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.


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