Saturday 22 April 2023

Thanksgiving Service for Dr Brigalia Bam OSC

 The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

Metropolitan of ACSA

Thanksgiving Service for Dr Brigalia Bam OSC 

on her 90th Birthday (April 21 2023)

St Alban’s Cathedral - Pretoria

22nd April 2023 @ 09h00

Readings: Acts 6: 1-7; Psalm 33: 1-5, 17-21; John 6: 16-21

May I speak in the name of God, who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

It is good to be with you again at St Alban's. I am always grateful to be here, but no more so than at a celebration such as this, a celebration of the extraordinary life of one of the great South Africans of her generation, Ntombemhlophe Brigalia Bam, OSC. 

Thursday 20 April 2023

Homily for St George's Grammar School 175th Anniversary Service

 The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

St George's Grammar School

175th Anniversary Service

St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

20th April 2023

May I speak in the name of God, who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. 

Wow! Our school is 175 years old! What an extraordinary achievement, from your humble beginnings – which I learn were in a shoe shop – through the years when you were housed in this Cathedral precinct, to your campus in Mowbray. On behalf of the Diocese and on my own behalf, warm congratulations on this anniversary. Thank you, Mr Cameron, teachers, staff and learners for all that you do in the school and in our community, and especially for inviting me to this prestigious occasion, and thank you to everyone, including the Cathedral staff, who have helped to plan this service.

Ad Laos - to the People of God - April 2023

As published in the April issue of Good Hope, the newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town: 

A happy and blessed Easter to you! 

As I said in my homily at the Easter Vigil in St George's Cathedral, we in South Africa today can draw hope and courage from the Easter story. The reading from Matthew's Gospel about the women at Jesus' tomb related how, after hearing the baffling news that the tomb was empty, the women overcame their fear and conflicting emotions to pluck up the courage to defy the religious and political establishments who had crucified Jesus. As the women grew in confidence, they began to shape an almost defiant narrative of new life emerging in unlikely places, encouraging others with the good news of Jesus' resurrection.

Translating the hope of Easter into tangible form for our country, the key to our future is the potential offered by the young people of South Africa. They are, like the women at the tomb, eminently capable of defying the forces of greed, corruption and stagnation, and of bringing about real transformation, a transformation which will bring about equality of opportunity and realise the promises of our Constitution. In my Easter homily, I used a phrase coined by the American civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin, to urge young people to become “angelic troublemakers”. 

What would angelic troublemakers look like in South Africa today? They would be young men and women, of all races, who would come together and organise at all levels of society, beginning in their own communities. They would register to vote, and they would campaign to rejuvenate our politics on a sound ethical and moral basis, guided by the highest ideals of our religious convictions. To this end, I invite representatives of all our youth formations to ask their executives to engage with this challenge. 

It is not only South Africa that has the capacity to bring people to despair. I was shocked to read recently that there are around 40 armed conflicts being waged across the world today. Some nations such as Ethiopia and Myanmar are plagued by numerous conflicts in different regions of their countries. If you are in a church youth or student group, I urge you to look up the Wikipedia entry “List of ongoing armed conflicts“ on the web, to choose a country in which there is fighting and to soak that country in prayers for peace. 

Another source of hope for me recently was visiting the families of those who were killed in the violence at the Marikana mine in North West Province in 2012. Sibanye-Stillwater, the new owners of the mine – with the support of others – are committed to providing housing, education and jobs for the families of victims. A few weeks ago I travelled to Gauteng and rural areas of the Eastern Cape and Lesotho to visit widows and families, where a delegation  representing the groups involved handed over the keys of new houses to widows and families. It is a commendable effort which has generated hope out of tragedy. 

You will know from the past that one of my passions – and a real source of hope – is giving our children a good education. So it always pains me when parents miss the deadlines to apply for the placement of their children in public schools, causing the children to suffer anxiety and tension until they get placements much later. The initial deadline for admission to Grades 1 and 8 in the Western Cape has just passed, but since there is provision for late applications, I ask parish leaders to please urge parents to act soon, and to help parents with applications. 

One of our own historic schools, St George's Grammar School in Mowbray, celebrates a very significant anniversary this month – it is their 175th birthday! School records show that it is our oldest school, established at St George's Cathedral when Bishop Robert Gray came to Cape Town as the church's founding bishop. Warm congratulations to St George's, the learners, teachers and staff and parents! You can expect to see coverage of their anniversary service at the Cathedral next month.

As you celebrate the Season of Eastertide, I pray that you, in the words of our Lectionary, will encounter the Risen Christ, and that your encounter will help you discover the new life which Christ's victory assures.

God bless you and God bless your families and communities.

† Thabo Cape Town

Sunday 9 April 2023

Archbishop's Homily for the Easter Vigil

Homily for the Easter Vigil

St George’s Cathedral
8th April 2023

Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10

Dear People of God, on this most holy of nights, let us echo the words of the angel: Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Again! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

It is good to be with you, sharing this celebration of Easter in the Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese and Province. Thank you for being here. Thank you to the Dean, the clergy, the church-wardens, the music director, organist, choir, verger and staff, the flower arrangers, and especially the regular worshippers who maintain this beautiful site of worship, this iconic landmark which speaks in this city of God's presence and God's glory.

In our Gospel reading tonight, it's interesting that Matthew does not specify, as Mark does in his telling of the Easter story, why the women came to the tomb. Mark says they were carrying spices to anoint Jesus’ body, but Matthew leaves the reasons open. His account allows that the women, like those of us here tonight, come to the tomb for many different reasons. Some come overwhelmed by a sense that promises, hopes and dreams have been irreparably broken, that trust has been severed, that anxiety has been deepened, that they have suffered losses too great to be measured, or that the future is bleak. Whatever the reasons that brought the women to the tomb, and whatever the reasons that have brought you here tonight, take heart from the angel's assurance: He is risen!

It is notable that Matthew records that the women feel both fear and joy at hearing the angel's news. That's easy to understand – even tonight, absorbing the meaning of such earth-shattering news as a grave that is empty and a Lord who is risen, forces us too to explore a range of conflicting emotions. Just like the women at the tomb, it is only after we acknowledge and engage with the radical meaning of the Resurrection that we can move on, into the new life of Easter.

Matthew goes on to make a profound point through meticulous use of language. He says in verse 2, “suddenly there was a great earthquake” – some translations say “behold there was a great earthquake”. Note too that in verse 9 it says “suddenly Jesus appeared to them”. Again the translations that use “behold” in verse 2 use it again in verse 9. In using the image of an earthquake, Matthew suggests that things beneath your feet literally shift, they change and consequently the things around you change. By using the same word, Matthew is reminding us that when we meet the risen Lord, “on the road” of life’s journeys, with all its fears and joys, its hopes and anxieties, things change. Perceptions change.

In the case of the women at the tomb, despite the fear, despite the  conflicting emotions, despite the fact that they cannot explain fully what they have seen and heard, what begins to grow in them is courage: a courage that empowers  them to defy the religious and political establishments who have crucified Jesus. Growing in confidence, they are not intimidated. Instead they begin to shape a different, almost defiant narrative of new life emerging in the most unlikely places. They reaffirm the need to encourage others with the good news. Indeed, they resist and defy the culture of death.

So too can we in South Africa today draw hope and courage from the Easter story.

Looking around us, it is easy to despair. Too many South Africans cannot find a way out of the tomb of poverty to live lives of dignity and hope. We are experiencing a near biblical vortex of greed and corruption in which the unscrupulous steal from the poor and swallow the hope of ending inequality. Incompetence leads to bad governance, and money that is available to improve people's lives goes unspent. Too many South Africans are shut up in tombs of community violence, gangsterism and fear, while others are trapped in toxic relationships and live with the horror of domestic violence perpetrated against women and children.

Do our politicians offer any hope? You would think that if they were truly focussed on the well-being of their constituents, they could overcome their differences enough to collaborate in coalition governments to put an end to corruption and provide decent services to our communities. But instead they play in-again-out-again revolving doors, changing mayors and speakers the way other people change their socks. The trickle of disconnected announcements on investigations arising from the theft of money from the President's Phala Phala farm still hasn't explained satisfactorily why such large amounts of money weren't banked, and the ANC's refusal to allow a parliamentary inquiry is reminiscent of the cover-ups of the Zuma administration. If we are to build the nation we want, one based on transparency and honesty, the President needs to give us a single comprehensive account of what happened and why it happened.

The hope of Easter is represented by the rolling of a stone away from a tomb, and we can seize on that hope in South Africa today by rolling away the stones that entomb our society in order that we might have life, and have it abundantly. I like to think that the radical American civil rights leader and gay activist, Bayard Rustin, had this in mind when he wrote that “every community needs a group of angelic troublemakers.”

Who could step up to be the angelic troublemakers of South Africa today? I believe we should be urging the young people of our country to dig deep into the radical roots of the old struggle against apartheid, and to take up the New Struggle, a new struggle for a new generation, a struggle to regain our moral compass, a struggle to end economic inequity, a struggle to bring about equality of opportunity and realise the promises of our Constitution.

History is replete with moments when people failed to read the signs of the times and paid the penalty, sitting on the sidelines watching their societies fall apart and become  ungovernable failed states. But it is also replete with moments when active citizens, especially young people, seized the day and brought about real transformation. We saw it during the North African spring of a decade ago, when the people of Tunisia rose up and others across the region followed them. We saw its potential when students campaigned for fees to fall in South Africa. Recently I have been encouraged to see how young people such as the writer Panashe Chigumadzi, supported by the philosopher Cornel West, have been rediscovering the radical roots of Desmond Tutu and his support for the black consciousness movement of the 1960s and 1970s. I know that some of us fear that talk of revolution implies violence, and most of us deplore the rhetoric which we heard before the EFF's attempt to shut the country down last month, in which tyres displayed on social media ahead of protests were described as “tools of trade”. But, as earlier generations of South Africans demonstrated in the defiance campaigns of the early 1950s and late 1980s, it is possible to wage a revolutionary struggle in a disciplined and dignified manner, one that is all the more powerful because it is waged peacefully. There is no place for violence in a constitutional democracy.

South Africans do not have to continue on our current path. By adopting the New Struggle, we can inspire the multitudes of disillusioned young people who despise politicians, who spurn politics and who won't even register to vote, but instead pursue a rampant consumerism because we have failed to give them a vision which would attract them to public service. Let us urge them to organise in their communities, as well as regionally and nationally; let us urge them to register with the Independent Electoral Commission and to campaign to rejuvenate our politics.

The resurrection account in Matthew's Gospel challenges us to work for justice unceasingly. Once we have rolled the stones of our many graves away, we have a commitment to ensure that the poor, the exploited and the misgoverned are never dragged back to tombs, to history’s worst examples of people’s inhumanity to others. Last week I travelled to Johannesburg and rural areas of the Eastern Cape and Lesotho to visit the widows of those killed by police at the Marikana mine in 2012. There, I am pleased to say, a delegation representing Reimagine SA, the Sibanye-Stillwater mining house, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute and the mine labour group TEBA – supported by kings and local chiefs, especially King Ndamase Ndamase of the AmaMpondo – have  implemented a programme to provide various forms of assistance to those widows and their families. That is commendable.

As people of faith we also have a commitment to work unceasingly for peace in the 40 or more places in the world ravaged by war, unsettled by hatred and denied a future by the greed and power-lust of a few. I have visited some of those areas of war and violence, notably Ukraine last December. We need to continue calling on all those caught up in conflict to give peace a chance, since the only people who gain from war are those who manufacture and supply weapons. Everyone else suffers to the point of death.

A final point. Both the angel and the risen Lord instruct the women at the tomb to tell the disciples to go to Galilee. They are instructed not to stay trapped in the past but to return to the places that marked their lives together, that were infused with energy, where they learnt important lessons, opened their hearts to fresh expressions of faith and had their hope restored. We all need to return to such places for a fresh outpouring of the resurrection life, and to make our congregations and our communities places where those who have been hurt and let down by life and history can find healing and new hope; where those who have been released from tombs can begin again, renewed and restored. That is what an Easter Church needs to look like.

Like the women at the tomb, may we have the courage to go out, not only to proclaim that Easter message but to work tirelessly to make it a reality so that the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and our Messiah.

May God bless you and may you and your families experience richly the joy of Easter. God loves you and so do I.