Saturday 30 November 2013

To the Laos - To the People of God, November 2013

My dear People of God

There is certainly never a dull moment in the life of an Archbishop! In the last months I have visited Lesotho for the 50th celebrations of the ministry of our diocesan mission hospital at Mantšonyane, St. James. The celebrations were attended by His Majesty, King Letsie III, and the Prime Minister of Lesotho, the Honourable Tom Thabane, as well as representatives of Hope Africa, Us (or United Society, which we formerly knew as the USPG), volunteers from America and hundreds of parishioners, nurses and doctors, who together made it a great occasion. Congratulations to Bishop Taaso and his diocese on this milestone. I then blessed the new house of the bishop and the diocesan offices, now called the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba diocesan offices!

I then travelled to South Korea together with Lungi for the World Council of Churches' 10th Assembly. The experience of the Assembly is priceless. I have written daily reflections during our time in Busan. If you have not read them, these are on my blog. I then went to the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman for a Gala dinner and diocesan service. The dinner was to raise money for an Endowment Fund to buy cars for struggling parishes. It was my first visit as Archbishop, the diocese having last had a pastoral visit by an archbishop a long time ago. I met various diocesan officials, and was also taken to the MacGregor Museum.

Both the museum and the Kimberley Club, known for its close association with the mining magnate and British imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes, rekindled within me the pain of the fierce wars of dispossession and displacement caused by the colonial power's scramble for diamonds; but also reminded me of the courageous resistance and triumphs of the local people who were armed only with hope. The inequality engendered by these wars is still glaring and persistent in Kimberley.

The diocese, one of the largest in our Province, needs funds to buy vehicles to enable church planting and for clergy to travel and serve all community members in this vast, unequal, mainly rural area. If you have an extra vehicle parked in your yard, Bishop Ossie says they can put it to good use in his diocese.

You will recall that the Synod of Bishops released a statement in October referring to our discussion on problematic issues in the dioceses of Pretoria and Mzimvubu, which we had addressed in love and rigour during our meeting. This past Sunday, five Bishops joined in a pastoral visit to Mzimvubu. Three of us stayed behind after a diocesan “conference” and did confirmations during a diocesan service, held in the incomplete cathedral structure. We confirmed 921 candidates. Although the diocese is facing major tensions, being at war within itself, the service was a healing moment for most of us. I ask you to soak the diocese in your prayers, that we may end the long-standing impasse.

I then visited St Alban's Cathedral in Pretoria, where I hosted on behalf of Tearfund, Hope Africa, UNAIDS, SAFFI, NRSAD and other community organisations, the launch of a We Will Speak Out chapter in South Africa. The launch coincided with the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign. I urge you to use these 16 days, which coincide with part of the Advent season, to recommit yourselves to speaking out against gender-based violence in our workplaces, our homes and parishes, or elsewhere in the community. You will recall that I have previously suggested the "ring a bell" initiative, in which we suggest that when you become aware of abuse, you should ring a bell or an alarm, and alert the police or others so that together we speak out and root out sexual violence in our communities.

The Revd Terrie Robinson from the Anglican Communion Office has also sent very useful material and prayers that we can use during these 16 days of activism. Look at it this way: girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who are subjected to sexual violence are 66 percent more likely to contract the HI Virus than those not so subjected. I urge all of us then to make every day, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Let me end by thanking all who continue to give toward the College of Transfiguration. Please continue to pray and give generously towards its work within our church in shaping women and men for ministries “in times such as these.” In my December To the Laos, I will be writing about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to our Province next year and the second Anglicans Ablaze conference. Ablaze is happening from July 2 to 4, so please do register for it if you have not done so already.

Lastly, Professor Gerald West has produced a series of Bible studies for Lent 2014. These are based on the ACSA‘s Anglican ACT vision and mission statements as well as our priorities. I urge all parishioners to use them next year and enable the Province to read and pray from the same well together. I will post the Bible study material on the ACSA website and send a link to you in To the Laos. I will also send a copy and link to every diocesan office too so that they are accessed by as many people as possible.

Yours in the service of Christ
+Thabo Cape Town