Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April 2008 - The Transformation of Resurrection

Dear Friends

The Transformation of Resurrection

In my letter to you all last month I spoke of transition. Easter speaks of something more: transformation! Some may say, “Yes, yes, it’s all words …” and you’d be right. However, each word gives us a different perspective, highlights a different facet of the diamond that is life in God. How has your life been transformed, how is it being transformed, as you grow in relationship with God and God’s people? Are you encountering God in life, in worship, in relationship? Where are you encountering God in your involvement with Corpus Christi? Do people encounter God as they encounter you? You and I, we … are called to be instruments of transformation in our families, our friendships, our society and our nation, our world. To be transformed by the resurrected life of Christ is to be the same, but different; to be aware that as we accept Christ into our lives we, too, are risen! At Corpus Christi our primary core purpose is to be a place where others meet Christ: how is your life an instrument of love in the world of others?

I encourage you to dwell on these questions as the answers may not always be immediately obvious, but they are there.

A Dream

In my reflection last month on our need to be a community in transition towards greater inclusivity I shared that for me it is “a dream” that as yet has no great clarity. In further reflection I realise that the exposure I have received as an Anglican Priest forms the foundation of my vision for our future. Perhaps I need to share something of my journey …

… a Stretching Journey

I was dragged up in a largely liberal-English fashion in a home where people were always acknowledged as people, no matter their creed or colour, and a grandmother who had been an active Black Sash member. My early life was, however, marred by Apartheid in that few opportunities arose in Apartheid South Africa to meet and interact meaningfully with so-called “non-Europeans”. My exposure to other South African cultures was sadly lacking. I became conscious during my two years of mandatory National Service in the mid 1980’s that for me black people had no individuality, and that I needed to set this right. This led to an overnight move at the end of my two years in the South African Defence Force to living in Garankuwa (North-East of Pretoria) and sharing a mission house together first with Kabelo Thlokoe (who sadly never made it to Priesthood) and then with Gilbert Mashiane (from Mamelodi) and Johan Viljoen (the son of an Apartheid Ambassador), while studying Missiology part-time in Pietermaritzburg with some very radical young black fellow-students.

This move was probably the most stretching of my life as I was immersed in anti-apartheid structures and conscientised for the first time in my young life to the realities of life on the other side of the Apartheid coin, a painful place. My worldview was transformed, and left me in a lonely place: my friends no longer understood me, and seemed uncomfortable with my new perspective on life; my new environment was an uncertain and uncomfortable place; a position in which I had chosen to immerse myself. This journey also absorbed me in the breadth of Anglicanism, and especially in the invigorating worship environment of township communities; and new friendships in a new environment; new, different insights into what it means to be a Christian in South Africa. A stretching journey that began to inform my desire for a comprehensive, broad Southern African Anglican inclusivity.

In White River, my first posting as Rector, I had responsibility for a largely English-colonial community in town, and responsibility for the township parish in Kabokweni made up largely of Swazi people, as well as mixed African-cultural groupings in Bushbuckridge and Shatale. I was then posted to Nelspruit, a largely English and Indian parish, while also having responsibility for Kanyamazane. I was in Nelspruit towards the end of the 1990’s and we saw a number of black folk move into town and into the parish during this time, which for some reason was more threatening to the Indian community than the English. As Chaplain to Uplands College I encouraged tutor groups to lead the prayers, and individuals had the right to use any language they chose – the most challenging (and creative) moment being when a Muslim student stood up and prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic! Now at Corpus Christi, the most integrated Sunday community I have ever served, I also carry responsibility for the Anglican community in Stanza Bopape.

Stanza Bopape, as those who occasionally join me there from Corpus Christi will attest, is an amazing experience of inclusive language: the Psalm is said antiphonally, the odd verses in Setswana/Sepedi and the even verses in isiZulu/isiXhosa. The Eucharistic responses happen in all four languages at the same time, and the Lord’s Prayer in English (I think for my benefit).

The point I am making is that in twenty years of ministry my weekly/monthly worship-life has always been diversely inclusive, even if in quite culturally-specific congregations; regular worship in different languages and cultural patterns is “normal” for me.

Ministry in the Anglican Church and specifically in the Diocese of Pretoria has given me, from the earliest days of my training, a vision for what we can be as the people of God, for the unity that is possible in the midst of our huge diversity.


As I look out over our Sunday congregation at 9am I see for the first time in twenty years, in a congregation I serve, a real possibility of being reflective of the unity we find in Christ in our fuller diversity as Anglicans and as Southern Africans. And thus my pressure on us to reach out towards a greater inclusivity in worship styles and cultures. I am aware that this is a stretching vision for us, one with which many in our community are not comfortable, and that even limited use of other languages has created distress. I am an eclectic at heart, which possibly adds to the discomfort, as my desire to piece together the best of our diversity often lacks specific focus and so appears to raise its head in creative disorder.

We have the building blocks; each of us is resourced with language and cultural experience and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; do we have the will to make it work? And do we have the courage?

It requires a letting go … of what has been “normal” at Corpus Christi … and what has been “normal” in our diverse congregations-of-origin. Do we have the courage to let go … and be transformed?

POST SCRIPT – Thank you

Thank you to all at Corpus Christi and Willow Glen for your generous Easter gift to me – I greatly appreciate your love shown in this very concrete manner!


As the Chairperson of the Diocesan Companion Links Committee I will be attending the enthronement of the new Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) in Juba. As a Diocese we are attempting to develop a Companion Link with the ECS Province, and so I will hopefully also be able to explore possibilities for this relationship – one the recently retired former Archbishop was keen to develop – with them while I am there. Please keep the new ECS Archbishop, Daniel Deng Bul, in your prayers as he leads the ECS during a critical phase in the national life of Southern Sudan. Please keep me in your prayers, too. I will be away from 16 to 24 April 2008.


A Response to the Eucharistic Prayer

Our physical response in prayer is an important symbolic response to God and his love for us. As Anglicans we are used to kneeling for prayer, a sign of complete submission before God. I was struck, recently, while watching a documentary in which the Queen Elizabeth II was bestowing a knighthood that as this person knelt before her it would have been as easy to whip off his head as it was to tap him gently in the shoulder! Kneeling is the most vulnerable physical position the human body can adopt … and so rightfully our attitude in prayer.

We adopt this position during the Eucharistic Prayer, generally after the Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord …). The question, though, is why?

There are perhaps two responses: we respond to the word “prayer” and fall on our knees; in our previous Book of Common Prayer the Eucharistic Prayer was understood to be the work of the Priest, not the congregation, and so we meditated in prayerful attitude while this work was completed.

The (almost 20 years old!) new Prayer Book, An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 (APB) presents a different attitude to the Eucharistic Prayer, describing the Priest – in the bishop’s absence – as the one who “presides” over the Eucharist Service. The Priest is no longer described as the “Celebrant”, a term used in the Book of Common Prayer. The implication of this change is that the Priest now presides over the congregation, and the congregation celebrates: the Eucharist is now the work of Priest AND congregation, no longer just the Priest.

This changed (dare I say “transformed”?) attitude to the Eucharistic Prayer is backed up by the words in the first Eucharistic Prayer, “… we your people celebrate before you …” (APB pg 119) and in the second Eucharistic Prayer, “… we celebrate with this bread and this cup …” (APB pg 121) and in the third Eucharistic Prayer, “We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.” (APB pg 124) and in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer, “… we offer/bring before you this bread and this cup…” (APB pg 126) and “… giving thanks that you have made us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you” (APB pg 126).

And so the Eucharistic Prayer is transformed from meditative prayer to celebration. And how do we celebrate? – very rarely on our knees!

The Parish Ministry Team and Council have discussed this at length, and believe it is right that we should adjust our physical response from kneeling after the Sanctus to standing, and to kneel for the first time at the Lord’s Prayer or Prayer of Humble Access (We do not presume …). This said, we also recognise that for some members of the Parish, kneeling for the Eucharistic prayer may be a deep part of one’s spirituality developed over decades, and so while we are encouraging everyone to stand, it is not obligatory! Additionally, we are aware that for some it is physically difficult to stand for long periods and a medical condition may require one to sit.

In Scripture we see a number of physical responses to encounter with God from falling on one’s face prostrate, to kneeling, to standing, to standing with one’s hands uplifted. Rarely, however, does anyone ever seem to sit in response to a Divine encounter – and so perhaps should only be a response if a medical condition applies!

Hopefully the above is helpful, particularly to those who were not present when this was discussed at our various Services in early March.

The Rector