Saturday 31 August 2013

To the Laos - To the People of God, August 2013 - and July 2013

Here is this month's To the Laos letter, and below it follows the letter for July 2013, which, though sent out, did not make it onto the blog, in what was a very busy month.

Dear People of God

As August comes to an end, many of us have been reflecting on the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I have a dream’.

On 28 August 1963, he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and addressed over a quarter of a million civil rights supporters who had joined in the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’. He was the last speaker at the end of a long rally, and the crowd was tired. Prompted by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson saying ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin!’ he departed from his prepared text and launched into the passionate words that are now so well remembered. I do encourage you to read them again, as he speaks of the self-evident truth that everyone is created equal, of the call to sit together at one table of fellowship, of freedom – God’s freedom – ringing loud and clear. Many churches, in the USA and around the world, commemorated the day with peals of bells.

Martin Luther King stirred the crowds as he said, ‘Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.’

These words are an inspiration for all of us, when we look at all the challenges and problems that face our societies and our churches. They are also inspiring words to direct us towards Provincial Synod, in the first week of October. Every three years, the full representative body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa meets – and this year, now with 28 Dioceses, will be our largest Synod ever, with some 180 episcopal, clerical and lay delegates, as well as representatives of the Youth and various Provincial organisations, invited guests and staff.

Our theme is ‘A Vision for Education – Education for a Vision’. When we met three years ago, we affirmed and celebrated our new Vision and Mission Statement – that Anglicans ACT, Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit’. Our work now to take forward our Vision, including through the priority areas for action at Provincial level, inevitably must include an educative element, in order to ensure that all we do is communicated across our Province, so it can be accessed as ‘user friendly resources’ for dioceses, parishes and people.

Anyone who has been reading my recent letters will know that we have been prioritising Theological Education this year, as we establish an endowment fund for the College of the Transfiguration. Ensuring we can produce, and keep producing, well-trained ordained and lay leaders, is an essential foundation stone for the church’s future. I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has made donations, including on Theological Education Sunday. We have received some remarkably generous gifts – though, as I write, the money is still coming in so I cannot tell you yet how much we have raised. At Synod, we will hear a keynote address from Revd Canon Professor Barney Pityana, Rector of COTT.

Education is also a vital part of moving forward in all other areas. Therefore, looking at what needs to be done from this perspective will be a major task of our group discussions around our Vision and how we support the whole life of ACSA. This is part of the leadership that we, as Synod members, are called upon to offer to the rest of our Province. Another of our keynote speakers, Revd Professor Bev Haddad, will address us about leadership – both within the church, and in how we encourage and equip Anglicans to be good and confident leaders in whatever walks of life God calls each one to serve.

Education should be a life-long task. None of us ever reach a point where we can stop learning! That said, education is especially rooted in how we bring up our children, nurturing them in mind, heart, soul, and body. Professor Mary Metcalfe will be our third keynote speaker, helping us get to grips better with this vital theme. Since we last met, we have made great strides in taking forward the Archbishop’s Initiative in Education, including through the registration of the Anglican Board of Education in Southern Africa as an NPO, thanks particularly to the hard work of Bishop Peter Lee and his team – and, as I have written about in previous letters, there are many other exciting initiatives developing across the Province.

Another important area of our work relates to the rejuvenation of the Canon Law Society, and the work we are doing particularly to update our disciplinary canons. Though at first glance this might appear to indicate that we are becoming more ‘legalistic’, in fact the reverse is our true aim! We live in a world where increasingly people rush to litigation as the first solution in any disagreement – whereas we want to show that our rules and regulations, properly understood, can provide far more effective frameworks for handling differences and disagreements among us. This is the same approach that underlay our Pastoral Standards: having clear, well-understood, guidelines actually gives us greater freedom in living as the people of God in this area. Without such education in how canon law can be such a good servant, but poor master, we risk going further down the road of spending far too much of our parishioners’ generous giving on legal action over issues that should have been handled in far more godly, Christian, ways.

Alongside this, we shall conduct our usual business, from looking at the place of the church in the wider world, through to the details of our own administration and finances. The Second Agenda book also gives notice of a wide range of motions, on everything from the alcohol and drug abuse through to eco-congregations and sustainable energy, from the structure of Synod to the election and retirement age of Bishops, from a provincial conference centre to the Anglican Covenant, and more besides. If you can, I encourage you to find out who your Diocesan representatives are, and to engage with them on these issues.

And whatever else, please pray for them, and for all of us as we prepare to meet in Kopanong in October. Below you will find the Collect, written to guide us.

Meanwhile, I am sure you are keeping the traumas of the world in your prayers – especially Syria and Egypt. At home we continue to hold Madiba before the throne of grace. May God’s peace flow like a mighty river, wherever it is needed.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Lord of all wisdom, you led your people through the wilderness
in the cloud by day and the fire by night:
grant to all who gather in Provincial Synod
the grace to listen to your direction
the assurance of the inspiration of your Spirit,
and the joy to celebrate your presence in prayer and praise
that all may be done to your honour and glory;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour
who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen

To the Laos – July 2013

Dear People of God

Last week, Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday – to the great relief of so very many of us. We thank God for the continuing life of South Africa’s former President, and pray that in his frailty he may know God’s strength and comfort, in body, mind, heart and soul.

And we also dare to ask, in the ancient words of those prayers used as evening falls, that God will grant dear Madiba ‘a peaceful night and a perfect end’, in God’s own perfect timing. At the end of this long life of faithful service, we pray that he may know the assurance of God’s compassionate presence, and know that Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life, has opened the gates of paradise to all who hear his voice and follow his call. We pray also that Me Graça, Madiba’s children and grandchildren, and all who love him, may know God’s strengthening in this long time of watching and waiting – that his peace may enfold them, and help them to find a good and holy way forward, through all the struggles with which they have battled in recent weeks.

This year, more than most, as Madiba’s birthday approached, I found myself giving thought to how best to celebrate this remarkable man and most appropriately honour his legacy. How should I spend 67 minutes serving others, in order to honour the 67 years of service of his life?

What I did was to join in a ‘human chain’ stretching along the Klipfontein Road, through the Rondebosch, Athlone and Gugulethu areas of Cape Town – several thousand of us waving flags and singing joyfully, despite drizzle! Yet I must admit that when I first heard the idea, I thought twice. Was this just ‘gesture politics’ and an easy way out of doing something more tangible with my 67 minutes?

But when I thought about it, I reached a different conclusion. For on Mandela Day we are asked to spend some time taking action that will help change the world, in ways that honour Nelson Mandela’s own example, in his life of service for the good of South Africa and its people. And Madiba’s example is that of a man with a servant heart, whose words and actions were driven by his dream – the dream of a united, democratic, non-racial, South Africa.

It struck me that if we do not make this dream our own vision, if this is not the foundation stone on which we base our lives and build our future, then all our other 67 minutes of service risk being undermined or diminished. For we need to tackle not only the symptoms of our wounded society, but their causes. And the persistence of past divisions – exacerbated now by growing new economic fault-lines – are amongst our most fundamental problems.

The Klipfontein Road in many ways illustrates the core issue: three distinct, separate communities were positioned at a distance from each other along its length. In contrast, our Human Chain was a living demonstration of our commitment to breaking down past divisions and building up a new reality in which we are all connected, all belonging to one another, and joined in the common life of our city and in the shared future which we create together in Cape Town and South Africa.

All this is ‘gospel-shaped work’. For, St Paul wrote, ‘God … has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Cor 5:18). And through Christ ‘God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (Col 1:20).

Wherever there is division, mistrust and suspicion, evil can find a foothold. The spiritual cracks between us become fertile soil for other divisions to flourish, bearing destructive fruit in every part of life. When we dare to step into these breaches with prayer, God will pour in his healing compassion, reaching out and drawing others closer to himself in redeeming love. We are called to be channels of this love, so others may come to know God in Jesus Christ by his Spirit, for themselves.

Sometimes people ask me if I think Madiba is a saint. Well, it depends on what you mean by saint! I don’t agree, if it means we consider his life so miraculous that it is impossible for anyone to follow his example. But the New Testament calls all God’s people ‘saints’, with some translations clearly reflecting this Greek word, as St Paul’s begins his letters with ‘greetings to the saints’ or ‘to those called to be saints’, in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae … Indeed, God calls each one of us – Nelson Mandela, you, me, whoever we are – to let ourselves be used by him, for his purposes in his world. This is the true meaning of being a saint. And while he may not use us in spectacular ways, he will certainly use us in ways that are significant for the building of his kingdom.

So then, let us honour Madiba, not only for 67 minutes once a year, but throughout our lives, by following God’s call, to be his ministers of reconciliation, his channels of love, his saints in his world. We can make every day a Mandela day! We are now looking at whether we can form human chains on some other specific day of the year – perhaps on Heritage Day, with the chain marking our links with the past and our determination to forge a better future, in the way we commit ourselves to breaking down old divisions and building new relationships, which uphold Madiba’s vision of a united, non-racial, equal society.

Human chains can be used as a powerful sign and symbol of commitment to transcend any divisions, past or present. And those who come together can sing, pray, and even dance a little! Then you might do as we did – pray specifically for Madiba, with thanksgiving for all he has achieved, and all he has challenged us to become, as well as praying for his comfort now. Then, after a little silent reflection, we said the pledge together. You will find the text at the end of this letter – please do use it wherever it can help us go forward in reconciliation, hope, and commitment to the shared good, that echoes all that God desires for people everywhere. Then we sang the national anthem.

And please do send in photos of your chains – or post them on Facebook (you can see many photos of what we did on the Klipfontein Road, on the ‘Human Chain - Mandela Day’ FB page). I hope that we might be able to gather some of these pictures together, and send them through to Madiba

In my last letter, I wrote at length about ensuring firm foundations for future training and formation of ordained and lay leaders, including through the Theological Endowment Fund for supporting the College of the Transfiguration. As part of this, I am asking every member of ACSA to make a special donation, on Theological Education Sunday, 18 August, of R10, or R100, or whatever you can manage.

You will be glad to know that I believe that Bishops should offer leadership in this as in all other matters – and therefore I have pledged R1000 out of my own pocket, for the Fund, and am challenging all the other ACSA bishops to match me, or even do better!

This month we congratulate Revd Canon Cynthia Botha, who heads the Publications Committee, on achieving 30 years on the staff of the Province. She started out as secretary to the Provincial Liaison Officer, who was then the future Archbishop, Njongonkulu Ndungane, and then to his successor Bishop John Carter. When he retired, she became secretary part time to both Emma Mashinini, who headed the CPSA’s Department of Justice and Reconciliation and to Publishing, taking on Publishing full time when the departments closed down. We thank you, Cynthia, and we thank God, for your long years of dedicated service!

This month was also the tenth anniversary of the consecrations of Bishops André Soares of Angola and Mark van Koevering of Niassa. There were rather more celebrations in Niassa, where they held their once-every-three-years Diocesan Synod. At the end of this they held a Diocesan Family Day, inaugurated a church dedicated to the first ever Mozambican priest, Yohannah Abdallah, and, as if that were not enough, compounded the joyful celebrations with the ordination of the first two Mozambican women to the diaconate, alongside four other deacons! We thank God for them all, with particular prayers for Reverends Claudina Cabral and Albertina Mucona as they begin this new ministry.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town



Sermon of Thanksgiving - Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi

This is an edited version of the sermon preached in Ulundi on 26 August 2013, at the service of thanksgiving to mark the 85th birthday of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi

1 Corinthians 3:11-14
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.

May I speak in the name of God, our firm foundation and our true reward.

Today is truly a day of great celebration and thanksgiving! Thank you, for the privilege of being the one who gets to stand here now, and voice our joy, and our appreciation. First, my dear Prince, my friend – we congratulate you on your birthday, tomorrow. And we congratulate you also on this splendid statue.

It is of course to the statue itself that our eyes are drawn. Yet, if we pause to reflect, we realise that it could stand there, so impressive and so imposing, if it did not rest upon a solid, stable, firm foundation. And of course, exactly the same is true of you, my Prince, in real life. So, as we give thanks today for your long life, we also give thanks to the one who is faithful to all his children, whose steadfast love for each one of us never ceases.

We thank God that, so many years ago, at the knee of your mother, Princess Magogo, herself a staunch and faithful Anglican, he planted within you the seeds of faith. We thank him that throughout the years since, he has nourished that seed, giving you the gift of faith so you could grow in his love, and bear much fruit. We thank God that he has walked with you, in all the challenges of your life – from the public, political, sphere, through to the way you pursued family life, upholding the pattern of Christian marriage with your wife, and later in the sorrow and pain of losing children.

We thank God for the grace and courage which he gave you, to speak so frankly about the effects of HIV and AIDS on your family – especially at a time when there was so much stigma and such conspiracies of silence. These were issues for which our churches had to bear some of the responsibility. Your honest speaking [especially your heart-breaking words at the funeral of Princess Mandisi] was the task of a prophetic leader – someone who speaks God’s truth so others may see life as it truly is. You helped take forward the public discourse of the nation, when it was sorely needed. And you encouraged the Church to move more decisively into a place of speaking and acting with greater honesty and compassion. The whole nature of how we deal with HIV and AIDS in our country is now completely changed – and though it is an uphill struggle, the signs are that we can move in the right direction, if we persevere. For this we thank you.

The stance which you took on this issue illustrates for me one of the key messages of our reading today from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This reminds us that the true value of what we say and do rests with God. It does not matter what we achieve – or what we fail to achieve – in the eyes of the world. Earthly money, and power, and status, and popularity are neither here nor there as far as Heaven is concerned. Yet what God judges to be important, has eternal significance. What we say and do today, that is right in his eyes, is like a pebble thrown into the pond of eternity. The ripples have effect that lasts for ever.

And this can be a source of great courage for us – to stand up and speak out what is right and true, no matter whether it goes against the grain, either in society or within the Church. Dear Prince – here, I have learnt something from you! I have known your family since 1984-85, when Prince Zuzi and I met and became friends in our student days. Since becoming Archbishop, I have had the privilege of getting to know you better. I was deeply touched by the message you sent me when I was elected, and that you have continued to remain in touch. Over the years, I have been grateful for your hospitality (especially on my visit here 4 years ago), and for your support, in more ways than I can count.

But when it comes to speaking out, I shall not forget your wise advice – which you may recall, from that occasion when we were both sharing a stage with F W de Klerk. You warned me then, ‘Your Grace – never speak without reading from your text. For otherwise, the press are bound to misquote you, and make a feast out of it.’ Well, I have taken that to heart – at least, most of the time. But I hope you will forgive an Archbishop who at least sometimes finds he must speak from the heart, and from the soul!

And I am confident that you will understand this, for I know very well that your heart and soul are more than merely in balance with your head! For I know you best for your great laughter, and your courage – a word that comes from the Latin for ‘heart’. And I know you for your love – of your people, and your God, and his Church.

It was right and fitting that the Anglican Church should award you the Order of St Simon of Cyrene, our highest accolade to lay people. For, despite the many and weighty demands on your time, you have been a faithful servant of the church in many capacities over long years – including at the historic 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto. You have also been a regular participant in Diocesan and Provincial Synods, and served our church in many other capacities. In addition, of course, you have been a devoted lay-minister, with long service at St Mary’s. All of these, I know, will withstand the test of fire.

More than this, I thank you for the way you have shown how the life of faith informs and helps shape a life spent in the public spotlight. You challenge others to explore how Christ calls us all to servant leadership. As we look at your life, we too must never forget that whatever earthly power and authority we may have, always finding its true identity in the greater power and authority which comes from our Lord and Saviour, the Servant King. We too must never forget that to stand firm, to stand tall, we also must stand on the one sure foundation, who is Jesus Christ – and then build faithfully with whatever material he gives us; using whatever opportunities come our way to serve him and serve his people and his world.

St Paul tells us that when we build on the true foundation, we shall receive the reward. And of course the reward is Jesus Christ himself: knowing what it is to be united with him in all the greatness of his love, and receiving in full measure all that he has won for us, in this life and in the life to come.

Therefore today, it is with overflowing hearts, that we give thanks to God for his loving presence among us – for all he does for us, and especially for all he has done for you, and through you, my friend. We bless his holy name for the gift that he has made you to so many, over such long years. And we ask, with confidence, that he will continue to bless you, preserve you, and keep you, in the years ahead, and for always. Amen.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Our dream will survive Marikana

This is the Sunday Independent opinion column from 18 August 2013

Our horror derives from our belief that such things should never happen in the new South Africa, says Thabo Makgoba.

Cape Town - ‘Where were you when you heard about…?” Different generations are marked by how they complete the sentence: Sharpeville, the assassination of President John F Kennedy or of Martin Luther King, the moon landing, the unbanning of political parties, Nelson Mandela’s release, 9/11. But there can hardly be any South African who was untouched by the traumatic scenes at Marikana a year ago. The whole nation was rocked to its core. Surely this is a thing of the past, we said. Surely this cannot happen in the new South Africa. But it did. And where are we now, a year on?

I believe we must acknowledge that we have not done all that we could or should have in response to the terrible tragedy, both for those directly concerned and for the life of the nation and our sense of who we are, as South Africans, and who we want to become.

Anglicans have been engaged on various levels. I have visited Marikana, and contributed to the memorial service. Other clergy have been involved. Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria was trying to bring mediation at the time of the shootings, gave evidence to the commission headed by Judge Ian Farlam (himself a faithful Anglican), and continues to be active, including in his role as president of the SA Council of Churches. Through the council and with other partners, we have offered assistance, especially spiritually, wherever we can. We have tried to bring pastoral care to the bereaved, injured and traumatised. We have also distributed food parcels, clothes and other material help – some of which was given by generous donors from outside our churches. We have aimed to walk with all those affected, and to support processes which promote healing and wholeness, further justice, and create new and better future realities.

But despite the hard work, dedication and perseverance of many, we are a long way short of where we would like to be. We have so far failed in pressing the government to fund the lawyers representing the families of the dead miners at the Farlam Commission. We could have worked harder to promote a national climate in which all of us share a broad consensus that encourages more widespread and urgent action, and not only in Marikana. For it seems we have fallen into complacency. Too many reports of violence of one sort or another on our televisions have numbed us to the enormity of what happened at Marikana. We have become spectators of the Farlam Commission, watching as distanced onlookers.

It is not just that those at Lonmin – employers, unions, police, and other involved parties – need to act. While there were particular complexities and tensions around last year’s events, they were the tip of a vast iceberg that extends across our nation. Issues of pay and conditions, living environments, union rivalries, labour brokers, old employment patterns for local and migrant workers (and their families) that may no longer suit today’s circumstances, tensions with police, loan sharks… these issues and more besides surface in different guises around the country. Many of us are touched, and far more of us should act. This range of longstanding, underlying, running sores within the wider mining sector and across so many other industries is only exacerbated by time.

There are clear lessons that can already be learnt from Marikana, and acted upon. There are simple win-win actions that would benefit everyone involved. One example is ensuring workers are educated in the basics of managing their finances, of understanding how to read their pay slips, of grasping the dangers of loan sharks and being wise to more sensible options, and of knowing what are the best courses of action should they fall into debt.

Another area that concerns me is of companies and individuals who pursue social responsibility and philanthropic programmes without first putting their own houses in order. Too many of these programmes address the symptoms of poverty rather than the causes. Ensuring decent, living wages and working conditions should be a far higher priority. Wage increases in line with inflation are justifiable only if they start from a baseline of just and fair remuneration – whereas we know that we inherited from the past some vastly skewed inequalities within the employment sector.

Honest, open debate – with egos put to one side – must always take precedence over violence. People’s lives and their basic needs must be put before profits, before politics, before power, before inter-union rivalries, before arguments over hierarchies of guilt and innocence.

Yet, I’m not without hope. For the shock waves which ran through the nation should actually be a reassurance that we have assumed a better life for all. Our horror derives from our belief that such things should never happen in the new South Africa. So we should take heart that the vision of 1994 still burns within us, and we should all keep fanning this flame. The transition to political and economic emancipation was never going to be easy.

This is a month for dreaming. August 28 sees the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, when Martin Luther King delivered his magnificent “I have a dream” speech. As he turned to speak of his dream of everyone sitting together at the table of brotherhood, he first encouraged the crowd: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

Last year’s events were terrible – but we still have a dream, a deeply rooted South African dream. Let us not be tempted to wallow in despair, but let us keep on dreaming, and pray and work to make our dream live.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Remembering Marikana with Prayer, Hope and Action

This statement was issued on 15 August 2013, the eve of the first anniversary of the Marikana shootings.

Twelve months on from the Marikana shootings, we must acknowledge too little has been done in response to the terrible tragedy, both for those concerned, and for the life of the nation and our sense of who we are and who we want to become.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, through the South African Council of Churches, and with other partners, has offered assistance, especially spiritually, wherever we can, to the bereaved, injured and traumatised. We’ve distributed food-parcels, clothing and other physical help – some of it donated from beyond the Christian family. We have aimed to walk with all those affected, and to support whatever processes can promote healing and wholeness, further justice, and create new and better realities for going forward.

But, despite the hard work, dedication and perseverance of many, we are a long way short of where we would like to be. We could also have worked harder to promote a national climate in which others too would have been encouraged to do more and act with greater urgency, and not only in Marikana.

Yes, we must await the findings of the Farlam Commission. But this does not mean we do nothing as we wait.

Within the wider mining sector and across other industries there are a range of longstanding, underlying problems which time only exacerbates. There are lessons from Marikana all can learn, and actions to take which would benefit all stakeholders, who must cooperate.

All employers must put their own houses in order, ensuring decent, living wages and working conditions, as a higher priority than social responsibility programmes that tend to address symptoms not causes. Employers and unions should also find common ground in taking steps to uplift workers in other ways. What is being done to educate workers in managing their finances, the dangers of loan sharks, and sensible alternatives? How are we promoting honest, open debate about perhaps outdated employment practices for both migrant and local workers? How are we overcoming the vast skewedness of inequalities in wages?

Yes, there are complexities, yes there are difficult histories – but we cannot let these become excuses for minimal action. If I sound naïve, it is because we can no longer play games. People’s lives and their basic needs, must be put first – before profits, before politics, before power, before inter-union rivalries – and I’m not afraid to say so.

Yet I’m not without hope. The shockwaves which ran through the nation arose from our conviction that such things should never happen, and our certainty that the life of our country should be better. 1994’s vision still burns within us – let us keep fanning the flame.

And let us persevere in prayer, for those affected by the tragic events of last year – the bereaved, the injured, all who have been traumatised. I call on all South Africans to pray persistently for the situation in Marikana from Friday until Sunday. Let us seek God’s guidance and strength to do more, to do better, in building a better country for all. And may God bless us in these endeavours.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Sermon at Ha Mojela, Lesotho

This is an edited version of the sermon preached on 10 August 2013 at Makhemeng for the unveiling of the tombstones of Matsoso Samuel and Mamolapo Alice Mojela

Hosea 6: 1-2, Ps 34, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, Luke 24:1-8

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

Thank you, Louisa and Seedy Lette-Mojela, to you and your family, for inviting me to preside here today. Your Majesties, I acknowledge your presence here today, and I extend to you, King Letsie, my congratulations on your recent 50th birthday. I am sure you have endured the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ many times – but let us do so here again …!

Let me also acknowledge the presence of their excellencies, the South African High Commissioner, the Honourable Minster of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, and all other Government figures. I also acknowledge the clergy present – some who have come all the way from Gauteng – and including Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church; as well as our own Dean, and Bishop Adam Taaso, of the Diocese of Lesotho. Bishop Adam, thank you for your kind words of welcome, and to your wife also, for your warm hospitality.

Today we meet to celebrate the holy mysteries together – the sacraments of Baptism and of the Mass or Eucharist. Baptizing these two lovely girls reminds us that we are united with Christ in both his death and resurrection; while the Eucharist gives us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in which we shall one day share, in all its fullness.

Our context is that we meet in Lesotho, in the village of Ha Mojela and the homestead of Makhemeng. We meet, conscious of wider context of Southern Africa, and the African continent, with all the challenges of poverty and inequality, yet with all its staggering physical beauty, and with all its untapped potential for abundance.

We also meet in the context of our Scripture readings, with the Old Testament lesson in which God, through his prophet reminds us that God’s desire is to intrude into our lives, and bring healing – to us as individuals, to our nations, to our region and continent. His is a message of redemption and hope, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves facing – a message that we too are called to share with others.

As well as baptising these young lives, we are also unveiling the tombstone and the family tree monument. This locates the Mojelas as descendants of the great King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho. Today we also weave the hat that Louisa will wear, as the Anglican Consultative Council’s representative on the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee. It is the Communion’s highest advisory body, in which I am delighted Southern Africa has a presence – we are grateful to you, Louisa, for taking on this responsibility.

All of this reminds us that our context is part of a far greater context. We are part of those who have worshipped here in years before, and are now at rest, like Louisa’s parents; and we are part of the global family of Anglicans. Baptism has reminded us of our unity with one another, through our shared unity with Christ. In him we are all one, and we are all called to Christ-like living, in our acting, speaking and thinking. And so we recall those who in the past followed Christ’s call, and give thanks for all the good they did here – good that is written not just in epitaphs, but on our hearts.

As we do so, I am reminded of the mysterious men of our gospel reading, often seen as angels, who said to the grieving women ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ They challenge us to ask ourselves, what are we really doing here today? Why do we stand at the grave of those we have loved, and do these things - especially when, though we know that mortal bodies lie here, we are those who ‘look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come’, to quote the words of the creed.

Death is hard for us to grasp. It is hard in two particular ways: first, when someone dies, it is so difficult to comprehend what has happened, how someone so alive can then be not so. Second, it is hard to live without those we love, who have died.

This is why we need our rituals, of funerals, and of the longer process of mourning. Through honouring our dead, and through acknowledging our own sorrows, we become those who do our grieving properly. We become those of whom Jesus says ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ We open ourselves to receive God’s comfort, as we bare before him the sadness we have, missing those who have been so much a part of our lives.

Louisa, I never knew your father – though I knew your mother well, from those far off days when I was a mere curate at the Cathedral. I remember her faithfulness, week by week. I remember her straightforward faith – in many ways simple, and yet profound in its depth and strength, through the challenges of life. I remember her through the years since – at your wedding, at your brother’s wedding, at baptisms, at funerals. Indeed, there have been times when I almost wondered whether I had a second job alongside my licensed positions within the church – namely that of the Mojela family’s domestic chaplain!

Yet it is one of the joys of priestly ministry – especially in parish life – to walk with families, through the years. I remember the tiny flat you had in Hillborough, all those years ago. Look how far we have come since! Indeed, when I visited your mother, when she was so frail at the end of her life, she was determined that she should get out of bed for ‘The Archbishop’. But I insisted that for Thabo she should just stay where she was and relax!

It was a joy to minister to her at that time, and to see the strength of her faith. She had walked so closely with Jesus all her life, she knew that she would know him by her side on her final journey. She knew with certainty that, in the end, he would indeed ‘raise her up, to live in his sight’, to take the words of our first reading.

Jesus has conquered death for us. He has overcome everything that tries to separate us from God’s unending love, or from God’s eternal life. He has opened for us the gates of glory.

Therefore, as St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, in the verse that come just before those we heard read, ‘We do not grieve as others do, who have no hope.’ For we are indeed those who believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that we too, though we die, shall in a similar way be raised – and so we shall one day again be united with those we have loved.

This is our hope today – our sure and certain hope. Yet even so, the mysteries of life and death are hard to grasp. Our heads here the words, but our hearts still tremble at the death of others, at the knowledge of our own mortality – for one day, we too will lie in the ground, and others will gather round.

But God knows our frailties – and he invites us to seek his help, as the Psalmist tells us. He frees us from our fears, by giving us faith in our hearts, and the knowledge of his comforting, strengthening, presence alongside us, no matter what we face in life.

This is why, in the funeral service, we can pray with confidence: ‘Heavenly Father, in your Son Jesus Christ, you have given us a true faith and a sure hope: help us to live as those who believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to eternal life – and strengthen this faith and hope in us all the days of our life, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen’

This is our prayer today – we believe, but we also ask God to meet us in our unbelief, our doubts, our fears. We cannot see across to the other side of the bridge between life and death – but Jesus has walked it for us, and assures us that it cannot be shaken.

So may he indeed strengthen this faith and hope within us, all our days. Let us grieve those we mourn – but let us do so with grateful thanks for all the love that we shared; and with joyful, certain, hope – that one day we shall indeed be caught up with them to meet the Lord, and so we shall be with him for ever.

And until that day, let us follow Christ faithfully, so that when we in our turn are recalled by our maker, his resurrection values will be remembered in our lives, by family, by friends – and more than that, by the poor, the needy, in whom we serve our Lord; and so be remembered by our Lord himself.

As our funeral service says, ‘I heard a voice from heaven saying “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.” “Blessed indeed” says the Spirit “That they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!”’ May it be so for us. Amen

Wednesday 7 August 2013

St Dominic's, Hanover Park - 40th Anniversary Celebrations

This sermon was preached at the Patronal Festival of St Dominic's, Hanover Park, Cape Town, as they celebrated their 40th anniversary, on 4 August 2013.

Hosea 11:1-11; Col 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21 (Good News Bible / New International Version)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, dear People of God of St Dominic’s Hanover Park, let me say again what a great delight it is to be with you, and to share in the celebrations of your patronal festival and 40th birthday! Congratulations! Thank you, again, to you, Fr Gilmore Fry, to your wardens, for your invitation, and to everyone who has welcomed me so warmly, and who has contributed to this wonderful service – and what I am sure will be the equally wonderful refreshments afterwards! I also acknowledge Councillor van Rheede.

Today we join together in thanking God for the great faithfulness of the people of St Dominic’s over the last 40, turbulent, years. And we also give thanks to God for his great faithfulness, in giving the strength, the perseverance, the courage, the hope, that has kept you going through all the ups and downs of life, and through all the challenges, past and present.

The gospel account gives us a wonderful story and picture that I want to unpack today. Money itself is not a bad thing but there is more to life than pursuing millions. I guess we all know that. But having more does not necessarily make us happier. And if our lives become focussed just on getting more, evidence shows we will probably be less happy – and then, because we don’t understand the dynamic, we’ll just think we need even MORE, and so get into an even worse spiral.

As St Paul wrote to Timothy, the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). If we have a false treasure at the centre of our lives, then pursuit of it is always going to take us further away from the real, genuine, treasures of life.

Real treasure, life in all its abundance, comes from growing into Christlikeness – into the life that Jesus models for us and offers to us. It is a life that is based on living in love with God, in our hearts and souls and minds and strength; and living in the same love with our neighbours. In other words, we are to grow in Christlikeness in our hearts – in our emotions and how we feel; in our minds – in the way we think; in our souls – in our spiritual lives; and in our strength – in the way we treat our bodies, in the way we live within the physical world around us.

And all of this then spills over into how we live as neighbours – as members of the community of Hanover Park, as colleagues, as friends, as family members. So then, how shall we go about pursuing growth? How do we work to encourage mature emotions, mature thinking, mature spirituality, and maturity in how we life – I might even say, mature citizenship?

The answer lies in nurture and education.

Our Old Testament Reading, from the prophet Hosea, paints the most wonderful picture of God as our tender parent – father or mother, even. God is there, helping, encouraging the small child, the toddler, to stand on its feet, and to walk for itself. God is there, always ready to catch us when we fall – and it is true, isn’t it that we are always falling, always stumbling, like the weak person in the gospel, pursuing millions or narrow interests and forgetting the bigger picture. The good news is, however, when we don’t get it right, he puts us back on our feet and encourages us to keep on going. His tender encouragement is the same for us all.

I was thinking about this earlier this week. One of the delights of Bishopscourt is the garden – and all the animals and birds that visit and make their home there. I know they can be a bit of a pest, but I am rather fond of the Egyptian geese. There is a pair which nests in the garden. A couple of weeks ago, they had three babies, three goslings. This week, alas, there is only one gosling left. So I spent a bit of time watching the mother goose and her baby.

Whenever the mother goose nibbles at the grass, her gosling nibbles at the grass. Whenever the mother goose flaps her wings, runs, swims her baby also follows the actions, flapping, running and swimming. The goose was showing her gosling exactly how to live well. And the gosling was wise enough to copy whatever its mother showed it.

Surely here is a deep spiritual lesson for us too! For we are to follow the pattern of Jesus. And also, maturer Christians are to be the pattern for younger Christians; and adults for children; throughout our communities.

In other words, it is all about ‘Education, education, education’ – to quote British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, when he was asked what were his three priorities for government. Well, I often don’t agree with Tony Blair, but on this I think he was 100% right. We all need education - our country, our communities, our churches, our children – indeed, children of every age, because God does not want any of us to stop learning, or to stop growing, into a greater knowledge and love of himself, and of his Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Of course, here I am, saying all this, in a community that knows these truths very well! For I know that you are very active in supporting education in many different forms. I know you have very active youth work, and many organisations for people of every age – from the choir and servers guild, through the AWF, CMS, band and dance groups, through to holiday clubs and more besides.

All these support and encourage and teach the life of Christian worship, witness and service – the life to which we pledge ourselves when we affirm our baptism promises at confirmation. This is what it means to say that we have died and our lives are hid with Christ in God – so that we can reveal Christ truly to the world!

Thank you for all you do with Back to School Sunday. Thank you for your support of the Upward Bound initiative, which I also support. Thank you for walking alongside learners – as Hosea spoke of God walking with us – to encourage them, especially to stick with school, to stick with education, and to be the best they can be.

Education is one of the top priorities of my own ministry. It is not just education for the classroom, though it includes this. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said that ‘Education that only teaches the mind, but does not teach the heart (and here I would add ‘soul’, also), is no education at all.’ As the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, we firmly believe this.

And so I launched the Archbishop’s Initiative in Education, to make our commitment more focussed, and, I hope, more fruitful. We have three priorities, which we affirmed last year at Provincial Standing Committee, and on which we shall build again at Provincial Synod in October. The three priorities are:
• To strengthen what ACSA is already doing in the field of education
• To encourage parishes in the on-going up-liftment of all their communities through partnership with local public schools
• To create more excellent church schools for all.
And so we are taking various steps, including restructuring the Anglican Education Board, so we can make these commitments concrete. In Gauteng we are piloting various projects, including ways of strengthening initiatives at parish level, which I hope we will be able to roll out in places like Cape Town before too long.

So be encouraged – you are doing a great job, because God in his grace has given you this understanding of what true riches are, and how they are to be pursued. Keep up the good work, because education, in its broadest sense, is what we most need – the nurturing of individuals and communities, so we may keep on growing as part of the true vine, Jesus Christ, so we can bear fruit that will last.

I am sure that within the Cape Flats, it is education that has the greatest potential to be a vehicle for the social changes that we so earnestly desire. It will do this through schools, through colleges, through continuing education, through training in practical trades and the skills of our technological age.

And we, God’s people, are to be at the heart of this – sharing, and promoting, our understanding of holistic education of the whole person. For God’s delight, above all else, is in human beings who are ‘truly alive’, flourishing and bearing fruit, in heart and soul and mind and body, as individuals, and as communities. And we are called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world – God’s instruments, and channels of God’s love and blessing and hope, for one another, and for the wider community.

Therefore I challenge you to consider the call to plant your own chapelry, with a school – just as you were planted – and in this way to sow seeds that can flourish in the next 40 years.

As I end this sermon, I want to ask again ‘Where does true treasure lie?’

Where does true treasure lie? It lies here – right before my eyes. You are God’s great treasure in Hanover Park! God has blessed you, and blessed Hanover Park for 40 years – may he bless you in the 40 years, and all the centuries, ahead! Amen.

Sunday 4 August 2013

From Root to Branch - Colloquim on Theological Education

I warmly commend the “From Root to Branch” Colloquium on Theological Education to everyone involved or interested in this vital area of Christian life, both within and beyond the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. This is a wonderful opportunity to engage with leading practitioners from the Anglican Communion, and help strengthen our own capacity to develop well-trained lay and ordained leaders in Southern Africa.

Here are further details:

The Colloquium will be held from Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th August 2013, at COTT, in Grahamstown. It takes place within the ‘Year of Theological Education’ which the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is following in 2013.

The programme includes the following keynote speakers:
• Revd Canon Prof Martyn Percy – Principal, Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford
Context, Character and Challenges: The Shaping of Ordination Training
• Revd Dr James Walters – Chaplain, London School of Economics
A Theology of the Real: Speaking of God, for God’s sake
• Revd Dr Liz Carmichael – Research Fellow, St John’s College, Oxford
Blessed are the Peacemakers: Seeking the theological roots of peace-building
• Dr Mvume Dandala
Theological Education in Africa

COTT is the only provincial residential college of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
“We are dedicated to the development of future Anglican clergy that can operate effectively in the context of Africa (and beyond) and offer educational and formational courses in a residential setting that focuses activity around the chapel, dining hall and classroom so as to develop ministerial, social and academic skills. The College offers a rich and nurturing environment that challenges students to deepen their faith, relate across diverse backgrounds and cultures, and develop a complex understanding of their vocation.
The multicultural nature of the college fosters values of faithfulness, justice and compassion which in turn enrich our students’ faith journeys”.

For more information, and to register, contact Titus M. Lebese 046 622 3332 (office hours);;

Let’s ring the bell for global transformation

This is the Sunday Independent opinion column from 4 August 2013

It is time men step up and take the lead to effect change in the way society regards women, writes Thabo Makgoba.
Women hold up half the sky, says an old Chinese proverb. It reminds us, as Women’s Month begins, that women and men are equal partners in shouldering life’s responsibilities.

In fact, in the daily business of keeping homes and societies running smoothly, I suspect women bear more than their fair share of the burden. It’s a burden borne in far too many ways. Top of the list are inexcusable levels of sexual violence and abuse. The Modimolle case is the tip of the iceberg in a nation with close to three women murdered daily, mostly by their intimate partners.
At the same time, exploitative and discriminatory attitudes and practices regularly surface across public life. Other burdens range from sexual objectification to misogynist so-called humour; and from coercive relationships, in which women are viewed as little more than property, to the impossible images of so-called beauty that are all around us.

Even in stable homes, women often bear a disproportionate share of responsibility. For much of my own childhood, my mother raised us single-handedly as my father periodically absented himself. Today, too many women bring up children with little support. In households where both parents work, mums generally do far more domestic chores than dads.

Last month, on Madiba’s birthday, the call went out for every day to be Mandela Day; every day we should uphold, and work to realise, his vision for a united, non-racial, democratic society, free from poverty. Every day should also be Women’s Day, with women and girls afforded true equality, dignity, and respect in every area of our nation’s life. It will not do to prioritise one day or one month, then fall back into unreconstructed attitudes or complacent acceptance that, awful though it is, gender inequality is something we have to live with.

Churches, mosques and other faiths have to watch their step. Too often we have allowed our scriptures to be interpreted, and our traditions to develop, in ways that have reinforced patriarchal and discriminatory views. Even if the religious sector is finally getting its act together, as a society we have a long way to go. We need fundamental changes in attitudes, and in the narratives we tell ourselves – and feed ourselves through the media, from news stories to soapies – about how men and women, girls and boys, relate to one another.

We have to oppose the bad and encourage the good. We have to talk the talk and walk the walk.

All of us can do it. Yes, we need leaders to give a lead and speak out, but we cannot wait for them, for they often fail (as in their silence when a senior government envoy was recently compared to “a stupid, ignorant, street woman” – in other words, a prostitute – by a foreign leader). If we all take matters into our own hands, we will achieve far more. I particularly encourage men to step up and take the lead, for example, in the effective initiative against domestic violence, launched in India, called “ring the bell”.

Simply put, if you or I hear a disturbance at our neighbour’s place, we should not be afraid to ring their bell, knock on their door or phone them. This does two things. First, it interrupts the violence that is taking place. Second, it lets the perpetrator know that the community is watching – and particularly that other men are aware of what is going on. For we know that men listen to other men. Men care about their reputation with other men. And ringing the bell gets the message across that men who are violent are not socially acceptable.

This campaign is being led in South Africa by the Sonke Gender Justice Network. It works especially to encourage men and boys to take a stand and make a difference in promoting equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.

Men must also speak up and call a halt to inappropriate language to, or about, women among their friends – even in jest. Subjects such as so-called corrective rape are never a laughing matter, as two FHM journalists recently learnt the hard way.

We must also help men who have messed up in the past to find a better way forward. As I write, the Zwelinzima Vavi saga is still unfolding, and the facts remain unclear. But at least he has had the courage to admit that an adulterous affair was wrong, and to apologise. Now the rape accusation has been dropped, he should drop his counter-charge.

In many of our cultures, where the sanctity of marriage has been abused, it may be appropriate for some restitution to be paid – but all this should be worked out through the proper channels, involving the wider families, as part of broader processes of restorative justice which pursue healing within the communities concerned. And where public figures are concerned, and betrayal of public trust is involved, there should also be genuine apology and contrition to the nation.

And, of course, where there has been rape, assault, sexual coercion or abuse of any sort, justice must be done, including through the courts.

Yet there is also much to celebrate this month. Some women don’t merely hold up half the sky – for them it seems that the sky is the limit. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma has made history as the first woman chairperson of the AU. This month, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will take over leadership of UN Women, the three-year-old “new girl” among international agencies. In a world where there are many new challenges, from trafficking to online abuse, alongside older problems ranging from child brides to rape as a weapon of war, “we have to become smarter about how we fight these women’s issues”, she said in a recent interview. We wish her well as she takes on these new responsibilities.

I’d also like to take my hat off to Graça Machel, who so graciously, so modestly, and yet with such courage and strength of character, has been steadfastly at Madiba’s side these weeks, tending to his needs and the needs of a watching, waiting, nation.
Alongside these, we have many other women leaders and achievers taking over the baton from past generations – in politics, business, media, academia and every walk of life. We salute each one, and salute all those other strong women who, in just the ordinary everyday business of life, in and beyond the home, shoulder their responsibilities and do a good job. May these be the true role models for future generations of girls, as we celebrate the women of South Africa and work hard to create a today and tomorrow where they all can flourish, free from fear, and fulfil their true potential.

Remarks at the Funeral of Judge Pius Langa

This is an edited version of the remarks made at the funeral of Judge Pius Langa on 3 August 2013.

Thank you for this opportunity to share deep condolences with the family of this ‘gentle giant’ whom we remember today. I do so, as a representative of the Christian ecumenical and inter-faith communities – and thanking Fr Molo, for being our preacher today.

I’d like to share some words from Psalm 37, which reflect my own personal journey with Pius. In March last year I was privileged to bless his new house. I referred then to these Bible verses, which also speak to us again today, as we mourn the death of this remarkable, and lovely, man. Psalm 37 contains these words:
‘If a man’s steps are guided by the Lord: and he delights in his way,
Though he stumble, he shall not fall headlong: for the Lord holds him by the hand …
For the Lord loves justice: he will not forsake his faithful ones.

Today we are celebrating the life of a man who, like our God, loved justice. And he loved justice in the way that God loves justice – true justice, which serves the genuine wellbeing of all people, ‘without fear or favour’. Perhaps better than anyone else I have ever met, Judge Pius understood the true meaning of the rule of law. He understood how the letter of the law must deliver the spirit of the law; in the service of Constitution, country and all its citizens. His view of justice, like God’s view, was that it must uphold the rights of the weak, the poor, the voiceless, the marginalised. It must pursue truth. It must promote – yes, I will use a religious word here – it must promote righteous living. It must encourage each of us to be the best we can be, for the good of all our brothers and sisters in South Africa. True justice does not lie in us using the law in order to justifying the maximum we can get away with, nor for our own advantage, regardless of the consequences for others. Nor should it ever become a screen behind which we can hide dubious actions.

I was privileged to get to know Judge Pius when I served on his Press Freedom Commission. From him, I learnt new insights into the inseparable nature of truthfulness and honesty – in both our speaking and our actions – and justice. It is clear that he let himself be guided by God’s own principles in his own highly principled life. We thank God for the gift Judge Pius was to our country, at a time when we most needed his insight and judgement, his generous spirit, his deep wisdom, his unwavering commitment to the highest possible standards of integrity and service.

If we are serious about honouring his legacy, then we too must ‘love justice’. We must choose the path of truth, of all that is good and right, of faithfulness to God, not only in our professional lives, but in every part. And we must speak up against anything less.

As I remember Pius, and all he meant to me, it is not so much what he said, but how he made you feel, that sticks with me and has lasting impact. And he made me feel valued, accorded God-given dignity, respected, someone with true equality before the law. He epitomised the scripture passage I have read – reminding me of Jesus’ promise that ‘blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it’ (Lk 11:28). Many of us today will say fine words, but will we keep them? Will we follow Pius’ example, and live by what we say, especially when we speak of lifting up the poorest of the poor, and embracing the most marginal? We speak also of offering our condolences, yet surely the greatest consolation we can offer to those who have loved him, is to learn from Pius and do as he did – living by the highest ethical standards, administered with truth, justice and fathomless mercy.

Today we mourn not only one of the finest legal brains our country has ever produced and an amazing intellectual, we also mourn a gentle, kind, delightful man, whose mind was always informed by his true heart and his faithful soul.

Therefore, though we are so sad he has left us, we draw comfort from the Psalmist’s words: ‘the Lord loves justice: he will not forsake his faithful ones’. Pius, true to his name, was a faithful child of God: and God will not forsake him, but will surely welcome him into his heavenly home, where there is fullness of joy and delight for evermore.

Well done, faithful servant of God. May you rest in peace, and rise in glory. Amen

Celebrating Joyce Piliso-Seroke's 80th Birthday

This is an edited version of the Sermon preached at the Eucharist held on 13 July 2013 in celebration of the 80th birthday of struggle stalwart, and staunch Anglican, Joyce Piliso-Seroke. You can read more about this Grand Counsellor of the Order of the Baobab in gold at

Ezekiel 37:1-14, James 2:14-26, Matthew 5:1-12

Scripture says ‘just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.’

May I speak in the name of God, who creates us, redeems us, and sustains us in life. [Words of thanks.] Me Seroke, Mam Jwara, it is a particular delight to be celebrating your life today with you. You will remember, I am sure, that after Judge Fikile Bam’s funeral, you told me that you were booking me for your funeral also. Well, I am sure I am not the only one who rejoices that today is certainly not a funeral – and that you are alive and well and more than thriving!

For this we give thanks to God. Indeed, today’s service is so much about gratitude. We have heard so much about all the achievements of your long life. Our country has honoured you – as Grand Counsellor of The Order of the Baobab, in gold. Now is our chance, as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, also to honour you.

We give thanks to God for all you have done, for all that he has enabled you to do. We also give thanks for all that he does for us. The word ‘Eucharist’ itself, of course, means thanksgiving. We give thanks for Christ’s for his victory over sin and death, over all that threatens to distance us from his love; and give thanks for God’s sustaining presence through all of life. We give thanks that he calls all of us to live lives of significance – lives, like yours, that bear the fruit of the kingdom: the fruit that lasts, and makes a difference into all eternity.

Though today is a celebration of your birthday and of your life, today is also a challenge. It is a challenge: issued by you, Mam Jwara, and by your life, and by your God – to the rest of us. It is the challenge to let ourselves be used by God, as you have let yourself be used by God, so that we might make a lasting difference in God’s world and among God’s children.

It is the challenge to be people of faith and works. For, just as faith without works is dead, so too works without faith risk being only an empty shell, without the living beating heart of God within them.

The Churches need to hear this encouragement in these challenging days of consolidating democracy. Our faith and our works find themselves in very different contexts to the bad old days of apartheid. Then, God, in his grace, gave us the conviction that the dried bones of our situation could be given new life. And so we did not lose courage, and dared to persevere, even when we might have felt helpless, or the situation might have seemed hopeless, to those who lacked the eyes of faith.

In today’s South Africa, there are also temptations to helplessness and hopelessness. Perhaps we were naïve – in imagining that democracy would automatically bring a swift end to all our social and economic struggles. Perhaps we were naïve – in failing to realise quite how much hard work it would take, how much education at all levels, how much capacity building, to turn our country round. Perhaps we were naïve – in assuming that the self-sacrifice that drove so many in our darkest days would continue to outweigh the attractions of self-interest.

Whatever the reasons, it does seem that we have taken our eye off the ball. And though much has happened in the last two decades which we can applaud, there is also too much that falls short of, and even betrays, the vision for which so many gave so much.

It is easy to name the issues – education, freedom of information, corruption in its myriad forms, and crime. Me Seroke – you worked so hard, especially with the YWCA, for the rights of women. Gender equality is now enshrined in law, but our attitudes, our habits, and our practices still have not caught up. We know this, from the reports of abuse and violence we see on TV, and even from the depictions of women in the advertising that punctuates the news broadcasts.

Then there are drugs, and gangs, and the health sector, and the failures in land reform, and environmental protection … I could go on.

Worse, I think, is our complacency – we have, for example, become used to dire poverty in all its manifestations; and the weaknesses of our political sector. There is a lack of urgency about completing the unfinished business of our transformation to democracy.

All these are the dead bones of today’s South Africa. God asks us today - Can these bones live?

What is your answer, Mam Jwara? What is the answer that you give? What does the testimony of your life cry out to us? It is surely the answer that the Lord himself gives. ‘O, my people, I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.’

This is why we need both faith and works. We need prayer and action. We need God’s Spirit, working through us. Ours is a valley of very many dried bones. We are none of us called to tackle everything. If that were the case, we would all feel completely overwhelmed.

But all of us are called to do something. As we hunger and thirst for righteousness, God by his Spirit will show each of us where to direct our energies, so that we might know blessing – for ourselves, but most of all, for those areas which need justice, which need God’s redemptive hand upon them.

We have heard how Me Seroke directed her hunger and thirst for righteousness particularly through the YWCA, and blessing came to so many through that work. In those days, many might have thought that safeguarding the status of African women was not the most important or priority task in the fight against apartheid. But God saw that it mattered – and enabled you, Mam Jwara, to make a lasting difference that improved the lot of thousands, even millions.

We don’t have to make a big song and dance, or hit the headlines, to bear the fruit of eternal significance. When I think of you, Mam Jwara, I think of your quiet, dignified presence (so often found in the company of the rather more talkative Hlope Bam!). I think of your gentle warmth – especially to the young clergyman I used to be, and to so many other young people. I think of your enormous generosity – so often behind the scenes. And I think of your calm but iron-willed resolve – to stick with what God called you to be and to do; regardless of whether it was centre stage, or whether it was with those whom society marginalised – as was so often the case with African women.

You have shown us that what matters is God’s particular call, and being faithful in response. We must all look to whichever dry bones he leads us to face.

Since becoming Archbishop, I have found education increasingly becoming a context of dry, dry bones where I believe God is calling me to help breathe his Spirit of new life.

And it is important to recall that the word for ‘spirit’ and the word for ‘breath’ are the same in Hebrew. We need to be filled with the Spirit, in the same way we need to fill our lungs with the breath of oxygen, in every moment of every day. Too often I have seen people, wonderful people, launch themselves on projects they think will do good. But unless they let the Spirit guide each step, unless they let the Spirit empower their speaking and acting – then, all too often they soon become burnt out; and do not have the impact they ought.

On our own, we can look at the dry bones, and see which ones fit. We can even bring them together. But only God’s Spirit will restore their sinews, their flesh, their skin, and breathe new life into them.

Dear friends, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, our God is the God who desires to bring new life wherever death is at work, to bring light to our darkness, hope to our discouragement. Today we give thanks, for the powerful way he has demonstrated this, through the life of our sister. We see her faith at work in her actions. We have seen the blessing that comes daring to follow the God-given hunger and thirst for righteousness. We have seen that, though reviled and persecuted for doing what was right, God used her experience of incarceration redemptively so that she might bring depths of compassionate insight to her work with the TRC, and the Human Rights Committee.

Mam Jwara, we give thanks to God for all you are, all he has made you, and all that he has done through you. We have seen your works, we have felt your faith. May our God give each of us here today his grace, that we might also follow his call with obedience, with faithfulness, and with fruitfulness – for the blessing of his people and his world.