Thursday, November 29, 2007

December 2007

Dear Friends

Mission to the World

There is continual need to grapple with this issue. Mission is the Church’s purpose. Scripture, especially Isaiah along with passages like the one at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, is quite clear that this is mission to the Nations, to the wider world. We all too often get caught up in mission to ourselves as Church and forget to reach out, or find reaching beyond ourselves too threatening. We find excuses – often seemingly valid – to not reach out, to remain in our comfort zone. Sometimes it may be that we feel unprepared, uncertain of what to do or say. Often we are so caught up in Church jargon that when we do reach out we speak a language the world doesn’t understand.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, along with others like John de Gruchy (retired Methodist Minister and Scholar), remind us that our starting point in Mission needs to be our common humanity, not our faith perspective. As Christians our faith perspective clearly needs to inform our humanity, but is a “next step” rather than a “first step” in the Mission journey. In starting at the point of our common humanity we avoid the temptation to create an “us and them” scenario, because our common humanity reminds us that there is just “us” – there is no “them”. Scripture (see Genesis 1 and 2) reminds us that all humanity is made in the image of God, not just those who are people of faith. First and foremost we need to learn to speak clearly and loudly the language of humanity, the language that God spoke in the Incarnation (God’s birth into the world in the person of Jesus). We need to immerse ourselves in the world. And then we need to allow God to be present (Emmanuel – God with us) in the world through God’s presence in us.

Our present language is outdated: it developed in an age when the Church was ascendant and in control of society; it no longer makes sense in an increasingly secular and democratic environment. This requires us as Church to begin to learn a new language, one that does not discriminate: a language that is inviting, life-giving; a language that speaks of belonging, of community, of togetherness; a language that affirms our common humanity; a language that creates room for discovery; a language that moves individuals and communities from a point of broken humanity to wholeness. We need to learn this new language if we are to be effective for God’s Mission in the 21st century.

What is this language, precisely? I don’t know, but we need to explore it together.

There is a growing body of literature seeking to help define this new language. New Testament Scholar and Historian, Tom Wright, has some interesting and useful insights. John Suggit, retired Anglican Priest and New Testament Scholar, has just published a rebuttal to Dawkin’s book “The God Delusion”, which also helps grow a new language as we seek to speak with relevance to the World, and to where the World finds itself.

This need for a “new language” intriguingly is not limited to any one church grouping, but is expressed across the breadth of Church perspective, from fundamentalist to liberal thinkers. Some, like that of retired Anglican Bishop, Jack Spong, is so far out in left field that it becomes heretical, even for liberal thinkers. Excitingly, we are part of a new and emerging paradigm of being Church, and while the boundaries are not clear, and thinking remains fluid, we have the opportunity to be a part of exciting new opportunities for Mission, Ministry and Evangelism, part of exploring new language to express deeply held truths of life and faith that the Church continues to guard.


I blinked somewhere in May. I am scared to blink again in case I find myself in 2009! Christmas is upon us, and we celebrate Emmanuel (God with us), a deeply significant statement of faith. My prayer is that we will find language to express this significant time meaningfully as families and as a Church community in order to impact for God on our world. So many at this time feel so alone, so there is plenty of opportunity to reach out to others that they may discover the reality of Christian belonging, and in so discovering know the very presence of God.


As I write, Vernon Foster, along with four other deacons, is in the throws of preparing himself for ordination as Priest. Vernon has walked a long road, and Corpus Christi has walked much of this road with him. This last year as Missionary Deacon to Willow Glen has been a time of further growth and maturing for Vernon, and he has demonstrated himself a capable minister of God in our midst. I ask us all to set aside Sunday 9 December 2007 to journey with Vernon through his ordination, and I expect to see the parish out in “full force” at St Alban’s Cathedral (237 Schoeman Street, Pretoria) at 9am, please! Vernon will celebrate a brief, said Eucharist at Corpus Christi at 3.30pm followed by a celebratory tea in the Hall hosted by his family, to which we are all invited. Please keep Vernon in your prayers at this exciting, yet anxious, time.

Holidays and Away-ness

School Holidays are upon us, and for many of us this will mean journeys by road and air to be with family and friends in other places. If you are not with us over Christmas, please make the effort to find a church in the area you are visiting and attend either Midnight Mass or the Christmas Day Services. Our attendance, even if among strangers, unites us with the family of God around the World, and our unity proclaims the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Please be assured of my and Dawn’s prayers for you all over this festive season! We look forward to sharing our regained energy in the New Year, as we seek to be God’s instruments of love in Garsfontein and beyond.



Friday, November 02, 2007

November 2007

Dear Friends

A passing Year

This has been a busy year in which we have accomplished a great deal as a parish. We have established a new—and growing—congregation in Willow Glen; extended and substantially renovated our church building; held a most successful mini-Fête. Around all this we have met socially to celebrate “Shrove Sunday” with the Louis Botha Homes children, celebrated our Patronal Festival with a most successful Cultural Evening and Dinner, celebrated my birthday with a Parish Braai, and we’ll end the year with a Christmas Luncheon. Intertwined with all this activity have been weddings, funerals, a baptism or two, our regular Sunday and Wednesday Worship, caring for those in need, visiting the sick, meeting in small groups of one sort or another. I think I blinked in March and found myself in October!


Its around this time of year that one begins to reflect on the past months and ponder on those that lie ahead, especially the New Year. We have successfully elected a new council for 2008, and so our minds are drawn forward: what of the future?

Life & Community

I’ve just returned from the leading our Diocesan delegation to the Diocese of Lebombo’s Family Day at their Cathedral in Maciene, Moçambique. Fifty-two of us attended this amazing event. The journey itself was epic, the experience life-sustaining: over 1,500 people, drawn from all over the Lebombo Diocese and the world (Lebombo, Pretoria, the USA, Sweden), attended the huge outdoor service. We celebrated relationship, community, togetherness.

I always find Moçambique challenging: there is a simplicity of life, of faith. It is discomforting, yet life-giving. I am left dissatisfied with the materialism that marks our South African lifestyle and the superficiality of relationship that wealth engenders. I find hope in Moçambique, in her people, in the church.

And I wonder if we find it here, in South Africa, in Pretoria, in Garsfontein? As others touch our lives, are they excited by prospects of wholeness and community, of belonging and abundance?

Our lives: a place where others meet Christ?

As you reflect …

One of the challenges of living in South Africa is the temptation to become disillusioned on various fronts: the crime, the violence, corruption, political uncertainty as we move towards the ANC presidential elections, all create an environment that leaves us anxious; our growing economy is a light in the seeming dark, but rising interest rates, unemployment, inflation, also add to our insecurity—or at least to mine!

How do we, as people of light, people of hope, overcome, and—in overcoming—help others to find firm ground? I believe it is the role of the Church as community to proclaim Good News. Our presence is Good News because God is present among us! It is the message of “Emmanuel!” (God with us!) that is the source of deep hope from which we as Christians draw.

We need to explore ways to make “Emmanuel!” real in the society in which we live.

At Corpus Christi we are already walking the “Emmanuel!” journey as we reach out to the children at Louis Botha Homes, as we contribute to the life of Irene Homes, as we participate in supporting Tumelong and the Winterveld Hospice and Havens.

I remain concerned as to how we are the presence of God in Garsfontein and our surrounding suburbs. Are we a source of hope, here?