Friday, May 04, 2007

May 2007

Dear Friends

Who are we?

A basic human question people have asked throughout the ages is, “Who am I?” There remain many answers, but one that continues to hold my attention is an answer that affirms my existence in the context of relationship. It is an answer that emerges from our African context, one that makes me proud to call myself African: “I am because of others.” This is a powerful statement of community, of belonging, as it speaks to my humanness and to my value as a person.

However, beyond our humanness we need to explore our spirituality, who we are in God. This is an exploration of our core, that part of our existence around which everything else revolves: our essence, our spirit. Our spirituality is partly defined by worship: the way we address God; the manner in which we acknowledge and respond to God; the environment within which we discover God.

The Church seeks to provide a context for such discovery. Too often we approach our faith – our worship, our relationship with God – from the perspective of what we can gain from such encounter, hoping for some cure-all that will magically and instantly make us whole people. When this does not happen we walk away despondent and unfulfilled, often angry. What is it that we are missing?

A beginning of an answer is that we are often overly “I” focused. It is in focusing beyond ourselves that we begin an adventure in faith; it is in immersing ourselves in a spirituality that draws us out, that stretches us, that makes us uncomfortable with being comfortable, that introduces us to God; it is in sharing the adventure and the moments of discovery; it is drawing alongside other people who will mentor us, and whom we can mentor, that the journey of faith gains meaning. Christian spirituality calls us to discipleship, and to make disciples. We are called to give before we receive, and to receive through our giving: in serving we are served; in caring we are cared for; in healing we are healed.


Our parish “Statement of Purpose” declares that at Corpus Christi we are traditional Anglicans. What do we mean by the word traditional? There are numerous legitimate ways to interpret this word: what it does mean for us? Sadly, in the wider Church context, traditionalism has become synonymous with maintenance and a refusal to accept new ways of doing things (e.g. the Ordination of Women). At Corpus Christi we need to beware this danger, and in order to do so we need to explore our interpretation of the concept.

I suspect that at the core what is important to us at Corpus Christi is that we do not lose the sacramental rituals that are richly filled with symbolic meaning. We fear that new innovations, new ways of doing things, will dilute our sacramental heritage; and so we are tempted to cling to those things that we associate with our past experience, such as classical hymnology. However, Christian praxis evolves and we need to recognise that much of what we consider core is just dressing. An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 is very different in perspective from the older South African Book of Common Prayer, and yet it is recognisably based on our earliest Anglican prayer books: Cranmer’s liturgical innovations of the 16th century.

In preparing and experiencing our Lent Course this year I was struck that in terms of the new social paradigm (referred to by some as “post-Christian”, “post-Modern”) – essentially defined by the attitude “anything goes” – that it is sacramental tradition and its complex symbolic imagery that has the power to reach our post-Modern society. However, we need to dress it differently: we need to liberate ourselves of the stuffy image mainline denominations are perceived to carry; we need to discover a greater flexibility in order to be relevant to a new generation who consciously avoid institutionalised religion. This is the challenge on which our future existence as Anglicans hinges.


In our March Council meeting it was agreed that we (Corpus Christi’ians) are content with our values, our sense of purpose (as defined in our Statement of Purpose), and that this gives us a foundation on which to build. What we now need to develop is what Jim Collins in his book Built to Last refers to as a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”: something that will draw us into the future with expectancy and enthusiasm. Twenty-five years ago building a parish on the eastern border of Pretoria was such a goal. We now need to develop a new Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (a BHAG) that will guide our purpose for the next ten to twenty years. What is God calling us to? What is the vision God is setting before us? We need to seek God for our direction.

When we seek God, we are essentially asking him to lead us. Joan Chittester in her book The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages says, “The function of leadership is to call us beyond ourselves, to stretch us to our limits, to turn the clay into breathless beauty.” She goes on to say, “But first, of course, we have to allow it to happen” (pg 174). The question must then be: are we willing for God to lead us in directions we may not yet have contemplated, may not be entirely comfortable with? In this regard our comfort zones are often defined by our own limited sense of who we are, and the challenge is to be open to seeing ourselves as God sees us. Chittester says, “The reality is that we are often incapable of assessing our own limits, our real talents, our true strength, our necessary ordeals” (pg 173).

Special Vestry

As a first step we will be holding a special Vestry Meeting on Sunday 13 May 2007 after the 9am Eucharist. We will consider our building – the place we meet to worship (the word “Church” actually refers to the people of God, not the building). It needs urgent maintenance, and this becomes an opportunity to increase its size. The building may sound a strange place to start seeking God’s direction, but it is the one constant in our Christian community life: it is our gathering place; it is the place from which we are sent, Sunday by Sunday, back into the world to serve God and humanity.

Thank you!

A big thank you to you all for the generous Easter gifts I received. Your care and love is much appreciated.