Thursday, March 29, 2007

April 2007

Dear Friends

Church Growth

I attended a two day Church Growth seminar last week. Substantial input was given by Eddie Gibbs, presently outgoing professor of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. Eddie has been an Anglican Priest for over 44 years (longer than I have been alive!) and spoke with great excitement for where the Church finds itself today. There are many challenges as the “landscape” has changed as society moves into a post-modern and increasingly post-Christian mode. Two key characteristics of church ministry in this emerging paradigm are that the context is increasingly multi-cultural and mission becomes increasingly effective when it has an ecumenical base. This, however, requires that we become more centred and aware of our own denominational and faith base, and become more radical within our own denominational environment. I asked Eddie Gibbs how he would define a “Radical Anglicanism” – his reply:

By “radical” I mean someone who is living in conformity with the radical message of Jesus – i.e. The Gospel of the Kingdom. This is helpfully and fully spelt out by Bp. N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham in a series of books on Jesus. I hope this helps.

Our Lent course, for the few who attended, has been helpful in this regard by helping us to understand the breadth of Christian Spirituality, both in giving us clearer understanding of those aspects that shape our more traditional Anglican outlook and in giving us a better understanding of what shapes Christians in other denominational environments. It is important that we develop confidence in who we are as Christians and as Anglicans.

Values, Morality and Ethics

As I write this I am attending our Diocesan Clergy School, hosted and directed by UNISA. We have had some outstanding input from various high-calibre academics, including our Anglican sub-Dean Prof. Barney Pityana (also vice-Chancellor of UNISA). We have been exploring what the church’s role is in helping our society rebuild its value base, while exploring the diversity of our call in dealing with the various moral challenges all South Africans face, asking how we reclaim our prophetic voice. Again, the importance of good ecumenical relationships has been raised so that the church speaks with “one voice”, rather than with a fragmented denominationalism. There is a call to re-explore the message of Jesus, to regain a radical commitment to the Kingdom of God as put forward by Jesus, and as experienced in the early church, to be relational rather than legalistic in our interpretation both of Scripture and Tradition.

We have been reminded that poverty should remain one of the church’s main preoccupations, that an “option for the poor” is preferential and not exclusive (i.e. not an “option against the rich”), and that transforming the plight of the poor includes the transformation of the wealthy. Sadly, excessive accumulation of monetary and material wealth is mostly at the expense of the poor. We were asked, “Is inequality ordained by God?” because our lifestyles as Christian people often suggest that it is! Interestingly, while the USA Constitution enshrines “Freedom” as an inalienable human right, our South African Constitution enshrines “Equality”.

In considering the value-crisis in our society within the context of our Constitution and our Constitutional Democracy, we have been asked as Church to consider three important questions:

What is it that undermines our Christian values in the communities in which we live?

How do we “hold the centre” as a faith community, individually and collectively?

How do we become effective moral agents?

The crisis we face, both as Christians and as South Africans, is that our Constitutional Democracy is deliberately misinterpreted for personal (and financial?) gain. Twelve years into our new democratic society there is no consensus or collective commitment to definitive values, even though key values are enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution that include human dignity, human rights and social justice. In South Africa the centre is falling apart as we as a struggle to maintain the consensus gained in 1994, and this is visible in the corruption, crime and other indicators of moral collapse. As Church, we need to exercise authority in bringing people back to the values of the Gospel and values as defined in the Constitution.

Do we have the courage, as Christians and as Anglicans, to regain our prophetic voice?


Thursday, March 01, 2007

March 2007

Dear Friends

On Parish Renewal

The Diocesan “3 Year Programme on Mission and Ministry”, motivated at our last Diocesan Synod, calls for us to begin at home, and to focus on the renewal of our parish life, starting with our own families and moving on from there. This year, entitled the Diocesan Year of Mission and Evangelism, is all about finding the lost sheep and bringing them back into the fold. I was encouraged by the efforts many put into bringing a family member or close friend – who do not normally attend Church – to Church at the beginning of February. The challenge now is to keep them coming and to integrate them into our parish life. A further challenge is to identify those who reside on our Parish Roll but not in our Parish Church, and to draw them back in.

Love Your Neighbour

Our Archdeaconry focus for Lent is “Love your neighbour”. As a parish we are responding in two ways: firstly we are attempting to understand our neighbour, and our Lent Course focus is on giving us an opportunity to explore different aspects of Christian Spirituality – both to help us discover and deepen our own Spirituality, but also to understand where other fellow Christians come from, and how we interlink with each other as Anglicans and as members of different Christian denominations; secondly we are seeking to build friendship by inviting you as parishioners to hold a meal in your home, inviting a parish family you know and a family you don’t know to share food and fellowship.

Young People

It was exhilarating to find an excited group of young people running around the parish grounds last Friday evening (I believe the T-bone was eventually found … and later devoured!), meeting in the Hall for some Scriptural reflection, and later sharing fellowship around the Braai-fire. It was a wholesome mixture of fellowship, fun and interaction with scripture for our teenagers. Our Young Adults have also had some positive interactions, including a braai at Epiphany House. One of the challenges for our young people this year will be to draw back in those who have been confirmed over the last five-years, but sadly have treated their Confirmation as a form of “Church Leaving” graduation.

Willow Glen Mission

Our missionary Deacon, Vernon Foster, reports elsewhere in this magazine on this exciting mission initiative. I sincerely ask for your prayers for this development, and for Vernon in particular. He has taken up this challenge, and has thrown himself into it with fortitude. Your support – however you are able to demonstrate it – is valued.


Corpus Christi has joined the Garsfontein Proper Residence Association, which links into the Garsfontein Community Policing Forum. The challenges in addressing crime and violence are massive, and although seemingly overwhelming, there is light on the horizon. You may have noticed substantially increased police activity in the last two weeks, and this is a result of the Garsfontein Police Station being able to access significant additional resources since the President’s “State of the Nation” address to Parliament. The key, though, is for us as residents to begin to take back responsibility for the safety of our own areas by working together. So get involved with a Home Owners Association in your area, support the local Community Police Forum: be involved!



Lent: our Journey to Easter / Vastyd: Ons Reis na Paasfees

A Sermon explaining the Lenten Season

My hope is to share with you today some insight into today’s (Sunday!) celebration of “Shrove Tuesday” and give you some understanding of why the Church calls us to the journey of Lent.

Ek hoop om saam met u insigte te deel van ons vieringe vandag. Ons vier Pannekoek Dinsdag, en dit is my hoop om u insig te gee waarom die Kerk van ons verlang om hierdie reis te geduurende Vastyd te onderneem.

Lent is an important journey of faith for many Christians around the world, and one that Anglican Christians take very seriously.

Vastyd is ’n baie belangrike geloofsreis vir ons Christene reg rondom die wereld, en een wat ons as Anglikaane baie erenstig moet opneem.

What is Lent, where does this journey of faith begin, where does it end? To help us understand what it is all about, I am asking you, to travel backwards along this journey with me.

Wat is Vastyd? Waar begin hierdie geloofsreis? Waar eindig dit? Om ons uit te help om hierdie konsep te begryp, vra ek u om saam met my agteruit te beweeg tydens hierdie rit.

Where does the journey end?
Waar eindig hierdie reis?

It ends with the celebration of Easter, a weekend festival that the church begins with a service where we remember the Last Supper, the dinner where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and encouraged them to remember him whenever they shared bread and wine together. At the end of this meal they go together to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prays for his Father’s help to face the difficult time ahead of him. Late that night Jesus is arrested and most of his disciples run away in fear. The next day, Friday – we call it Good Friday – Jesus is put to death by Roman soldiers on a cross, a very cruel and painful way to die. That night Jesus’ body is placed in a cave, and the entrance closed with a huge rock. Everyone is very sad, and for many who were Jesus’ followers, their dreams are crushed. But something most unusual and very exciting was about to happen: early on the Sunday some women go to clean Jesus body and wrap it in a fresh burial cloth. What do they find? Yes, an empty tomb! And as they are wondering who has stolen his body, Jesus himself, alive and well, appears to one of the women, and asks her to go and give the good news to his disciples that he is alive! He has overcome the power of evil, wrongdoing, and death – he is alive again!

Dit kom ten einde met die Paasfees vieringe. ’n Naweek fees waar die kerk die “Laaste Avondmaal” herdenk. Die aandete waar Jesus eerste die voete van sy dissipels gewas het en hulle gevra om hierdie maal van Brood en Wyn tot Sy gedagtenis te herdenk. Ten einde van hierdie maal, beweeg hulle na die Tuin van Getsemane, waar Jesus bid na God Sy Vader, en vra om Hom by te staan in hierdie tyd van beproewing. Laat daardie nag word Jesus gearresteer en sy dissepels het hom in die steek gelaat en van hom af weggehardloop, omdat hulle bang was. Di volgende dag, Vrydag – ons noem dit Goeie Vrydag – word Jesus deur die Romeinse Soldate gekruisig, ’n baie pynlike manier van sterf. Daardie selfde nag word Jesus se ligaam van die kruis verwyder en in ’n grot begrawe, en die toegang van die grot is met ’yslike groot klip verseel. Almal was baie bedroef en vir baie van Jesus se volgers was dit ’n baie tragiese dag. Maar iets baie opwindend was besig om plaas tevind. Baie vroeg die Sondag oggend toe ’n paar vroue by die grot opdaag om Jesus se ligaam skoon te maak en vars begrafnis lappe om sy ligaam te draai, wat het hulle gevind? Die klip was verwyder en die grot was leeg. Toe hulle nog wonder wie die ligaam van Jesus gesteel het, het Jesus vris en gesond aan hulle verskyn. Eers aan die een vrou aan wie Hy die opdrag gee om die ander te vertel dat hy opgestaan het en weer lewend is. Hy het die dood oorwin en die krag van sonde gebreek.

All this happened over two-thousand years ago, and through all these centuries Christians have celebrated year after year Jesus’ death and his rising to new life. Why? Because he shares with us this amazing gift of new life and new hope!

Alles dit het gebeur meer as twee duisend jaar gelede, en van daardie tyd af oor al hierdie jare vier ons Christene die dood en opstanding van ons Heer en Meester Jesus Christus. Waarom? Omdat HY hierdie wonderlike gawe van nuwe lewe en nuwe hoop met ons deel.

Let us now walk back along the journey.
Kom ons gaan voort met ons agteruit rit.

The early Christians began to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter from the previous Sunday – we call it Palm Sunday, and make crosses out of palms to welcome Jesus. And so the tradition of Holy Week began, a week during which new Christians were prepared for baptism on Easter day, and the older Christians would fast – only eat very plain food – and pray with the new Christians as they looked forward to the exciting events of the Easter weekend.

Die vroe Christene het hulself voorberei om hierdie dag van Paasfees te herdenk die vorige Sondag. Ons noem dit Palmsondag. Ons maak kruise van Palmtakke on Jesus te verwelkom. So het die tradiesie van Heilge Week begin. ’n Week wanner ons, ons voorberei vir die doop op Paassondag, en die ouergade so vas – eet net dood eenvoudige kos – en bid saam met die nuwe Christene soos hulle uitsien na die opwindende gebeurtenisse van die Paasfees naweek.

Soon, Christians began to fast for a longer time in preparation and they added another five weeks to the time of preparation for Easter, the time we now call Lent. Lent became forty-six days during which Christians put extra effort into fasting – often giving up special foods and meat and not drinking any alcohol – and putting extra effort into prayer and caring for the poor. The forty days of Lent also remind us of the time Jesus spent fasting and preparing himself for his ministry in the desert just after he was baptised. Hold on! Didn’t I just say lent was actually forty-six days, not forty? Each of the six Sunday’s during Lent is not considered a day of fasting because on a Sunday we celebrate a mini-Easter as we remember Jesus death and rising to new life as we share in Holy Communion. So, although Lent is forty-six days, we only fast for forty of them.

Na dit het Christene vir langer periodes begin vas in voorbereiding, en hulle het nog fyf weke bygevoeg om reg te maak vir Paasafees. Ons noem hierdie periode Vastyd. Vastyd is ’n periode van ses-en-veertig dae wanneer Christene ’n spesiale poging aanwend om te vas. Dit behels die opoffering van sekere kosse en vleis, en geen alkoholiese dranke te drink nie. Ons spandeer dan meer tyd aan gebed en skenk meer aandag aan die armes. Die veertig dae van Vastyd herrinner ons aan die tydperk wat Jesus in die Woestyn deurgemaak toe hy geen kos ingeneem het nie en himself voorbereir het vir Sy bediening, net nadat Hy gedoop was. Wag ’n bietjie! Het ek nou net nie gese het dat Vastyd ses-en-veertig dae behels nie? Die ses Sondae gedurende Vastyd word beskou as klien Passfeeste, soos ons die dood en opstanding van Jesus vier soos ons die Nagmaal ontvang. Nou soos Vastyd ses-en-veertig dae bevat, vas ons net vir veertig van daardie dae.

Now, how do we begin this journey?
Nou hoe begin ons met hierdie reis?

How do we know that Lent has begun? We have two special events to mark this beginning. The first is “Shrove Tuesday” – which we are celebrating today as on Tuesday we’ll all be at work or at school – where we gather up all the rich food in the house (such as milk, eggs, sugar and flour) and eat it all because from Wednesday we are only going to eat plain, unexciting food during Lent. Now, what can one make if one mixes eggs, milk, sugar and flour? Why, yes, of course: pancakes! After church this morning we are going out into the garden where we will eat pancakes – lots of them – and we are going to play games and have fun. Why have fun? Why not! We are going to be very serious for the next six weeks! In many parts of the world, especially the Spanish speaking world, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated with a Carnival or “Madi Gras”. The name “Shrove” means to confess, and reminds us that the journey of Lent that we are about to begin, is a time of making our lives right with God, and links us in the second special event: Ash Wednesday.

Hoe weet ons dat Vastyd begin het? Ons het twee spesiale gebeurtenisse wat ons laat weet dat Vastyd begin het. Die eerste is “Pannekoek Dinsdag” – wat ons vandag herdenk omdat ons almal in die werk of op skool sal wees Dinsdag – Ons sal al die ryk kosse in die huis bymekaar maak (byvoorbeeld, melk, eiers suiker en meel) en dit alles opeet, want vanaf Woensdag gaan ons net gewone, oninteresante kosse eet. Wat kan ons maak as ons meel, eiers en melk meng? Pannekoek! Na kerk van oggend gaan ons baie van hierdie Pannekoeke eet, en ons gaan speeletjies speel, op die gras daar buite. Ons gaan baie prêt he, omdat vir die volgende ses weke gaan ons baie erenstig word en onsself dissiplineer. Pannekoek Dinsdag word gevier met feesvieringe. Die engelse woord vir Pannekoek Dinsdag, “Shrove” beteken om te bely en herrinner ons dat die reis geduurende Vastyd het begin. Dit is ’n tyd wanneer ons ons lewens reg maak met God en ons invoer na die tweede geleentheid, As Woensdag.

On Wednesday we get serious about our fasting for Lent, and we meet in Church where we pray, and tell God we are sorry for our sins, all the wrong and nasty things we have done, all the times in the past year where we have been hurtful and spiteful to others, all the times when we have even ignored God, or not trusted God to look after us or provide for us. We call this “Ash Wednesday” because we repent before God in dust and ashes like they did in Old Bible times – well, not quite like they did, but we receive a mark on our foreheads from the priest, this mark is a cross marked with ash. This ash is made from burning the palm crosses we made to welcome Jesus last year when we celebrated Easter. On Ash Wednesday we make a decision as to how we are going to fast – we can’t completely give up eating for forty-six days – but we can give up certain foods or types of drinks that will help us eat and live more simply during Lent, perhaps something that we are addicted to, like sweets or ice-cream, maybe coffee or fizzy-drinks, even alcohol and cigarettes, maybe TV. Lent is a good time to break a bad habit, and replace it with a good one. Then we try to live out, with God’s help, this commitment to a more simply lifestyle for the duration of Lent. More than likely we will be tempted to give up this commitment along the way, either by just being forgetful, maybe on purpose; but when this happens, we apologies to God, and start afresh. Everyday is part of the journey.

Woensdag word ons erentig omtrent ons Vastyd. Ons vergader in Kerk en ons bid en vra God om ons ons sondes te vergewe en sê dat ons jammer is oor ons sondes. Al daardie tye die afgelope jaar waar ons andere seer gemaak het en waar ons dinge gedoen het wat ons nie moes doen nie. Ons bely hulle op As Woensdag omdat soos die mense van ouds bely ons in stof en as, en ons word met ’n as kruis gemerk om ons te herrinner om te bely. Die as is gemaak van die Palm Kruisies wat ons verlede jaar op Palm Sondag ontvang het. Op As Woensdag besluit ons hoe ons gaan vas – ons gaan nie sonder kos vir die hele dag nie, maar ons besluit om iets op te gee waarvan ons baie hou. Bv. Roomys, koeldrank, sekere kos disse, siggerette, alkohol, ens. Vastyd is ’n tydperk wanneer ons ontslae kan raak van slegte gewoontes, en hulle met goeie gewoontes te vervang. Met God se hulp probeer ons ’n meer eenvoudige lewenstyle aan te kweek. Ons sal versoek word om nie voort tegaan met ons vas nie, deur te vergeet, of miskien doelbewus in te gee vir die versoeking. Maar ons moet net bely en God te vra om ons te vergewe en weer vars begin met ons vas. Elke dag is ʼn deel van die reis.

I hope that this has helped you understand this special Lenten journey of faith that many Christians walk every year in preparation for Easter, and I hope it has encouraged you to participate in the journey. It is, as I said at the beginning, a journey that ends in the wonderful celebration of Easter, a celebration of new life and new hope!

Ek hoop en vertrou dat ek u gehelp het om hierdie geloofsreis geduurende Vastyd te verstaan. Al ons Christene word jaarliks uitgedaag om hierdie reis aan te pak in voorbereiding vir Paasfees. Ek hoop dat ek u aangemoedig het om self hierdie reis aan te pak. Ek het aan die begin gese dat dit ’n reis is wat op Pannekoek Dinsdag begin en op Paassondag eindig. ’n Wonderlike fees wat lei tot nuwe lewe en nuwe hoop.

Mark R D Long
Lent 2007
Vastyd 2007

with thanks to Canon Reynard Schovell for the Afrikaans translation