Tuesday, 4 December 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - Advent 2018

As published in the monthly newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town:

As this edition of Good Hope went to press, I was on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, where I and two of my fellow bishops consecrated the new Bishop of St Helena, the Right Revd Dale Bowers.

St Helena is part of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa which in the past has received less attention from the Province than other dioceses; its remoteness making it accessible until now only in weeks-long voyages by sea. My visit is the first undertaken by the Metropolitan in more than 30 years, and as far as we can establish a bishop for the Diocese has never before been consecrated on the island. Yet Anglican ministry in our Province began on St Helena: the first Anglican chaplain was appointed in 1671 and St James' Church in the main centre, Jamestown – where we said Morning Prayer on the day of the consecration – is the oldest surviving Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. The Diocese, which includes a parish on Ascension Island, is the fourth oldest in the Province, after Cape Town, Grahamstown and Natal.
Bishop Dale with the Archbishop.

So it was a special joy to be able to take advantage of St Helena's newly-built airport and to fly there with the Dean of the Province, the Right Revd Stephen Diseko of Matlosane, Bishop Allan Kannemeyer of Pretoria, and my chaplain, the Revd Mcebisi Pinyana, for the consecration. The consecration service took place on November 11, so it was also preceded by a civic Remembrance Day service in which we commemorated the end of the First World War exactly 100 years earlier. The local Catholic Church hosted an ecumenical lunch to welcome us and to honour Bishop Dale. He is only the second of the 16 bishops of the Diocese actually born on the island; please pray for him, for his, wife, Penny, his family and for the people and clergy of the Diocese.

Turning to more solemn Provincial matters, our only institution for full-time residential training for the ordained ministry, the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), is undergoing serious financial trouble. So I am issuing a special appeal to parishes as your Archbishop: please make a special love gift to Cott this Christmas. You can send it to Canon Charleen van Rooyen, the Diocesan Administrator. Also, you don't have to be selected and paid for by a Diocese to study at Cott; anyone with an interest in getting a sound theological training – for example, a retired layperson wanting to study further – is free to apply to study at the college, even if it is not with the intention of being ordained.

Also as we went to press, the sad news came in that Mrs Tobeka Mzamane, wife of Bishop Sitembele Mzamane, formerly Bishop of Mthatha, Dean of the Province and in retirement Vicar-General of Mzimvubu, had collapsed and died. Also, Bishop Stephen Diseko, currently Dean of the Province, lost his sister, Elizabeth. Please hold them and their families in your prayers, and we send our condolences and messages of comfort to them.

In the Diocese, you will by now know that Bishop Garth Counsell retires at Easter next year. He will be on sabbatical from December until February, so I will be appointing a Vicar-General in the interim. I am already suffering “termination anxiety” at the prospect of his retirement; I have really loved working with Bishop Garth and have felt upheld and supported by his ministry and leadership. I hope that God will send us another servant as loving, faithful and able. A number of farewell functions are being planned to thank him and Marion for their love and service to this church and Diocese. His annual end-of-year dinner for the clergy turned into something very special – a kind of going-away dinner for the Counsell family. Thank you to those who arranged it.

As we wind down for the year and Christmas approaches, my warm thanks to everyone on the staff of the Diocese and at Braehead House and Bishopscourt for their dedicated service to the Diocese and Province this year.

I wish you all a peaceful and merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. May our New Year's resolutions be about loving God and our neighbours as ourselves, and treating the environment with care and compassion.

God bless.

†Thabo Cape Town