Sunday, April 23, 2006

April 2006

Dear friends

Covenant

The Lectionary Readings this Lent have focused us on Covenant: God’s rainbow promise to Noah that he will never again destroy humanity as he did during the flood; God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that he will grow a nation through them; God’s promise to Israel at Mount Sinai that he will be their God if they will be his people. A reminder that God has a plan, and – despite our lack of belief, our unfaithfulness, our doubt and disobedience – God remains faithful and focused on bringing his purposes to fruition. The Easter events (Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion, his resurrection) are all an ongoing part of this plan that we may discover and abandon ourselves into the amazing selflessness of love that is God. Easter is an opportunity to celebrate that God in Jesus has taken on and destroyed the power of all that seeks to limit the purposes of God, and limit our experience of the selflessness and abundance of love God has for his creation and for all humanity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17). We are remembered by God, we are not a forgotten people - may this be our experience this Easter!

Growth

Karen Kaiser Clark, a motivational speaker for over twenty-five years, very wisely said: “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” Change in my life has always been allied to growth. I realised recently that this is not everyone’s experience, and that while I often casually and confidently throw the term around, for some people it evokes anxiety and trepidation, even fear. My confidence is deeply immersed in my relationship with the Living God, in his constancy, and so living in an age of constant change (not all of it good or controllable), change itself is not a focus: God is.
I do not believe in change for change’s sake. Any change that I consciously implement is designed to create greater opportunities for spiritual growth. I also negotiate these changes in discussion with Parish Council and the Ministry Team, and seek to keep them in line with our Statement of Purpose. If you have concerns, please take the time to see me: positive and negative comment is necessary if we are to be effective in serving God in our various communities that make up Corpus Christi.

Priorities

Identified at the Parish Vision afternoon last year, as well as in our Parish Council planning day at the beginning of the year, are two clear priorities: fuller parishioner involvement in leadership structures and parish activities, and a greater focus on youth involvement. The implications of this are far reaching, certainly more far reaching than most of us are comfortable with: it involves those who are over-involved stepping back to allow space for others to come forward; it means that those who carry responsibility in any area of parish life need to consciously seek out and involve others in what they are doing. Some of us find this easy, others more difficult. If we truly seek and desire youth – from young children through to young adults – to be more involved, we need to adapt: for example, our hymn book that is full of wonderful hymns, is not youth friendly as it is an older style of music that young people are largely unable to relate to. We need a collection of hymns that give balance to the needs of old and young, and draws on the best of the past and the present.

Council Appointment: Treasurer

In line with the above priorities Council has appointed Colette Martin as our parish Treasurer for the 2006/7 Council year. She is a Chartered Accountant, and is furthering her studies in Forensic Accounting. She presently works for the South African Revenue Services. Colette has grown up in the parish, and as one of our young adults, will make a valuable contribution to this aspect of our parish life.
Lex Jackson, who has made a significant and valuable contribution as Treasurer over a number of years, steps down from this position, but will continue to be involved. Council has reappointed Lex as our Parish Stewardship Coordinator, and, importantly, he will continue to keep an eye on our Generosity Giving Scheme.
Our Parish Administrator, Bonita Brukman, has taken over all bookkeeping functions, and will report to the Treasurer on all aspects.
Please be assured that despite the growth of our Finance Team, confidentiality remains a key principle, especially regarding the nature of our personal giving, and will be well guarded.

Ministry

Licensed Lay Ministry is an important part of our parish worship and pastoral care. Our six lay Ministers (Lex, Blandina, Louie, Margaret, Peter and Sabine) will be re-licensed by the Archdeacon on Sunday 2 April 2006, 18:00 at a The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Eersterus.
In addition to licensed Lay Ministers we, in this parish, have another category of minister (not licensed) known as Cup-Bearers, who help administer the Chalice and help lead prayers in our worship services. In terms of Diocesan regulations the term “Cup-Bearer” is not a formal title, and these duties should carry a license. The Bishop is in the process of realigning his involvement and the procedures to be followed for applying for new licenses, and once this is in place Council has agreed that we recommend our Cup-Bearers (now Trainee Lay Ministers) be regularised.

Ministry to the Bereaved

Seven of our “recently” bereaved parishioners met last Saturday for tea and support, hosted by Jeanne and Lex Jackson. A number had lost spouses, one had lost a mother, and another a child. Experiences were shared, tears were shed, and comfort was received. It was agreed that the afternoon was valuably spent, and should happen again – monthly where possible. It was noted that the only two men present, myself and Lex, where not feeling particularly bereaved, and that the Widowers in the parish should be encouraged to attend next time.

Easter Programme

Please keep an eye on the Parish Diary on the back of the Pewleaflet. In addition to the normal Holy Week and Easter Programme:
We will be holding a Seder Dinner on Monday 10 April 2006 at 19:00. A Seder Dinner is also known as the Passover Dinner, and is what Jesus celebrated with his Disciples at what we call The Last Supper. The evening will be led by Marinda du Preez from Hartebeespoort, and the focus will be on the Christian implications of the Jewish tradition: “Out of Bondage into Freedom through the Blood of the Lamb”, and should prove to be a good evening of learning, worship and fellowship. Please let the office know if you are attending. The cost of the evening – including a booklet – will be in the region of R50 per person, but we will run the evening on a donation basis.
The Good Friday Service (3 Hour) will focus on the Seven Miraculous Signs of Jesus, and their significance, according to John’s Gospel. This service will include aspects of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, as well as the Solemn Adoration of Christ Crucified.
We have six Baptism candidates (from six families) for Easter Baptisms. Due to space limitations Council has agreed that move the Easter Vigil and Festival of Light to Holy Saturday Evening at 18:30, and include Baptisms at this service and at 09:00 on Easter Sunday. We will still hold a Sunrise (Son-rise!) Eucharist at 05:00 on Easter Sunday.

Completion

“Closure” is one of those overworked words in today’s fixated world, but none the less it remains an important concept. I encourage you all to celebrate Easter, either with us at Corpus Christi, or at a local Church wherever you may be holidaying. The Easter Celebrations bring closure to our Lenten Pilgrimage, and it is a valuable path to wholeness in God to bring this journey to completion.

Yours in Christ

Mark

March 2006

Dear friends

Convalescence

I write to you all as I recover from a recent (and unexpected) revolt by my gall bladder, which took a general surgeon and a hospital visit to put down. I am able to report that our campaign has been successful, and, apart from a few scars, I have survived! I am still recuperating, but should be back to full duty by next week. I had planned to do all sorts of reading and Lenten preparation during this period of recuperation, but have found myself foggy-minded and concentration difficult (… the revenge of a spurned gall bladder!). I have nonetheless managed to indulge my passion for fantasy reading - managing to get through another title in Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series - played around on the internet getting a personal blog (online diary) going, and have begun an invasion of Eugene H. Peterson’s book The Contemplative Pastor. I have much appreciated the visits, calls and emails – thank you!

Lent: a Journey of Prayer & Parable

In The Contemplative Pastor Eugene H Peterson reflects that most people want a kind of spiritual vendor in a pastor who is going to make them feel comfortable in the “kingdom of self”, and who is not going to disturb the status quo by making any gospel demands on them. In reflecting on the pastor’s response to this expectation, he says, “I am undermining the kingdom of self and establishing the kingdom of God. I am helping them to become what God wants them to be, using the methods of subversion.” (pg 28) As this approach may be seen by some to be dishonest, he goes on to say, “But isn’t this dishonest? Not exactly, as I am not misrepresenting myself. I’m simply taking my words and acts at a level of seriousness that would throw them into a state of catatonic disbelief if they ever knew.” (pg 29). He says that prayer and parable are important elements in subverting the kingdom of self, in building the kingdom of God, and were prime elements in the way Jesus lived out his mission.
I raise this as a challenge for our Lenten pilgrimage: as Christians, how seriously do we take our words and actions? Have we allowed the world to diminish us, have we allowed our cultures to dictate the manner in which we live out our commitments? What differentiates us from those who claim no faith-commitment, no relationship with the Creator God? How visible is our prayer in our attitude and action? What parable (story) do our words and actions speak? What difference does our commitment to the values of God’s kingdom make in the context of our lives, be it family, friends, or workplace?
Let us seek to find answers to these questions as we walk the Lenten journey of self-denial and sacrifice.

Opportunity

Lent offers us a number of opportunities in which to consider the healthiness of our God-relationship. I encourage you to make the most of the opportunities available through Corpus Christi between now and the Easter celebrations: Shrove Tuesday Pancake Party, Ash Wednesday Services (morning and evening), the Lent Course every Wednesday evening (starting 8 March), Stations of the Cross every Sunday evening, and our normal services of Worship. A reminder, too, that I and other members of the ministry team are available should you require spiritual direction, counselling, or just a chat. Please feel free to contact us directly, or via the parish office. There is always space in my diary … kept available for you!

Growth

I met with the Churchwardens yesterday, and it is so encouraging to see our new leadership structures begin to take shape. It is also heartening to see the finances begin the year in a healthy state. This is the year of “broad-based parishioner involvement”, so expect to get involved: please be proactive – don’t wait to be asked! Don’t hesitate to speak to myself, one of the churchwardens or councillors, if you have ideas or want to offer something. We are all important members of the kingdom of God, however insignificant we perceive ourselves to be, and have something – no matter the size, big or small – to contribute!

Youth Ministry and Support

There are changes on the youth scene this year:

Youth Fusion (13 to 18 year-olds): Hilary Davis, who has faithfully facilitated “Youth Fusion” over a number of years, has retired to focus on family priorities and her other areas of parish involvement. We owe her huge thanks for the loyal devotion she has shown this important ministry at Corpus Christi: thank you, Hilary! Shane and Liesel Smith have courageously stepped into the gap, and will facilitate this year’s programme. We are planning a regular monthly get-together, and have elected a youth council to work with Shane and Liesel in planning and executing events. Shane and Liesel are looking for parental support, and I ask for your cooperation, please.

Young Adults (18 to 25 year-olds): this group is the next priority, and I will be convening a get-together before Easter for this age-group, to discuss various possibilities and opportunities for regular interaction. I am aware that we have not offered much for this group in the past, so if you are aware of any young adults who may have wondered off, please let me have their names.

Young Married Couples (and 1st time parents!): we have a number of young couples (early 20’s to mid 30’s), either recently married – or about to be – in the parish. It is my hope that we can get a support group together, also hopefully before Easter. If you are interested, or know of anyone who may be, please also let me know.

Yours in Christ

Mark

February 2006

Dear friends

Our Prophetic Role

As you read this, 2006 is probably already a month or more old! I am reminded that it is important we make the best of every day, and that we use 2006 to make a clear impact for God in our various communities within which we live and work. At our New Year’s Day service Father Njiro in his sermon reminded us that the Church needs to give leadership to the World, and that as the people of God we have a prophetic calling. We, like most human beings, are nervous to stick our necks out – someone may just chop off our heads! – and so find this type of prophetic reminder uncomfortable. However … what are our values as Anglicans and as Christians? Are we willing to stand up for what is right and good? Dare we make a difference for God in our society? or are we content with the “easy” road?

… on being Anglican

You should by now have received a letter from me on this topic in the post. Please read, note and inwardly digest its contents! Since joining the parish in April 2005, I have found the particular issues raised in the letter to be a regular source of unnecessary anguish for both myself and the families requiring the services concerned. We describe ourselves in our Statement of Purpose as “a traditional Anglican Church”, and yet when it comes to death – especially – we throw tradition to the wind, and seek to be anything but Anglican in our practice. I tire of being placed in the untenable position where a pastoral request may require my canonical disobedience. Please, please, PLEASE … let us respect our traditions as Anglican Christians.

Father Stephen Njiro

Stephen and Esther Njiro have been part of our community at Corpus Christi for over a year now. Father Stephen was ordained priest in the Anglican Church in Kenya in 1991. He was awarded a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry by the International School of Theology (California, USA) in 1990. In addition to this, he carries a Doctorate in Veterinary Pathology, and is employed as a Professor at Onderstepoort. The Bishop has given us permission to use Father Stephen in his priestly ministry, and he will be utilised here at Corpus Christi, and at St Agnes, Stanza Bopape, in a self-supporting capacity. It is the Bishop’s policy to allow non-stipendiary clergy substantial time to settle into the community before they take up any duties, so … although we already know him well … WELCOME Father Stephen!

Lent & Home Fellowships

Lent is just around the corner, with Shrove Tuesday on 28 February 2006 (come and join us for Pancakes at the Church!) and Ash Wednesday on 1 March 2006 officially marking the start of our preparation for the Easter events. We will again offer an evening “Lent Course” at the Church, beginning on Wednesday 8 March 2006. For those who find navigating the streets in the dark difficult, transport can be arranged … just speak to Bonita in the office! We will begin each evening with Evening Prayer in the Church, followed by a presentation and group discussion in the Hall. No particular qualification for your attendance is required, just a desire to get to know God and his children better. We are in the process of putting it all together, so please keep an eye out for further details in the Sunday Pewleaflet.
It is my hope that we can use the Lent Course to launch a few more Home Fellowship Groups in the parish. However, attendance at the course will NOT automatically force you into a Home Fellowship Group … but it will be encouraged!

Council & Broad-based Parishioner Involvement

In an attempt to open up our structures, and to provide greater opportunity for every-member participation in the life of the parish, our first step is change at Executive and Council level. We have created Executive portfolios for myself and the Churchwardens, which will be mirrored in Council committees. The idea is that these committees will be made up of a Churchwarden who will act as facilitator, two or three councillors plus anyone else who may be active in the particular areas concerned. Council meetings will allow for a committee meeting component (open to all) followed by a decision making time (Executive and Council members). The new council spent a productive Saturday on 21 January getting to know each other, and beginning this new process. Your input is desired: please let us know of ideas, hopes and dreams that you may have for our parish life and community involvement.

“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41-42a)

Many blessings to you all for the year ahead: may we all, like Andrew, bring many “Simon’s” to Jesus.

Yours in Christ

Mark

Report to Annual Vestry January 2006

Today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18 is a timely reminder to those who presume to speak in God’s name, for it is very easy to put God’s name to that which is simply a personal agenda. I am aware that in my role as Rector, and as one of the primary leaders in this parish, I am required to speak in God’s name – and I am conscious that the line between God’s commands and my own thoughts is often a very narrow one. The prophet is held accountable by the community of God’s people, as I am held accountable by you. The prophet who only hears the word of God in the privacy of his or her own existence walks a treacherous path, for it is in community that we test the word of the prophet, it is in community where we discern it to be, or not to be, the Word of God to us. The challenge for the prophet is to hear what God is saying in the midst of His people, and to give such form to that which is already present that the community of God can recognise and affirm the truth of the Prophetic word.

Since my arrival in your midst in April of last year (2005) I have spent a great deal of time listening, attempting to discern the Word of God in our midst. I value the feedback that I have received from you, and your participation in helping define our purpose. As is normal in any human community the thread of God’s Word has been interlaced deeply with our own personal agendas and concerns. While our personal concerns may be valid, where our personal agendas constrict or hold back or become obstacles to the purposes of God, they are unacceptable. While the Church offers refuge from the storms of life and society, and seeks to provide an environment in which we can be safe and comfortable, this is only secondary to our obedience to the Word of God. I encourage us all to put our own agendas aside that we may clearly perceive God’s agenda.

Power in the Church is easily vested in the few, especially during times of change such as we have undergone with Father Bob’s retirement, the resulting interregnum and the appointment of a new Rector. This, to a large degree, is true of us, and it is time that this base is broadened. Our Statement of Purpose speaks of broad-based parishioner involvement, and this includes involvement in the decision-making structures of the parish as well as in active ministry, caring and outreach. While being hugely thankful to the few who have been willing to shoulder the responsibility over the last eighteen months, the rest of us need to resume joint responsibility for the ongoing life of this parish. The structures being put in place for 2006 at Council level are designed to give leadership to this broader involvement. For this to be effective it does require us all to be proactive in our commitment to God and in our commitment to the community of Corpus Christi. My prayer is that in celebrating our 25th Anniversary this year, we recommit ourselves to God, and allow him to renew us, revision us, and strengthen us to be faithful to our purpose and to the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

We have defined ourselves here at Corpus Christi as “a Christ-centred, traditional Anglican community guided by the Holy Spirit”. I note that we pick and choose as to what defines “tradition”: when it comes to funerals we happily cast aside Anglican tradition and request a service sans corpse; when it comes to music we hold to a hymnal fifteen years out of date; when it comes to language we hold to English because it was the language of our founders. I am yet to be persuaded that we are truly a traditional Anglican community, or that we are particularly open to guidance from the Holy Spirit. It is, though, the desire within this community to be Christ-centred that gives me hope. I am reminded that the Church is but a microcosm of the wider world and society, and that some of these attitudes are therefore not unexpected. What is encouraging – and this is the profound nature of our Statement of Purpose - is that we do recognise that we need to be more than we are, and that our failings are not beyond the redemption of God in Jesus Christ. With this in mind let us look to the future.

I have four priorities on our agenda for the year ahead:

1. The further development of structures to give priority to young people in this parish, including more regular Youth Fusion meetings, and the development of support groups for young adults and young married couples.

2. The further creation and development of Home Fellowship and Support Groups to provide a fuller environment in which pastoral support, caring, fellowship, worship, and study are encouraged. The upcoming Lent Course will be used as a spring-board for this development.

3. A greater integration in our worship to reflect the multi-cultural nature of our community and more youth-friendly music. There are various collections of hymns available that seek to keep the best of the old and include the best of the new. There has been a greater closeness in the last year between the Choir and Music Group than I understand there has been in the past, and I hope 2006 will see a fuller integration of the two, as this can only be beneficial to our corporate worship.

4. An intentional focus, along with other parishes in the Archdeaconry, to lay the foundation for at least two new Anglican parishes in the fast expanding East of Pretoria.

The above reflects what I believe I have heard to be the purposes of God in our midst. They do, however, merely lay out the boundaries of the playing field: a great deal more will take place in the game, and the incoming Churchwardens will share something of the strategy we desire to put in place.

This parish is not mine, it is not yours: we belong to God. To be Christ-centred is to be about the business of God – and not our own - in His Church.

The above said, I need to express our thanks as a parish community to the following:

* The Jackson Family and Paul Pretorius: when one looks back over the Vestry Minutes of this parish Lex, Jeanne and Paul have clocked up many “Churchwarden” hours over the years. My particular thanks to Paul and Jeanne for the leadership they have given us over the last few years, and especially in overseeing the transition of the last eighteen months. I acknowledge with appreciation their courage in being willing to now step back and allow space for others to exercise their gifts of leadership in our midst.

* Our outgoing councillors for their time and contribution over the last year.

* Olga Nel, Belinda Holden, Hilary Davis and their teams who have shown continued dedication and commitment to our ongoing Sunday School, Teen Church and Youth activities.

* Gillian Sole and her team of Sacristans who somehow always manage to have everything just right around the altar, and do so in quiet dedication.

* Jeanne Jackson and Sabine Verryn and their singers and musicians who give direction to our music and singing every week.

* The Lay-ministers and Cup-bearers who have complied without complaint to the various changes and demands I have placed on them in leading our worship from Sunday to Sunday.

* Peter Vieyra and Collette Martin and the wonderful team of Servers at our 9am Services.

* Our Healing Group, Prayer Chain, and Wednesday morning Prayer Group for their gentle ministry of healing and prayer in our midst.

* Our Sidespeople who welcome us service by service, see that we have a pew leaflet and a seat, and conscientiously count and record the collections.

* Our flower-arrangers who weekly remind us of God’s creative beauty.

* Our readers who keep God’s Word in Scripture before us week by week.

* Our tea makers and snack providers who give sustenance to our bodies after the rigours of our worship.

* Those who facilitate and those who attend our various Monday and Friday Home Fellowship Groups

* Nan Muir and those who work with her in visiting the sick and housebound, keeping tabs on those in need in our community.

* Lex Jackson and Margaret Acres who are hugely faithful in getting Communion to the hospitalised and housebound.

* Lettie Harris and her culinary elves that make food magically appear in great abundance, oiling the cogs of corporate fellowship in our community.

* Deacon Steve Verryn for his ongoing commitment to the preparation of Baptism and Confirmation candidates.

* Father Danny Adonis for his availability to preside over our worship every third Sunday, allowing me to be with our Chapelry in Stanza Bopape.

* Father Steve Njiro for waiting patiently for the opportunity to exercise his priestly ministry in our midst here and at Stanza Bopape.

* Jeanne Jackson for compiling our monthly newsletter and keeping us in touch with the ongoing life of the parish.

* Jenny Moser and all who contribute so generously to the monthly Food Parcels for Tumelong.

* Trevor Wilson, for his refurbishment of the parish Office, and together with Peter Davies, ongoing oversight of our site and gardens.

* Our parish Cleaner, Cynthia, and parish Gardener, Gilbert, for their efforts in making sure our worship and fellowship environment is clean and neat.

* Our Treasurer, Lex, for his dedication in stewarding our finances and generosity giving.

* Our parish Administrator, Bonita, for her continued positive attitude in keeping our administration in order and our Rector under control.

* To our incoming Churchwardens and Council for availing themselves for these responsibilities, and their willingness to implement change and new structures.

* To my wife, Dawn, and my children for their ongoing support of my ministry, and their willingness to share me, especially of an evening or weekend, with the Church community.

* And finally, to all who labour without demand for recognition or reward for the growth of God’s Kingdom through this parish.

MARK R D LONG (Rev)
Rector

December 2005 & January 2006

Dear friends

ADVENT

Our new Church year has begun, commencing our pilgrimage towards the Christmas celebration of “Emmanuel – God with us”. This is a time of HOPE, based not on vague anticipations of the future, but on the concrete experience of the people of God in the past. The challenge before us is to concretise this HOPE for the future – to make it real in practical ways that make a meaningful difference to our family life, our community, our nation. The essence of this HOPE is that “God is with us”: we are not alone, we are not forgotten, we are not abandoned by the Creator – He is in our midst! This is truly GOOD NEWS, news that is the basis for our HOPE!

Closing off the year

A year ago Dawn and I were in discussion with Bishop Jo as to our possible future in this diocese, and Corpus Christi had been raised as one of the potential placements for us as a family. I am amazed at how long ago that now seems, and yet still somehow only yesterday. It is good to be in your midst, and I look forward to all that next year will hold for us. I am aware that my advent in your midst has brought some growth and, I hope, positive change to our parish life. Growth always incurs expense: in energy, in time, in commitment, and in wealth. On a practical note, a big thank you to all who have responded generously on a financial level over this year, and to those who have indicated they will continue to do so in the New Year: you enable the work and mission of God in our community in a very constructive and valuable manner. Anglicans often seem to be on a “Mission for Money”, but our renewed diocesan focus is enabling us to move towards “Money for Mission”, and your generosity enables us to get this focus right. Sadly there are always those who do not respond – for a variety of reasons both good and bad – and thus limit our potential (I have asked our Treasurer to follow-up on those of us who have not yet responded).

2006

One of the major challenges for 2006 will be to broaden our parishioner involvement-base. There are those among us who carry big burdens of responsibility (yes, some out of choice, but others due to the nature of where we are), and I am hugely thankful for each one’s ongoing commitment and fortitude to the job, and to others who have made themselves available and tried to lighten the burden! However, Moses’ father-in-law gave him a mouthful about overworking himself, and the need to delegate responsibility to others, and this we need to do in many areas of our parish life. This will be a priority for Council next year. Please take time over the Christmas break to consider your talents, gifts and skills, and prayerfully seek God’s mind on how you can contribute these resources to the growth of God’s kingdom via Corpus Christi. We can only be effective as a parish to the degree that you and I are generous with the resources and abilities God has given us. My deep desire is to see us expand next year, not for any sake other than the expansion of God’s Kingdom in the world. Who is in control? Me … You … God … ?

Small Christian Communities

There can be no doubt that churches grow – be it modern mega-churches or those with centuries of tradition – when members meet regularly in small groups for worship, prayer, study, and fellowship. This is where friendship and support bases are developed and grown. It is our intention (one of our parish goals for 2006) to get as many Home Fellowship Groups as possible up and running next year, preferably on a geographical basis where feasible. To enable fellowship it is suggested that the groups begin each meeting with a light meal (½ hour), move into a time of study, discussion and prayer (1 to 1½ hours), closing the meeting with tea & coffee (½ hour); all this within a controlled time-frame enabling focused involvement and opportunity. Please, again, be praying over the Christmas break about your own potential involvement in a Home Fellowship Group. More information will be made available in the New Year.

Leave

I have broken my leave up into a number of short weeks’ away this year – and have earned that wonderful response, “On leave – AGAIN?” Needless to say this hasn’t distracted me, and I have had some wonderful opportunities, which have been both recreative and invigorating. Dawn and my most recent being a wonderful visit to Zongoene Lodge on the Limpopo River Mouth in MoƧambique courtesy of Nissan, which included a flight in an old (older than me!), vintage Dakota (DC-3); quad-biking opportunities up the coast, with weather sadly blocking opportunities for snorkelling and deep-sea fishing; great seafood, and good company. I will be away in the Lowveld for a week during early December (giving Cassie the opportunity to catch up with old school friends, and a brief week in January (still unplanned). As many of you enjoy time off and time away with family over Christmas and New Year, may it be good! Drive carefully, and have lots of fun!

Season’s Greetings

From myself, Dawn and the family, God’s richest blessings and love to you all over Christmas and New Year!

Yours in Christ

Mark

November 2005

Dear friends

Leadership

I wrote in my last letter to you all of the importance of us taking communal responsibility for leadership in our community, and I have been much encouraged by the participation in the nomination and election process we have just completed. We have a council for 2006 that I believe is representative of our parish, both on a cultural and gender level. Our new executive (Churchwardens) is not as representative, but does reflect a breadth of church and business experience that will add value to our parish life. I look forward to working with those elected when they take up their responsibilities in the New Year, and thank them all for their willingness to make themselves available to us and to God for this important work.

Race & Gender Issues

I write to you while attending a South African Council of Churches (SACC) National Consultation on Racial and Gender Justice in Faith Based Communities, held in Kempton Park, as a representative of the CPSA. It has been a most interesting two days, with varied input that has been both insightful and challenging. It is clear that while political freedom was gained in 1994, this has not brought about economic freedom for those disenfranchised during the Apartheid years, and that racial harmony does not equate to racial justice. Racism has become covert, and while no longer legislated, is still resident in our attitudes and relationships, and needs to be excised from our lives. This is true both inside the Church and outside in South African society, and like it or not, the Church environment reflects our society. Women suffer the added burden of sexist attitudes held towards them, attitudes that often seek to limit their participation in decision-making structures in the family, social and business arena. Ultimately these issues are about the misuse of money, sex and power: our perceptions (or misconceptions) and impressions of what power and control are all about.
I arrived at the Consultation wondering what I as a white male South African could offer to the proceedings. Two things stood out for me: firstly, I was welcome and my presence appreciated by the other delegates, and my input valued; secondly, white South Africans have largely withdrawn from participation in discussions on the issue of racism, and impoverish our national life in so doing. A real cry from the heart, expressed during one of the small group discussions was, “What more must we black Africans do to make you whites know we welcome you among us in this land?” What more indeed – I had no answer.

Broad-based Parishioner Involvement

Broad-based parishioner involvement is one of our parish values, and my reflection above is pertinent to the realisation of this value in our parish experience. It is one thing to state this value, it is quite another to create an environment where all parishioners – no matter what our cultural background or gender (or age!) – have the true freedom to exercise this right of participation. It is easy to think that because we all worship harmoniously together all is well. However, the consequences of our past South African history so often impact negatively on our ability to relate and truly share our lives.
We need to engage with each other. This is difficult as on one hand some of us choose to think these issues are no longer of consequence, and others that it is no longer worth fighting. During our worship at Corpus Christi there has been occasion for some to not extend the hand of fellowship to certain people, and yet still to share in the common cup. Gender and race discrimination is not just “out there” – it is in our midst! We cannot engage each other while we choose to either not see people who are next to us, or while we avoid the potential hurt by not being present.
While we cannot easily accept responsibility for attitudes and responses developed over centuries of which we are all (in one way or another) victims, we can accept responsibility for the consequences and effects of colonialism and apartheid on our present and take responsibility for its impact on our future, especially on our children’s future. Talking about these things is difficult, and in order to do so we need somehow to move away from the concept of racism and sexism as accusation, to seeing these issues as reality, and a reality that needs to be transformed, not out of guilt or anger, but because it is what we are called to do by God (Romans 12).
A willingness to deal thoughtfully and caringly with these issues is a sign of spiritual maturity, and the journey towards maturity is a journey into diversity. Our parish membership increasingly reflects our society’s diversity – the challenge is to transform (change) our response, to one that increasingly expresses the nature of our faith, and our resurrection hope. At Corpus Christi we have the potential to demonstrate what a truly reconciled community looks like … if we are willing to journey together.

Yours in Christ

Mark

October 2005

22 September 2005


Dear friends

Statement of Purpose

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time and made the effort to be part of helping us revisit and further develop our Vision, Mission and Values. In the interests of brevity we have combined these in to a Statement of Purpose, and at our September Parish Council meeting the principles expressed in this statement were officially accepted. It reads as follows:

Corpus Christi is a Christ-centred, traditional Anglican community guided by the Holy Spirit. We offer inclusive, flexible, reverent, and dignified worship opportunities. Our mission is building the Kingdom of God in the wider community through outreach and service. We focus on being a place where others meet Christ, offering opportunities for spiritual and relational growth, care, fellowship, and ministry development. We value friendship, youth participation and broad-based parishioner involvement.

“… go and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 28:19)

Diocesan Synod 2005

This was a most meaningful and encouraging time in which there was genuine commitment demonstrated to being mission focused. The diocese will now focus on developing the western area in this regard – there is only one full-time priest (who is also archdeacon!) in that vast area – although there are many apparently thriving lay-led Anglican communities throughout the region. Our archdeaconry mission focus, also backed by Synod, will be to develop a new parish around Ekangala, a most exciting development. As a parish our mission – together with the Waterkloof and Lynnwood parishes – is to grow the Anglican Church out into the fast developing east of Pretoria, a substantial challenge!

Stewardship ... and … Leadership

One of the focus’ of Diocesan Synod relates the ordering of our parish processes: one was an agreement that it becomes normal practise that Churchwardens’ term of service be limited to three years consecutively, after which they are required to step down for at least a year, although they remain eligible to serve as Councillor; the spouse of a Churchwarden may not serve as an office-bearer (Councillor, treasurer, etc) while the Churchwarden is in office; and, Clergy “Spice” are no longer eligible to serve as office-bearers in the parish or diocese. This is, however, not an exclusion from ministry positions – only elected ones – in parish and diocesan life. It was also agreed to discourage – but not specifically enforce – husband/wife teams from both serving as Councillors together at any one time, in the interests of encouraging broad-based parishioner involvement (one of our parish values!) in leadership positions.
To a greater degree our calling as Christians is to a lifestyle of Stewardship, and this includes our stewardship of responsibility – a gift of Creation! The exercising of Leadership is in essence our stewardship of responsibility, and one can exercise this gift in different ways. As a parish we elect new Churchwardens and Councillors during October for the new year (2006), and as both Paul Pretorius and Jeanne Jackson have completed three consecutive years as Churchwardens, we have the opportunity to draw others into this important parish leadership role. In reflecting on whom we should nominate, it is important to realise that we all carry responsibility in this area, as although only "the few" may become acknowledged community leaders at any one time, "the many" also exercise the gift of leadership responsibly in the background through prayerful and thoughtful nomination and election of others to these positions. Both are legitimate community leadership roles. As "the many" we are equally accountable and responsible before God for the leaders ("the few") that we elect, as they then are for the manner in which they choose to exercise their resulting responsibilities.
At a Special Vestry on Sunday 23 October we will be electing new Churchwardens and Parish Councillors for 2006. Nomination forms will be available from Sunday 2 October 2005: please be prayerfully proactive and nominate parishioners whom you believe can best represent the breadth of our increasingly multi-cultural parish community!


Yours in Christ

Mark

September 2005

Dear friends

Indaba

The parish vision afternoon was a great success in terms of beginning to nail down our sense of purpose – our vision, our mission – and highlighting those things we consider to be of value to us at Corpus Christi. It also began a process of “Conversation” that I hope will be ongoing. Importantly, we celebrate our 25th anniversary next year, and so in many ways begin a new phase in our existence as we look forward into our next quarter century. For this reason alone it is important that we clarify our purpose: we began in 1981 as the “parish on the boundary” catering largely for Christians of an Anglo-Catholic bent; as we begin the next phase we discover a boundary that has moved substantially east, and a parishioner-base that is significantly changed from our early beginnings. While we are likely to remain a Christian community that values a traditional Anglican outlook, we also need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership, willing to be both flexible and inclusive in our worship and caring.

Arms of the Parish

I am much indebted to Trevor Wilson for helping us revive and clarify (at least for myself) the “Arms of the Parish”, which essentially give structure and direction to our parish organisation, ministry and outreach. The importance of this is twofold: firstly, that we identify people in our community to give direction to the various areas of responsibility; and, secondly, that we create opportunities for broad-based parishioner participation. The preserve of the few needs to become the playground of the multitudes.

Home Fellowship Groups

We face two challenges as a congregation: to provide meaningful opportunities for spiritual and relational growth for ourselves; to grow the work of the Church into the continuously expanding east of Pretoria. Home Fellowship Groups (known by various names in various places: cell groups, small Christian communities, etc.) are a way to meet both challenges, especially if they are organised on a geographical basis. In my experience over the last twenty-two years, this is the only way that the Church can be effective in pastoral care, friendship development, spiritual growth and mission on an ongoing basis. Various groups over the years have brought me personally to increasing depth in my spirituality and friendships. More about this in the next while!

Welcome, Father Danny!

Father Danny Adonis has been part of our parish for some time. He is, however, licensed to the Archdeacon (who was Father Bob, and is now Father Timothy from St Frances, Waterkloof), and so since Father Bob’s retirement there has been some confusion as to where Father Danny belongs. We now have agreement that the Archdeacon will coordinate Father Danny’s Sunday programme, and that Corpus Christi will be his home parish! And so we officially welcome Danny and Nomvula and their family with us at Corpus Christi.

Pastoral Prayer

As part of our caring for you, the Wednesday morning group – that has been praying for those on our Sick List – will now also be praying through the parish roll, bringing seven of our families before God every week. Due to lack of another creative method, they have begun at “A” and will work their way through to “Z”! Expect a phone call from Margaret Acres or one of her team desiring to know what particularly they can give thanks to God for on your behalf, or any specific need you may be encountering.

Fill-a-Bag

It is a highlight of my month to watch the office fill with “Fill-a-Bag’s”. This month Jenny and Isobel carted of thirty-nine bags in Jenny’s little car to Tumelong for distribution via the Hospice in the Winterveld. We are making a meaningful contribution to the lives of those in often desperate need – thank you for your generosity! I think we now have fifty parishioners signed up to help in this important way.

Hospital Visiting

Nan Muir has kindly taken on responsibility for coordinating the general visiting of people in the Pretoria East Hospital, as well as specific visiting of any of us who find ourselves confined to one of the many hospitals in the Pretoria environment. Please inform Nan either via the Parish Office or directly if you are planning a hospital stay (however brief) so that we can demonstrate God’s love to you through a visit. If you are interested in being part of this caring ministry, please speak to Nan.

The Housebound & Communion

Lex Jackson has kindly taken on responsibility for coordinating the administration of Holy Communion to those either hospitalised or housebound (temporarily or long-term). If you are in need of this ministry, or know of others who may be, please let Lex know – also either via the office or directly.

Diocesan Synod

Although I write this before our Diocesan Synod meeting this coming weekend, you will be reading it afterwards. This is our first Synod since Mpumalanga was split off as a new diocese of its own last year, and so is an important one for us as we are also essentially a “new diocese”. This Synod will give renewed direction to the diocese as representatives from the various parishes of the diocese, the clergy and bishops meet for consultation with each other and with God. I hope and pray, too, that you will have been able to join us for the Diocesan Family Day Service at St Alban’s College on Sunday, and will have enjoyed experiencing something of the wider culture of our Diocese in worship.

Yours in Christ

Mark


The following is a draft of the various statements coming out of our Parish Vision Afternoon held on Saturday 20 August 2005. Your prayerful consideration and wise comment will be much appreciated.

Our Vision Statement

Our vision is a Christ-centred, traditional Anglican community, offering spirit-filled leadership and inclusive, flexible worship opportunities

Our Mission Statement

Our mission is to build the Kingdom of God in our wider community through outreach and service, while offering opportunities for spiritual and relational growth, care and fellowship

Our Value Statement

Our lives: a place where others meet Christ

We Value

Reverent, dignified worship services
Youth participation
Broad-based parishioner involvement
Friendship development
Effective pastoral care and spiritual support
Effective community outreach & service

August 2005

Dear friends

Celebration, and …

July has been a month of almost continuous celebration as Dawn and I have enjoyed turning 40! We had largely impromptu dinners on both our Birthdays, as well as the wonderful turnout at the parish Rector’s Birthday Bash, and good fun at an event later in the month for family and other friends. In the process, we have both become aware of your appreciation of us among you, as well as a renewed insight into the value of both family and friendship.

… Sacrifice!

Along with all this celebrating, as a parish from Sunday to Sunday we have been reflecting on the nature of sacrifice, and I have become aware (it wasn’t planned!) as we have progressed through the Sunday Lectionary Readings and accompanying Collects that being a living sacrifice, in particular being a place where others can meet God, has developed into a whole theme of somewhat momentous implication for us as a community. I have been encouraged to consider putting it into print – a somewhat daunting thought as I rarely preach from notes. If you have perchance taken notes during my sermons during June and July I would greatly value a copy.

Vision Afternoon

We have planned a parish Vision afternoon for Saturday 20 August 2005 from 14:00 till 17:00. It was referred to at the last parish Council as our Parish Indaba, which I think is a helpful concept as it reflects a gathering where there is freedom for anyone to express their hopes and desires for our parish community. Thus, PLEASE COME ALONG and JOIN IN the process! This meeting will be a beginning rather than an end, and will give direction for where we go as a community into the future.
I think I have been around long enough now to have some sense of who we are as Corpus Christi, where we have come from, and where we need to go, but I see this Indaba as an opportunity for the community to express this for itself, rather than have me impose from above. It also gives me the opportunity to test my perceptions against that of the group – so your involvement and presence is most important.
I am aware that, although we have a very strong Anglo-Catholic, Traditional High-Church background and that there are still parishioners who value this approach in particular to Worship, there has been an influx over the last eight to ten years of people who have joined our community for reasons other than our origins, and for whom an unswerving loyalty to this particular worship tradition is not a priority; and many of whom have brought with them a valuable variety of both worship experience and diverse cultural outlook. It is, I believe, time that these issues are opened for honest and open discussion. It is my intention that our Indaba be this time.
Please make every effort to attend!

Yours in Christ

Mark

July 2005

Dear friends

I am never sure exactly how many parishioners actually read this diatribe of mine, but I am encouraged by occasionally overhearing something from it being discussed before a Sunday service. It is said that if time flies past, one must be having fun: if the speed at which this month has flown is anything to go by, life is one great party at the moment! I suspect it has a lot to do with growing relationships as I settle more fully into parish life.

Availability

I understand that part of my ministry to you all is to be available, be it for specific ministry in times of crisis, ongoing support in dealing with complex issues of life and relationships, or just shared social time together. Part of why I responded to God’s call is that I enjoy people, and I gain great pleasure from being able to help individuals and communities find greater wholeness and abundance in their relationship with God and in their relationship with life as a whole. Like many of you, I struggle with the many calls on my time, and have found a diary a useful tool for giving some direction and priority to how I steward my time.

If you wish to see me, the key is to ask! I know from previous parish experience that it is easy for parishioners to see the Rector as “busy” (and I would certainly be busy rather than idle!), and to allow this to stop one from attempting to obtain some of the Rector’s attention. I am busy with the affairs of the parish, and the affairs of the parish include you. So, please do not hesitate to include yourself, your family, your needs, and your social occasions, into my schedule. Dawn is often happy to accompany me on social occasions, and appreciates being included; she does, however, hold down a demanding job that requires its pound of flesh, and so we do have to prioritise her involvement in my weekend activities to enable her to have some time for personal recreation before the new week and its demands hits, which I am sure you will all understand.

Presently my diary is most easily available during Office hours, but can be unearthed at other times if the necessity is great!

Caring

If you are aware of anyone in the parish who is feeling ignored – for whatever reason, legitimate or illegitimate – please encourage them to get hold of the parish office, myself, the churchwardens or council, members of the ministry team, so that we can rectify the problem. If you know of anyone in need, please also take the time to care by letting us know. Although we are on occasion prescient, generally we rely on normal everyday communication! I’d rather we receive twelve calls about the same issue/need rather than no call because everyone thinks someone else has already let us know!

Vision, and the Future

Some of you will have noticed on the Pew Leaflet that we have a Parish Vision Afternoon set for Saturday 20 August 2005, 14:00-17:00. This is an opportunity for us to do a number of things: review where and who we are as Corpus Christi Anglican Church (visit our origins); contemplate the horizon (where we are going – our vision); reflect on the journey (how we will reach the horizon – our mission); plan the trip (visit our values and objectives). This afternoon will probably be too short to do the above justice, but my hope is that it will begin a process that Council and the Ministry Team can take further. This afternoon is open to any and all members of the parish, and your attendance will be valuable in helping us look to what we become in the future. The Rector’s Questionnaire that some have taken the time to fill in will be used to inform our task for the day.

Diocesan Involvement

Every now and then the Diocese makes some demands on our time, which we too-often sadly meet with an unenthusiastic attitude.
Our most recent experience of this was the Diocesan Youth Assembly called by the Bishop on Youth Day, 16 June 2005: we were not represented. While I understand the many excuses given by our young people – exams, long-weekend away, planned family-time – my concern is that they reflect our parental attitudes, and our unwillingness, often, to push our children and ourselves in involving ourselves beyond our own areas of comfort and parochial-ness. My sadness – apart from a very uncomfortable conversation with the Bishop about our absence – is that I know from previous experience how valuable these times with the Bishop are for our young people. He has an amazing gift of relational interaction with them, and I believe this Assembly was no exception.
Our next opportunity for Diocesan involvement as a Parish will be the Diocesan Family Day Service on Sunday 4 September 2005 at St Alban’s College. I am requesting that we put aside the morning (and our lack of enthusiasm!) from about 9am till about 2pm for this occasion, as it will involve a Eucharist followed by a bring-and-share lunch together. The benefit of this occasion is that it gives us an opportunity to celebrate our membership of the wider Church, and to enjoy the variety of worship that exists in Anglicanism in this Diocese. I do not necessarily expect unbridled enthusiasm, but would greatly appreciate an attitude of openness and a willingness to participate – even if this is not quite your “scene”. There will be no services at Corpus Christi on this Sunday.

Sacrifice

Perhaps this is then the point to reflect briefly on sacrifice! Over the last few weeks this has been an ongoing theme through our Sunday Collects and Readings. At the end of the Eucharist we pray the following: “Father Almighty, we offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice in Jesus Christ …”. It has struck me that to be a “living sacrifice” is to be the place in which others can meet God.
What is the nature of the environment of our lives in which others meet God? Is it a place of welcome; of enthusiasm for life, for God, for the things of God? Is it an environment in which belief is combined with trust to create faith? Is it a place where our true humanity – with all its imperfection – is allowed to experience the transforming processes of God in Jesus? Is it an honest environment in which others in their imperfection will meet our imperfection, and receive hope that their imperfections can be transformed?

Invitation

You are cordially invited to attend the “Rector’s Birthday Bash” on Sunday 10 July 2005, 12:00-15:00, as we celebrate my and Dawn’s 40th Birthdays with the Parish – the Best 40 x 40’s x Far – in the Church grounds. It is a Bring-and-Braai-and-Share! Salads, crockery, cutlery and glasses will be provided. If you have not yet replied, please could you do so to the Parish Office before 12:00 on Wednesday 6 July 2005.

Yours in Christ

Mark

June 2005

Dear friends

It is hard to believe that it is five weeks ago I last sat down to write to you all. Much has happened in this time, and I give thanks to God for his goodness in our lives. On a personal level, we have enjoyed a few days away as a family (sans Nathan who was working) in Kenton-on-Sea in the Eastern Cape. I holidayed there regularly as a teenager, and it was great to renew childhood memories, and to catch up with the present – I greatly appreciated having time to reflect on our return to Pretoria and our entry into Corpus Christi. I have also just returned from a “flying” visit to the UK for my little brother, James’, wedding. All went according to plan (even the sun came out for the afternoon!), and it was a wonderful celebration of relationship and intimacy; we rejoice in the addition of my new sister-in-law, Issy, to the family. They were married in the village church of St Mary and All Saints in Beaconsfield (a Cathedral by South African standards), followed by a delightful reception at the Grovefield hotel.

On a parish level, we have celebrated Ascension and Pentecost, reflected on the Trinity and this weekend celebrate our Patronal festival of Corpus Christi. This season of Pentecost has reminded me that God is in the business of transformation. He doesn’t throw out the old, but renews it, changes it, develops it into something that is new and different, but recognisable just the same. Alongside this season I have begun reading Stephen Covey’s new book, The 8th Habit (from effectiveness to Greatness), and the combination I have found challenging in that as your new Rector I am not here to fulfil a custodial role in the traditions of the past, but rather here to make a real and significant contribution to our growth in the present and future. Our past is our foundation as a community, and it is also the clay that God will use to form our future. The decisions we make in the present reflect our respect (occasionally our disrespect) for the past; they define our future, and hopefully demonstrate a desire not just to survive, but actually live out our Christian hope in abundance. The decisions and actions of today are what count, as the present is where we live.

What decisions are we making? What actions are we taking? Is the abundance of God – even in the midst of our human travail – visible in who we are and what we do? I would like us to ask these questions seriously of ourselves: as individuals; as families; as the Christian Community of Corpus Christi. Who we are and what we do needs always to speak loudly of our HOPE in Jesus Christ, of our FAITH in God who does not take us out of the difficulties and horrors of life, but walks beside us as a friend, lending us support while enhancing our dignity. We are called to be Christ to others, to lend similar support, to enhance dignity for our neighbour. Our HOPE in Jesus Christ is a call to intimacy, a call to come out from behind our barriers, a call to live holy but normal lives.

Speaking of transformation, we have made some small changes to our worship services aimed at enhancing your worship experience. In order to create a greater sense of sacredness at the beginning of the service we have moved the notices away from this point, which also demands your greater commitment to being on time! I long for the day when the congregation is seated and praying at least 10 minutes before the advertised commencement time! We have placed the Creed immediately following the Gospel reading to try and decrease the sense of continually being “up and down” (once described to me as “Anglican Gymnastics”), and to allow a flow from the sermon into a short time of reflection into a time of prayer. The peace forms a natural break in the service as we move from “word” to “sacrament”, and so the notices have found their new home here. The collection also has a new home, during the Offertory hymn, allowing for our “09:20 Congregants” to also contribute to our financial wellbeing. Further suggestions as to ways we can further enhance our communal times together will always be welcome.

To those who have taken the time and made the effort to complete my “Rector’s Questionnaire”, thank you! I have much enjoyed getting a sense of what is important to various members of the parish, and appreciate the various suggestions for further parish development. Sometime in June/July (date to be advised) we will hold a parish discussion day to consider some of these suggestions, to reflect on what is already happening, and to plan our way forward. Those of you who haven’t yet found the time to complete a questionnaire, I’d much appreciate your doing so in the next few weeks.

In closing, a comment on Matthew 6:33 from Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest: “Jesus is saying that the greatest concern of life is to place our relationship with God first, and everything else second.”

Yours in Christ

Mark

May 2005

Dear friends

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! This is our cry as we celebrate the period between Easter and Pentecost, a period of celebration in which we rejoice in the gift of freedom – freedom from the destructive power of sin and evil and death – and the gift of fullness of eternal life that Jesus’ death and resurrection have won for us. What does it mean to be a people of resurrection, a people of abundant life, a people who count God as a friend?
As Anglicans we are profoundly accomplished at preparing for the party – and by this I refer to the deep and meaningful way in which we approach Lent and Advent. However, we are not very good at enjoying the party. We find it difficult to express joy in our worship, and often hold back on our emotion. Part of this is something of the nature of our collective personality: Anglicans have an inbuilt introversion when it comes to expressing our faith, either in worship or in sharing our faith with others. We need to work – hard – at developing this side of our nature and bringing balance both to our relationship with God, and to our relationship with the world. One of my favourite passages of scripture is the Wedding at Cana in John’s Gospel where God, through Jesus, turns water into wine at a point in the wedding celebration where people have already had too much to drink – and on top of this he produces wine of premium quality! We have in this passage of scripture an insight into the nature of God, who rejoices in over-abundance when it comes to humanity’s experience of the goodness of life and of his Grace. Let us not fear experiencing this over-abundance in our own lives and worship – for we have been set free from fear through Jesus’ resurrection – and let us open our lives afresh to God that we may celebrate joyfully the eternal gift of life in visible fashion.
As your newly instituted Rector, this is my prayer for us at Corpus Christi as we move towards the celebration of Pentecost.

I thanked you all last month for our welcome among you, and we continue to be blessed by the joy many of you continue to express in our presence here at Corpus Christi. A particular thank you for the wonderful gift of food and drink that we received as we moved into our new house in Lancelot Road (where we are now happily settled!). My special thanks to all who have held this parish in the palm of God’s hand during the interregnum – it has clearly been a joint effort, and well done at that. My thanks go to all who have given leadership, especially the churchwardens, council, lay-ministers and assistant clergy, during this time. Their leadership, though, would have meant nothing without all your participation and support.
An interregnum is primarily a period of maintenance and waiting, although growth is not unknown as, in the absence of a Rector, the weight of responsibility truly falls on others who learn and grow greatly in the experience. My institution by Bishop Jo Seoka on Saturday 16 April 2005, clearly marked the end of this period of waiting, and it is now time to move forward. I believe we need to move forward in acknowledgement of the past, but not hindered by it, and we need to move forward in openness to God’s purposes for us as a Christian Community. Bishop Jo spoke at my institution of the importance of prayer, and reminded us that our Christian activity needs to flow out of prayer and out of time immersed in God’s very presence; and so I ask that we be a praying parish. I understand prayer to be primarily conversation with God – a process of expression and listening. Let us express to God our desires and hopes for this community, and let us listen for how he wishes to weave these desires and hopes into the fabric of our community life: speak up, but also listen up!

Corpus Christi, the body of Christ: an intrinsic concept underlying Christian mission and ministry. This is who we are, this is our name, this is how God knows us. What does it mean? For me, personally, the concept of the body of Christ reflects an inclusive working together of all Christians – without regard to position, status, or culture – towards the growth of God’s Kingdom in the world. A part of my vision for the church, and thus for us here at Corpus Christi is the following:

My dream begins to find expression in a transforming Church building God’s Kingdom in the world: a Church that is resourced by Kingdom builders, and served by Christ-followers; a Church that is effective as an instrument of God, presenting a Christ-centred Gospel; a Church as institution that seeks relevance and flexibility in addressing the needs of society, that engages proactively with a fast changing and developing world environment, that builds and networks faith-support structures for our society, especially for those engaged in business, government and community leadership; a Church focused on equipping both individuals and communities to serve God in their everyday lives. A Church structured to the primary focus of mission as the everyday environment of the Christ-follower.

I look forward to exploring this with you in the context of who we are in this parish over the next few months.

Yours in Christ

Mark

April 2005

Dear friends in Christ

It is a great pleasure to be writing to you as a member of the parish, and as a resident of the City of Tshwane! Thank you all for the wonderful welcome we have received as a family over this Easter period. As a family, it is good to be together again, and we have enjoyed some time with our extended Canadian family who have spent the last ten days with us. We will be moving into our new house – 518 Lancelot Road, Garsfontein x 5 - in a week or so, which will be a real pleasure. Dawn is discovering the joys and frustrations of being part of a developing work environment as her role in the company she works for transforms to allow her space in the wider group. Cassie has settled into St Mary’s, DSG, extremely happily, which makes the trials of living separately as a family over the last few months worth-while. Nathan, who has recently turned 18, has decided completing his Matric is a priority: we have registered him through Damelin to complete his Grade 10 via correspondence this year. In the meantime he is looking for work in order to contribute towards the cost of his studies, and we would appreciate any contacts you may be aware of that would provide suitable experience for him as he enters the working world (Nathan’s cell is 083 600 9447).

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to be with you all for Holy Week and Easter. There is something very special about sharing this time with one’s new community, and with all our worship opportunities this past week I feel like I’ve been among you for months, and not just days! I am struck that Resurrection is all about new life and new beginnings, and that we need to explore what this particular remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection in 2005 means for us as a community of Christians at Corpus Christi - particularly with my advent among you as your new rector. Change is a very natural and normal function of life and an ever-faster aspect of it as our world digitises and becomes ever-more hi-tec. The temptation is always to maintain, and not grow. Maintenance is generally comfortable, but may tend towards tedium; growth certainly pushes our comfort boundaries, and can often be exhilarating (and scary!). Our past needs to inform our present and guide our future, and always needs to be interpreted in the context of our faith in the resurrected Jesus and His call on us to obedience. I look forward to discovering our past and exploring our future as we seek growth together.

I have much appreciated letters of congratulation on my appointment as your rector from both Father Bob Harris and Father Richard Hatfield (now Father Chad, and Dean of St Herman Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska). Father Chad hopes he and Shelley will be able to join us for our 25th anniversary celebrations in 2007.

In closing a thought from Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest, which reflects something of the sentiment Father Bob shared with me in his letter: “If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of lofty lifestyle – we must be spiritually real.”

Yours in Christ

Mark