Sunday, February 01, 2009

Rector's Report to Annual Vestry 2009

A audio version of this report is available at 

Dear Friends, it is my privilege to present to you my fourth Rector’s report to Annual Vestry. Easter 2009 will mark the fourth anniversary of my appointment as Rector, and November 2009 will mark the twentieth anniversary of my priesting.


We meet today to reflect on the past year and God’s graciousness to us, and to look forward into all that 2009 will be for us. 2008 has been a tumultuous year, and 2009 threatens to be no less challenging. In the midst of global economic chaos, political uncertainty in the Southern African environment, and the disarray of our own personal lives, we have, nonetheless, experienced God’s grace as a Christian community here at Corpus Christi. Perhaps today’s psalm speaks to the focus that has been ours in the midst of all the darkness that the world has thrust, and continues to thrust, into our lives:

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honour; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8; NRSV)

In my report last year I challenged the Euro-centric nature of our parish life, which sparked some honest, but hurtful, responses in the subsequent discussion. The value of that interaction is that some of us have done some soul-searching, and I sense a greater openness to the dreams and hopes of all who call Corpus Christi home. Dawn, as only a wife can, in the midst of my own frustrations and reflection reminded me that I have walked a different path from many and that my experiences in ministry, from my emersion in Township culture in the late 1980’s to my exposure to different cultural expressions of Anglicanism in my varied parish appointments, has given me a perspective on relationships and a vision for the  potential of worship in a suburban, inter-cultural parish – such as ours – that can at times be deeply disturbing to others. There are two motivating factors that have driven my vocation: a desire to make God in Jesus Christ known to others, and a deep desire to overcome the obstacles to relationship created by Apartheid in the Southern African context. A Euro-centric outlook, while comfortable for many of us, is not helpful in this ongoing process of transition that affects us as much within the context of the Church as it does in our wider society. It may be that my role is to express the need, and that together we commit to explore the possibilities and walk the journey.


Looking back over the last year: a personal highlight was representing the Diocese at the enthronement of the new Archbishop of the Sudan, his Grace Daniel Deng Bul, and helping define our companion Diocesan link relationship with the Diocese of Juba in Southern Sudan; a diocesan highlight was our Diocesan Synod where it was acknowledged that over the last ten years we have, as a Diocese, moved substantially from maintenance to mission, and a new focus on family life, with the catch phrase “turning houses into homes”, was adopted. There have been a number of parish highlights, much of which will be enumerated in the other reports received by Annual Vestry.

One such highlight has been our finances, and the phrase “Abundant Generosity” comes to mind. This may not seem to be very spiritual, but I generally find that the financial strength of a parish is directly proportional to its spiritual depth. Our Generosity Giving income was regularly over-budget resulting in us not needing to dig into funds deposited to cover an expected, but unrealised, deficit in our budget for 2008. Additionally in December we were able to clear the capital amount on our Diocesan Loan taken out to cover the cost of the extension of the church, enabling us to begin 2009 debt free. Further substantial donations were received that have made possible the renovation and extension to our Garden of Remembrance.


Our involvement in outreach and mission during 2008 has also been considerable. We participated once again in the Irene Homes Fete and our stall made the highest contribution of the day to the Fete income. We have continued to provide food parcels via Tumelong to vulnerable homes in Maboloko, and with the rising cost in food last year the cash value of this outreach is sizeable. We again hosted a Christmas Party for the Maboloko Haven children and your response to this in gifts and food was inspirational: the children looked quite lost as they received gift after gift. Our involvement with Louis Botha Homes has continued and our “Shrove Sunday” celebration with the children of the house we support has become a Corpus Christi tradition. Our support of Woman Against Rape has also continued in a low-key, but ongoing, generous contribution of the “necessities” for our rape survivors.


The Gospel reading this morning reminds us of Jesus calling Simon Peter and his brother Andrew into ministry and mission: And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” (Mark 1:17; NRSV). These words remind us of the greatest highlight of 2008, our involvement in the development of a new Anglican presence in the Willows area of Pretoria East. Diocesan Synod acknowledged the growth of this work of mission by declaring the Mission Parish of Equestria. Our ongoing support of this mission effort will be needed for some years to come, and we will contribute a further R40,000 in 2009 towards the support of the Missionary Deacon, the Revd Alan O’Brien, who has taken the Revd Vernon Foster’s place. The formation of the Mission parish of Equestria has meant the closing down of the Anglican Church in Silverton, and the amalgamation of Silverton with what we have called Willow Glen. This process has been a difficult one that has taken up much of my time and energy since June 2008, and I look forward to it bearing fruit under Alan’s leadership in the year ahead. The focus of ministry between now and Easter will be the consolidation of the new Mission Parish, and beyond Easter on growth into the community. This is, perhaps, the opportunity to wish Vernon God’s richest blessings in his new appointment as Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Lynnwood, and thank him for his dedication in so many varied ways to the formation of what is now the Anglican Church in Equestria; and also to welcome Alan onto the team.

It was agreed at our Council Planning day for 2009 that we need to encourage Equestria to become fully self-supporting by 2012, so that we can begin to throw our energies into developing an Anglican presence in Mooikloof and beyond. The Diocese is in the process of registering a property at the intersection of Garsfontein Road (M30) and the R25. It was agreed at our Council meeting in November that now that we have cleared our loan debt, it is time to take up the challenge of the Special Vestry meeting that approved the extensions to our Church to now raise funds for a building in Equestria; and so this will be the focus of all fundraising in 2009 and perhaps beyond.

Looking ahead

At our Council Planning day earlier this month it was a sobering realisation that no-one who served on Council in 2005 remains. Each year we have had a good balance of new blood infiltrating the ranks of seasoned campaigners. It is with sadness and much appreciation that the Parish bids Mary Verryn and Jeanne Jackson farewell as experienced champions of Parish life at Council level. Their contributions over the years have been considerable, and we trust that they will remain involved in other areas of parish life and ministry.

And so, at least at Council level, it seems we enter a new era. Over the last four years we have worked hard to define who we are, our purpose and our values as an Anglican Christian Community in this part of Pretoria. The challenge that lies ahead is to define our future: Jim Collins speaks of the importance of a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal; Stephen Covey speaks of a WIG, a wildly important goal. What is our BHAG, our WIG? Certainly, building new Anglican Communities in the East of Pretoria may be a part of this, but only a part. We need something that drives us as a Community and impacts on the communities in which we are placed here in Garsfontein and the surrounding suburbs. I am very sure that God wants us to explore this, yet – as I said to our new Council at the planning day – I am personally struggling to give this definition. I have mentioned before in other settings, and continue to believe that, despite the effort we have put in over the last eight years to improve our facilities here in Garsfontein, from a strategic mission perspective we need to explore centring ourselves on the other side of Hans Strijdom Drive, perhaps purchasing the old NG Kerk facilities at the top of Rubenstein Drive in Moreletapark. 

Family Life

One of the important briefs of the incoming Council will be to take up the challenge of the Bishop and Diocesan Synod to involve ourselves in “turning houses into homes”. To this end a portfolio has specifically been set up to focus on areas of parish life that impact on family experience. A number of parenting seminars are being organised focusing on helping parents with drug awareness, self-esteem, discipline and stress. We will be attempting to organise events designed to help us be family together. We also recognise that the impact of the global economic recession touches us all, and are looking at support for those who may be struggling to meet high levels of debt.

Broad-based parishioner involvement remains a key parish value. Are you involved? If not, why not – what is the cause? It is my expectation that you will participate in parish life, no matter how insignificant your contribution may be. Are you over-involved? Why? It is my expectation that you will constantly and consistently invite others to walk with you in the Parish responsibilities you carry. Proactive face-to-face conversations are the best way forward, and will challenge the perception, shared frequently at 2008 Council meetings, that those involved in leadership are over-stretched and over-committed.

Young People

Children’s Church and Teen Church, which have formed the centre around which our ministry to young people has focused during 2008, sees some change this year. Olga Nel and Belinda Holden have resigned in order to focus on their own families, and we need to extend to them both our huge debt of gratitude for the major contribution they have made to our young people and children through this ministry. We welcome Barbara Primmer and Wonder Mutanha, along with others, as they step into Olga and Belinda’s shoes. In addition, our ministry to Teenagers outside of Sunday’s has been given a major injection with the resurrection of “Youth Fusion” – Hilary Davis has acknowledged her passion for this ministry and has gathered others around her to give this ministry new life. Our young people’s response is most encouraging.

The Future

I need to request your most sincere prayers: I have allowed my name to go forward for consideration by the Elective Assembly of the Diocese of the Highveld for election as Bishop. The election will take place on 12 February 2009, and depending on the outcome, could significantly alter all our lives. I covert your prayerful support, both for myself and my family, as well as for the Diocese of the Highveld, and for ourselves as a Parish community. Whatever the outcome, there will be consequences that will affect our future.


My specific thanks to our outgoing Council for all you have contributed in giving direction to our Parish life during 2008, and to those who in stepping down have created space for new blood.

Thank you to you all! Our parish life would be diminished without your contribution of time talent and resource, however great or small, significant or insignificant; or just by your presence in our midst. The Kingdom of God is built not by the efforts of the individual, but by the collective multiplication of individual actions. I value you all and I thank you.