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