Thursday 16 February 2017

To the Laos - To the People of God – Lent 2017

Dear People of God

This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in our Province. Bishop Margaret Vertue of False Bay and the ACSA gender programme have been discussing the impact that women's ordination has had on the church. While they have acknowledged that there is much to celebrate—and I believe we have been immensely enriched by their ordination—it is also clear that the church still has many challenges to overcome when it evaluates the leadership, empowerment, participation and inclusion of women, both ordained and lay, in the church today.

As a consequence, the anniversary in September of the first ordinations in 1992 will be celebrated with a conference on the issue. The theme and venue are still to be confirmed, but I want to take the earliest opportunity to urge you to give the commemoration and the celebratory conference your full support. In this way we can all support and encourage women in their ministries and to take up positions of leadership in the church.

By the time you read this, almost all of South Africa's universities are expected to be open for the 2017 academic year, and students, parents, teachers and staff will be in our prayers as studies are resumed. I have agreed to join a platform, known as the National Education Crisis Forum, which is convened by the former deputy chief justice of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke, to bring together different stakeholders to ensure, in the forum's words, “that the right to education enshrined in the South African constitution becomes a lived reality for all...” As the forum seeks to broker a long-term solution to the crisis, please support us and commit to helping in whatever way will resolve this educational, economic and also political challenge to the country. Perhaps you could build this concern into your Lenten observances, using the resource that the Province has produced to help you.

In January I spent nine days in the Diocese of Madhya Kerala in the Church of South India, learning how they do mission through markets in particular, and preached at their Convention Eucharist. I was also struck by the commitment to education of the Moderator of the church, Bishop Thomas Oommen, not only in words or feelings but in practical ways. Their church schools educate 35,000 pupils! Most of the offerings at the Sunday Eucharist – generously and spontaneously given – were shared with the schools to encourage them to keep up their high standards of performance. Both parents and the whole community are involved in education through the church. We too can emulate their example, especially by supporting our universities whose vice-chancellors are trapped between students' demands on the one hand and government policies and often inertia on the other.

Last month I helped to launch a worldwide Anglican initiative called “JustWater” in which churches on four continents – Africa, Australia, Europe and North America – are uniting in support of World Water Day 2017. As well as being at the launch at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, I will be speaking during the Water Justice Conference at our own St. George's Cathedral, which takes place from March 23 to 25. If you want to supplement our Provincial Lenten Bible Studies with a focus on water justice during the Sundays in Lent, you will find prayers and other material in a short resource document produced by Trinity Wall Street, St. Paul's Cathedral and St. George's. I commend it to you for reading and discussing. But above all, use water sparingly in your own personal lives by fixing dripping pipes, showering instead of bathing where you can, keeping your showers short and possibly harvesting rain water.

May Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, lead you as you transform educational institutions to serve the public good and even as we use water wisely to be in solidarity with those who lack proper water and sanitation in our country.

Have a blessed Lent!

†Thabo Cape Town

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