, and put our hand in his.

May you come to know the truth of this in your own life, and in the lives of those around you. A blessed Easter to you all

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town