Usually in Lent I try to cut back on my schedule, but this year the busyness of the time leading up to Lent continued and I took on a number of tasks. While I maintained a discipline of prayer and reflection, particularly on water justice – praying for more rain in Cape Town and less flooding in the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique – I also engaged the Anglican Communion and society equally.
A highlight, just before Lent began, was being invited to address the General Synod of the Church of England, where I brought your greetings and shared something of our experiences with water shortages. After that quick trip to London, I returned to Cape Town for Ash Wednesday, then went off to the Diocese of Matlosane in North-West, where I joined Bishop Stephen Diseko, Dean of the Province, and a number of other bishops at the opening of a new Diocesan Centre – a property renovated after being bought from the Dutch Reformed Church. From there I went to our regular February meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and then on to the consecration and installation of Bishop Moses Madywabe, the new Bishop of Khahlamba in the Eastern Cape.
Later in Lent I travelled to Grahamstown for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the College of the Transfiguration, our only provincial residential training college, which was founded after we had closed its three predecessors, St Paul’s, St Bede’s and St Peter’s. The celebrations were held at this year’s graduation ceremony, which marked another milestone – the first time we have awarded Bachelor’s degrees.
Being with students is always refreshing, and I told those at CoTT of my own theological bias towards the doctrine of the Incarnation, by which we hold that God in Jesus enters the everyday experience of human living to point us to God’s reign. Theological education is not about creating a band of elite clerics; it is meant to equip us with God’s wisdom, enabling us to be loving pastors and shepherds of all, dedicated to peace and social justice, pursued without fear or favour, all the while seeking God and soaking ourselves in prayer.
Back in Cape Town I hosted a delegation of visiting German Protestant bishops and theologians at Bishopscourt. I also presented a paper at the “Together for Justice” conference at the University of the Western Cape, which was organised with UWC to renew the longstanding partnership of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the South African Council of Churches.
At these events, I reasserted my call for a new struggle in South Africa, one aimed not at replicating how the privileged lived under apartheid but rather ushering in a new, more equal society in which equality of opportunity ensures that the wealth generated by economic growth is shared equitably among all. I also warned against thinking that the change in the presidency in South Africa was the solution to our problems: the new struggle is about values and institutions rather than about personalities and will involve building strong systems and institutions which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.
At a ceremony in Christ Church, Constantia, I was invested as a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John and installed as Prior of the Order in South Africa by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. And by the time you read this I will have received an honorary doctorate in Theology from Stellenbosch University. I am humbled by these honours and the call to service they embody, and receive them on your behalf.
I hope that you also will be able to share and give thanks to God for your faith journey during Lent. I am grateful for your prayers and support, particularly when the road seems an uphill one. Please soak the church in prayer as we seek to do the right thing in response to the recent reports of sexual abuse in the church in the past. I plan to say more about this at Easter but my first response was to say sorry and seek forgiveness from those who have been victims. Please join me in finding ways of making up for the pain we have caused to others, in all spheres of our common life. For on Ash Wednesday we said, “Turn away from sin and believe the Good News.”
May God bless you richly this Eastertide.
†Thabo Cape Town