St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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To the Laos - April 2010

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Dear People of God

Alleluia, Christ is risen – We are risen, Alleluia! I wish you all a blessed and joyful Easter!

Easter is of course not just one day of celebrating how Christ was raised for the dead for our salvation, but the Great Fifty Days of Easter, which runs through the fifty days between the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost (which literally means ‘fiftieth day’), from Jesus’ resurrection to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yet alongside this season within the Church’s liturgical year, there is a sense in which we are called always to be ‘Easter People’, stepping from the shadow of the cross into the light of the resurrection, and extending a hand – the hand of Christ – to others, to help them do the same.

The challenge to us, which we are to share with the world, is to ‘choose life’ in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. And in order to choose life, it may be that we have to let go of something that is holding us back – something that may have been a comfortable or even necessary part of life beforehand, but which now keeps our feet in the grave. It may mean anything, for example giving up an old habit, old attitudes, old ways of doing things, old priorities – any part of life that has outlived its usefulness, or its appropriateness within the changes of our own lives and societies, and now is more a source of diminishment and stagnation rather than life and growth. It may mean having the courage to step out and take on something new.

New life is also the promise of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God’s Spirit not only sustains all of creation in being, but also indwells all the daughters and sons of God within the body of Christ. It is the Spirit who leads us into all truth, and who opens our eyes to see God’s vision for the life to which we are called. As we pray for grace to ‘choose life’ we should also be consciously aware that this is a challenge to have our eyes opened, and see possibilities for new life, where we had not previously recognised, or perhaps not been willing to recognise.

In the Collect for Pentecost, we ask God to ‘inspire our hearts and set them on fire with the Spirit’s joy and power, and send us out as witnesses to the wonder of your love’. This year, I should like to invite you all to continue to pray this prayer through to the holding of Provincial Synod, from 29 September to 2 October, at the Kopanong Centre in Benoni. Pray for all of us who will meet there – especially those who have been elected to represent your own Dioceses. Pray that as we come together and take counsel in the presence of the Lord, desiring to discern his will for us and to translate it into the processes and procedures of our Church’s life, that our hearts will be set on fire with love for God and his world. Pray that we will indeed be inspired with God’s vision for our Province – the ‘Vision 2020’ process on which we have been working.

Last year Provincial Standing Committee affirmed the work we had done so far, and proposed that at Provincial Synod we look more deeply at our calling to be ‘Anchored in the love of Christ – revealed in Scripture; Committed to God’s mission – with compassion and joy; and Transformed by the Holy Spirit – through discipleship and worship’. As we have been taking forward this work on our Vision and Mission statement, we have begun looking in more detail at eight priority areas through which to give these expression: liturgical renewal for transformative worship, theological education and formation, leadership development, health (including HIV and AIDS, malaria and TB), the environment, women and gender, protection and nurture of children and young people, and public advocacy. There are in addition two further themes – evangelism and reconciliation / transformation – which inform and influence all of these areas. For this reason, we decided not to list them alongside the eight priority areas as this would risk separating them out from other areas of our common life, in which they should rather be an integral part. I intend to devote parts of my next few letters to saying a little more about each of these priorities.

Of course, there is much other business for the Synod to conduct, to shape our common life, and there is still time for motions for discussions to be put to us, through the appropriate channels. Please do keep our preparations in your prayers – especially the work of the Provincial Executive Office. The Revd Allan Kannemeyer, formerly Archdeacon of Hennops River in Pretoria, who has joined the office as ‘PEO Intern’ to work alongside the Revd Canon Robert Butterworth through to Synod, with a view to taking over from him thereafter. Also at Bishopscourt, last month saw the retirement of Mrs Cynthia Michaels, after many years as our receptionist. She has been succeeded by Miss Sisanda Majikazana, whose voice will now greet you when you telephone here. We wish Cynthia every blessing in this new chapter of her life, and warmly welcome Allan and Sisanda into our team.

Other ‘family’ news within the Province that I would like to share for your prayers is, first, that on 20 April there will be an elective assembly for the new Bishop of Mpumalanga, following Bishop Les Walker’s death last year. Then, on 24 April, Bishop Mazwi Tisani, currently the Suffragan Bishop of Pretoria, will be installed as the First Bishop of the new diocese of Ukhahlamba. He was appointed by the Synod of Bishops in February, after the Elective Assembly referred to them the decision. Thank you for upholding our Church, and its role within the countries of our Province, in your prayers. I was acutely aware of being sustained by the prayers of others, as I attended the funeral of Mr Eugene Terreblanche last week in Ventersdorp.

Let me end by returning to the morning of our Lord’s resurrection. Mary in the garden did not recognise Jesus as she did not expect to see him. Let us pray that our eyes will also be opened to recognise our risen Saviour where we do not expect to see him – so that, like her, we may then ‘go and tell’. May God bless you as his Easter people, making you a blessing to others.

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

 

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