Sunday, April 23, 2006

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.


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