Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November/December 2010 - What is God doing?

Dear Friends

What is God doing?

Our identity as Christians is profoundly locked into this question, “What is God doing?” I have begun asking this question as we draw together in worship, and particularly as we reflect on the lectionary readings for the day. What is it that draws us together as God’s people, the Body of Christ? Is it an interest in what God is doing? Is it also a desire to be a part of what God is doing?

“The Lord be with you!” “AND ALSO WITH YOU!”

What has struck me as I’ve asked people to turn to each other and share what God is doing is the brevity of the discussion. It is not long before the room is quiet again.

When Jesus is asked the question, “Who gives you authority to do what you are doing?” his answer is to reflect that he does what he sees the Father doing. What is our answer? Why are we doing what we are doing? ... and what is it that we are doing?

It is not long before the room is quiet again.

“What is God doing?” is profound because it asks us to focus on God; it asks us to disengage from our self-focus. Suddenly it presents me with a new reality: life is not about me. And I am challenged – we are challenged – by a simple question that has wide-ranging implications; and seemingly no easy answers. We are quiet as we watch and wait and reflect. “What is it that God is doing?” – in my life, in yours; in our diverse daily communities, in our society? Where does God place us daily, in the morning, afternoon and evening? Is it our homes, our workplace, our schools, our friendship circles? What is God doing in these places? What is God doing in these relationships?

It is not long before the room is quiet again.

We ask this seemingly simple, innocent question. We ask it as we reflect on the Scriptures of the day, as we reflect on what God has done as he interacted with ancient generations of people. We ask it as we reflect on our own situation, our own context. We ask it as we draw ancient Scriptures together with the realities of today, the here and now. And tomorrow.

And the room is no longer so quiet.

The room is no longer so quiet because, perhaps – just perhaps – the God who interacted with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with Moses and the Prophets, with King Saul and King David, with Jesus, with the early Apostles and with Paul, also wants to interact with us. And the hum and buzz in the room reflects a growing awareness, a growing expectation; an expectation that perhaps – just perhaps – we too may be part of what God is doing?

And the room is no longer so quiet.

Our time of worship begins to become a time of celebration: God is doing something. God is alive. God is present. God is relevant. Deep within we begin to realise that we want to be a part of what God is doing. And so we enter into the liturgy: receiving God’s forgiveness, reflecting on his Word, sharing the needs of our world in prayer, encouraging each other that we are not alone as we share in the peace, receiving the very life of God as we share in the sacramental bread and wine, reminded of God’s blessing as we prepare to return to our lives in the wider world. We reflect on where we will be as we return from this time of worship – this experience of celebration – into the fullness of our lives beyond the walls of our meeting place. And we begin to ask an equally profound question, “What is God wanting to do?”

And the room is quiet no longer.

As the Deacon’s call rings out, “Go into the world to love and serve the Lord!” we respond, excitedly, noisily, “IN THE NAME OF CHRIST! AMEN!”

And the room is silent. The Church has dispersed into the world, to do what God is doing, to do what God is wanting to do.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 2010 - On Being Anglican

Dear Friends

On being Anglican

Many of us grew up with grandparents who were born Anglican (or Methodist, or Catholic, or ...), lived their entire lives as Anglicans (or ...) and died as Anglicans (or ...). They probably also worked for the same company their entire working lives and were proud of the gold watch this commitment earned them.

I am struck, every time we present teenagers to the Bishop for Confirmation, at how diverse these young people’s denomination of origin is. This points to the increasing trend for our generation to use different criteria in choosing the church we commit to. We rarely hold any long term commitment to any one denomination, choosing rather to find a faith community that meets our specific needs at a specific time in our lives.

And so what draws us to be Anglican in 2010?

The short answer is probably the vision and mission of the local Anglican congregation (in our case Corpus Christi in Garsfontein), and we will remain involved for as long as this congregation meets our family needs ... and then we will move on. But what keeps us involved in the here and now, and does the focus of the wider Anglican denomination have any impact on our present involvement? Do we know what the focus of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa is?

At our recent Provincial Synod (the chief Governing body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa) held in Benoni we spent substantial time reflecting on the nature of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa with all the wealth of its diversity from the three Portuguese speaking Dioceses in Angola and Mozambique, to the English language-oriented Dioceses stretching from Namibia through South Africa to Lesotho and Swaziland (and don’t forget the island of St Helena). Despite the breadth of this vast diversity, we were able to agree on a common vision and mission, along with eight key priority areas that we all need to address. This is an exciting step that I pray will unite us as Anglicans in Southern Africa in a new way. It has the potential to cement our identity and our willingness to identify with the Anglican Church beyond just our congregational involvement. We need to be part of a comprehensive response to the many inter-related social-economic challenges we face in the Southern African region. The nature of the Anglican Church is that we are Diocesan rather than congregational, and although we may worship with a specific group of people, we are called to align ourselves with other Anglicans in the region (ours is Pretoria, stretching through to Rustenburg and beyond in the West and to the Mpumalanga Provincial boundary in the East).

And so to be Anglican in Southern Africa is now to be aligned with the following; we are called to ACT:


Anchored in the love of Christ
Committed to God’s mission
Transformed by the Holy Spirit


To honour of God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service
To embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation
To grow communities of faith that form, inform and transform those who fellow Christ


Liturgical renewal for transformative worship
Theological education
Leadership formation
Health: HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis
The environment
Women and gender
Protection and nurture of children and young people
Public advocacy

Going forward

Together, we can make a valuable difference. The challenge for us at both Diocese and Parish level will be to align our own vision and mission with those of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Going into 2011 we will be exploring how we as Corpus Christi can contribute to reaching this vision. Provincial Synod did not expect any “quick fix” solutions, but rather saw this new alignment as an ongoing process over the next couple of decades. The eight identified priorities are there to guide us over the next five years.

If you are interested in helping guide this process – or any of its aspects – at Parish level, please let me know.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September 2010 - Journeying with Jesus

Dear Friends

Journeying with Jesus

The Christian life is a call to journey with Jesus. Over the last ten weeks our Sunday readings from Luke’s Gospel have given us an insight into an important aspect of this journey, primarily that as disciples of Christ we are called to proclaim to the people we meet that the Kingdom of God is upon us. “Proclamation” is more than just an announcement: it is to live out a message. This means that our actions and attitudes are more important than our words; and that our relationship with God is visible even in the hidden moments of our lives: a somewhat daunting thought!

What is the “Kingdom of God”? None of the Gospel writers, including Luke, give us a clear, unequivocal description. Instead they portray Jesus as the visible sign of the Kingdom, and through his life – particularly in his interaction with others – we are afforded glimpses of what the Kingdom is. We begin to see that the Kingdom is about love-filled relationships that build justice and true hope in our world. The Kingdom is created through relationships that value love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (An Anglican Prayer Book 1989, pg 144). By incorporating these values into our relationships our lives become glimpses of the Kingdom both for ourselves and for others. This journey with Jesus is one of continual discovery.

What does our journey with Jesus mean for the various other journeys we are on with ourselves and also with others? Jesus’ comment in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (TNIV) makes us fear that we will have to leave these other journeys behind. Journeys that conflict with the values of the Kingdom need to be abandoned. However, many – if not most – of our journeys are complementary, and if we are committed and available to Jesus, God draws the journeys of our life together, interweaving them with the Kingdom journey that we are called to.

Too often we forget to make our Kingdom journey the priory of our lives, and we find ourselves pulled in conflicting directions. Rather than this being a conflict in values, it is a conflict of priority. As we increasingly permit our journey with Jesus to become the umbrella under which all our other journeys are allowed to shelter, we will gradually discover over time that the various journeys of our lives are redirected and are progressively guided by our Kingdom journey. The question always is, “How?”

We need to make time to reflect upon our lives, review our priorities, allow the Spirit of God to transform us. This is the call of Christian Stewardship: a call to review our relationship with God, and to reflect upon how we give leadership to our time, our gifting and talents, to our treasure. Our use of time says a great deal about our priorities; the manner in which we deal with our relationships and utilise our belongings says a great deal about our values; our approach to life says a great deal about our relationship with our Creator, Restorer and Sustainer.

Where are you in your journey with Jesus?


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

August 2010 - New Challenges

Dear Friends

New Challenges

The noonday hour in the Bishop’s office appears to be a bewitching one, if tales are true. Bishop Jo requested to see me in person on my return from leave in June, and as I left the parish office I mentioned to Cheryl that I was either in deep trouble or in line for more responsibility. As it turns out, it was more responsibility: I left the Bishop’s office just after the noonday hour an acting Archdeacon. I now carry responsibility for the Archdeaconry of Madibeng, which is centred around Brits and Hartbeespoort Dam, including Pretoria North. My initial focus is to review the mission and ministry imperatives of this area, which was set up at our 2005 Diocesan Synod as a missionary Archdeaconry. The challenges of Madibeng are great: it is staffed with only one full-time clergyperson and five self-supporting priests. Much of the area is made up of small villages, some around the mines, others with rural roots. It is an exciting new venture for me, even though at this point it remains a temporary appointment.

This change in my focus has led to some reshuffling in the Pretoria East Archdeaconry, and as from September our Archdeacon, the Ven Timothy Lowes, will take over responsibility for the mission parish of St Anne’s, Equestria; and the Chapelry of St Agnes, Stanza Bopape, will fall under the oversight of the Rev’d Madi Moshime of All Saints in Mamelodi East. Please keep these two communities, which have walked closely with us, in prayer as they find comfort in the new allegiances that are required of them. Please keep me and my family in your prayers, too, as I pick up this new Diocesan responsibility out west, while seeking to continue to serve you faithfully here at Corpus Christi in Garsfontein.


I’ve just returned from a three day retreat (a part of the Spirituality Course Dawn and I are doing through the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg) that focused on the Desert Tradition of the early Church around the third century. I’ve always appreciated that St Benedict and his Rule have substantially influenced Anglicanism as we know it, but what was eye opening was the tradition of the Desert Mothers and Fathers that influenced Benedict. At the heart is a comment from St Benedict’s Rule: “Prefer absolutely nothing to the love of Christ”. It was a huge affirmation for me of what it means not just to be Christian, but to be an Anglican Christian.

The Desert Tradition found its impetus at a place in time when Christianity suddenly found itself the religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine. From being a banned and underground movement, Christianity was suddenly the flavour of the day. Many followers of Christ’s way became disillusioned by a faith that was increasingly watered down and sold short: people’s lives were no longer being changed through conversion. And so many holy and committed followers of Christ found their way into the desert, seeking not to run away from the world, but to find a place not filled by the distractions of the decadent and licentious Roman Empire. The holy men and women of the Desert Tradition recognised that the problem was not the world, but rather the inner being of every person that allows the world to be a distraction, and that leads us away from preferring “absolutely nothing to the love of Christ”. And so the Desert Tradition calls us to flee into the real world of self; we are called to face our demons and encounter both ourselves and the living God in the process.

If we are serious about our journey in God then this journey has to take precedence over everything else. We need to be continually drawn to something more; and we need to ask ourselves why we are ever ready to settle for the mediocre when it comes to our relationship with God. Joan Chittister – whom I regularly quote – reflects that the essence of the Benedictine Spirit (at whose heart is the spirit of the Desert Tradition) is a process of living in the presence of God that gives us a different perception of ourselves and of God. It is the spirit of the sacrament: to touch, to take, and to be transformed.

This, I realise, is something of what it means to be Anglican and Christian; a very special gift.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 2010 - Survey Results

Dear Friends

Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill in our Survey Questionnaire! We had 128 responses over two Sundays. The results confirmed a lot of what we already suspected: we are a Parish made up of people who seek a traditional church environment with a sacramental flavour; 70% of parishioners are over 40 years old; the 19-26 age group is the smallest with 3% and the 41-55 age group is the biggest with 36%.

Most parishioners joined Corpus Christi because we are the nearest Anglican Church to where they live, and most stay because of the sense of belonging and family that they experience. Our intra-cultural harmony, along with the high standard of sermons and the rector’s personality were also mentioned. Those who serve do so mainly as a way to give back to the community for what they receive in terms of care, belonging and meaningful worship.

A number of issues of concern were raised, most notably a need to stimulate the participation of young adults and encourage youth attendance. Concern was expressed about our singing (dreary!) and a need articulated for the inclusion of African hymns/songs. A number of respondents (including, interestingly, one of our 13-18 year-olds) bemoaned the disruption caused by late-comers, and some find the chatter before worship difficult to accept. Newer members expressed a need to be more fully welcomed, including a desire for a welcome visit from the clergy.

Encouraging Youth & the Future

The survey highlighted that the majority of parishioners hold to a worldview that cherishes transcendent truth and principle. This means the predominant outlook at Corpus Christi understands God as the eternal rewarder of those who stay true to their calling, and presses for a church committed to changeless truth. This outlook requires sermons that underscore accountability, and worship that is reverent, orderly, and predictable. We seek leaders of unquestioned integrity, who keep things under control and on the right path.

The majority of young people today don’t hold to this outlook, preferring to see God either as a divine mentor who calls us to our full potential, and thus seek a church that dreams and acts boldly; or they see God as the healer of an injured world and seek a church that builds healthy, close-knit relationships. They are thus drawn to either the mega-church where worship has a distinctively “contemporary” feel, or to congregations where worship has an intimate “family” feel.

Our emphasis on worship that is reverent, orderly and predictable is largely at odds with the intimacy younger people seek. As adults, we are often uncomfortable with younger people’s desire to chatter during the silences, hug and catch up during the “peace”, sing songs that appear repetitive and theologically “light”, and hold small group interactions in place of a sermon. This explains why the Teens prefer to sit in the cold under the Car-port in interactive conversation with Wonder Mutanha rather than in the warmth of the Church in a predictable and largely non-interactive environment.

It is of course easy to generalise, and we need to note that at least 17% of respondents (in the 26-70+ age group) are comfortable with the younger perspective, and are probably drawn to Corpus Christi because we manage to sustain a good sense of belonging and family. 53% of respondents (also in the same age group) are deeply uncomfortable with it. It is this deep discomfort of the majority of adults with the outlook of our youth that makes it very difficult to encourage youth attendance and young adult participation. The “generation gap” is very wide.

The Challenge

The challenge for the Parish leadership is to continue to meet the needs of the Parish majority, while opening up opportunities for both young people and the minority of adults whose worship and faith needs differ with the general direction that Corpus Christi is travelling. It is to find balance between the expectations of the present and the demands of the future.

This challenge is not one we face alone. It is the challenge that most Anglican and other traditional Churches face. To be an alive and growing church in the future generations we need to find the courage to step beyond the boundaries of what we know and understand, and venture into the realm of the unknown. Our great-grandchildren will stand testimony to our courage or our fear.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

June 2010

Dear Friends

The “New Thing” - Pentecost

I shared in my Pentecost sermon ( that the “new thing” God wishes to do in our lives is for us to come to know the Lord (Hosea 2:20); and that I felt quite offended that God didn’t think I knew him; and that perhaps you might feel the same.  And then of course, with a little reflection, I began asking what does it really mean to “know the Lord” – and do I? Do we know the Lord? How is this visible in our lives?

To “know the Lord” means more than vague acquaintance or even superficial relationship: it requires immersion. It requires exploring what the Father’s purpose is for Jesus, what Jesus understood his purpose to be; and discovering our purpose in the midst of Jesus’ call. In Luke 4:18-21, using Isaiah’s words, Jesus states that his purpose – affirmed by the Spirit’s anointing – is to proclaim Good News, freedom, recovery and God’s favour; this proclamation is to be one of action, not words. It is to set the oppressed free.

The call to “know the Lord” is to invest in God’s Kingdom, in our society, and in individual lives. Our acts of proclamation, in terms of Luke 4, are to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed.  It is a call to invest in the lives of those we perceive God to have abandoned. Too often we have diminished this call into “alleviation” and provide food parcels, clothing, sometimes money; and generally use a go-between, rarely dirtying our own hands. Does alleviation set people free, give them sight? Does alleviation set me free to “know the Lord”? Alleviation is an important and valuable starting point, an attempt to meet the symptoms of need, giving us space to address the cause. To truly invest is to address the cause, and it is often a sacrificial call to put ourselves – not just our wealth – on the line. It is a call to become the go-between, and to seek ways to invest ourselves in “knowing the Lord” as we immerse ourselves in addressing the causes of need in our society. At our peril we distance ourselves from Jesus’ anointed purpose.

What should we be addressing? Next time you find yourself complaining about some aspect of South African society, perhaps that is a place for us to start.

Easter Offering – Thank You!

Thank you to all who contributed to the Easter Offering I received this year. As always it is much appreciated! It has enabled me to pay for the many books my studies require this year, update my phone, address my wardrobe and hopefully leave something for a rainy day. I am aware that this year the financial crunch has found reality in most of our pockets, and so your gift is all the more valued.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

May 2010

Dear Friends

A “new thing” in our midst

Last month I said “I’d love to know what your perception is of the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst.” Due to the complete lack of response I’m wondering if we have our heads firmly buried in the sand, or whether we hope that by not acknowledging “new things” they will disappear and life can continue as normal? Or perhaps God has passed us by, and we have been left in some backwater, marking time?

I’m reading a book – as part of my studies – by Ron Martoia Morph! The Texture of Leadership for Tomorrow’s Church. In it he makes the following insightful comment:

“In our postmodern culture, people are looking for experiences to bring them closer to God. Why have we been so unimaginative? Postmoderns aren’t looking for principles to die for; they are looking for practices to live by” (page 58).

The challenge we face as Anglicans, along with other so-called “main-line” Churches, is that we have been shaped over centuries by a worldview that raises “principle” on a divine pedestal, and is often suspicious of “experience”. Postmodernism is a worldview that forms the outlook and expectations of many younger people (mostly those under 50) and these people are often drawn off to Christian communities that offer a more experiential faith dynamic. It is not that principle is unimportant, it is just no longer pivotal.

Rules and regulations are the pedestal that upholds principle, and Martoia comments that the postmodern perspective associates rules and regulations “leading to dull, monochrome lives” (page 58), and thus to a dull, monochrome faith. As Anglicans we are often nervous to venture too far into the experiential realm, finding our comfort and security in transcendent truth and principle. We are suspicious and critical of other denominations and many of the newer “break-away” communities that appear to reject the sense of dignity that principle engenders in worship and life. And we are nervous to let these ideas through the door: the very thought of them makes us insecure.

Another book that I have been reading – Systems-Sensitive Leadership: Empowering Diversity Without Polarizing the Church by Michael Armour and Don Browning – suggests that postmodernism encompasses at least four emerging worldviews (thinking systems and values), themselves discontinuous, that the Church increasingly needs to take cognisance of. While there is far too much detail to go into here, the key issue is that “main-line” Churches like ourselves need to begin exploring ways to incorporate and make space for people who have an increasingly different perspective and expectation from that which has shaped our Church-life over centuries. Statistics strongly suggest that in the Western world the Church as we have known it is dying, especially when attendance figures are married to population growth. Research suggests that this is not due to a decrease in interest in spirituality – which interest remains high among postmoderns – but is rather an inability (unwillingness?) to transform in order to meet the needs of a new generation, a generation whose needs are discontinuous with the past.

And so, perhaps, I got the question wrong last month, and I need to ask instead, “What new thing does God want to institute in our midst?” – do you have any thoughts?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter 2010

Dear Friends

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got!” – Anonymous

This quote was shared at our recent Diocesan Clergy School held at the Good Shepherd Retreat Centre in Meerhof during a presentation on “Growing the Church”, which is an initiative of the Synod of Bishops that desires to see the Anglican Church of Southern Africa become “a vibrant God-Centred Church which is clearly growing spiritually, numerically and holistically”. More information can be found at

My sense is that at Corpus Christi we have begun doing some things a little differently over the last few years, and in a number of areas are seeing the positive fruits of our willingness to “let go, and let God”. Isaiah 43:19 (TNIV) says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” This is a verse we have carried at Council level over the last couple of years as we continue to reflect on our parish vision. Sometimes we are a little scared of doing things in new ways, partly because the old ways are comforting and help us feel secure, but mainly because new ways disorientate us and the outcomes are often not what we expect. I’d love to know what your perception is of the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst. If you have the time and the courage, please let me have your thoughts at or handwritten: I will value your input.

Family Life

As you are hopefully aware of by now, our Diocesan Theme is presently “Equipping and Strengthening Families: Turning Houses into Homes”. This is a challenging theme in today’s world where the certainties of past decades are less obvious and most truth is understood to be relative. “Family” comes in many guises in the 21st Century, and we are not always comfortable with some of the variations, and not all permutations seem to fit easily with a more conservative Christian faith perspective. The Diocesan Lent Course has sought to get us thinking about family in a broader context, which many throughout the Diocese seem to have found useful. While breadth is good, we also need to think more specifically, and a question my wife, Dawn, has asked me is how are we as a Church specifically seeking to equip and strengthen families with the everyday practicalities of being family. If you are interested in being part of a conversation at this level, please let me know. You can access the Lent Course at or collect a hard copy from the office; and if you have not had the opportunity to be part of the Parish Lent Course I’d encourage you to work through the material with your family, or a friendship group.

Holy Week & Easter

There are various opportunities for you to participate in our Holy Week and Easter journey, which begins on Palm Sunday. This year our Good Friday focus is “Journeying with Jesus into the World” and will focus on sharing Jesus with others through humility, forgiveness, service, worship, wonder and surrender; while focused on Jesus journey to the cross, my prayer is that it will begin to help us focus beyond Easter on what both Jesus death and resurrection mean for our lives and our world. For those who may not have the Diocesan booklet of daily meditations for Lent, there is a copy of the Holy Week meditations at for your convenience.

Easter Prayer

My Easter prayer for us all is that Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10-11 (TNIV) may be true for us as we emerse ourselves in the Easter journey: “ I want to know Chrsit and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

               Easter blessings

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent 2010

Dear friends


Lent is already upon us, wrenching our vision from the birth of the Christ-child to the crucified and risen Christ. In between we have journeyed through the season of Epiphany, seeing Jesus revealed as God’s response not only to the needs of Israel, but to the needs of the world as a whole.

In his recent Ad Clerum (“To the Clergy”) letter Bishop Jo has enjoined us to focus on the three pillars of our Christian Faith: Scripture, Prayer and Worship. We saw yesterday (1st Sunday in Lent) how Jesus and the Devil interacted around the Scriptures, and how Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture and his understanding of God’s purposes helped him deal with the Devil’s attempt to mislead him. Lent calls us to prayer, along with fasting and alms-giving, and our more personal time alone with God comes under scrutiny. Worship is less about “me” and more about “us”, and particularly about joining together in fellowship to worship God, whether formally in Church or less formally with family and friends: “when you eat this bread and drink this cup” can apply equally to our more formal Eucharist services and to everyday meals shared in our homes. Where are you in your own journey with Scripture? Where are you in your journey of prayer and worship?

The Diocesan Lenten focus is on our Diocesan Theme “Equipping and Strengthening Families: Turning Houses into Homes”. Our Lent course echoes on this, reflecting initially on the challenges of nuclear family, and expanding to remind us that we are part of God’s family (the Church) and a wider community and world family of people created in God’s image. A copy of the course material can be found on or can be requested from the office.

Being Early

Just a reminder that my theme for this year for us is “BE EARLY!” It is my earnest plea that this is something we all “take on” for Lent this year, and get into a new habit. I am aware of people making an effort, and that is much appreciated. This last Sunday I was aware of a large-ish crowd joining the procession into the 9am Service!

Children’s Church

In recent weeks the Children and Teen Church have reached close on 90 young people attending. We are in DESPERATE need for people to help with teaching as we need to create more groups. If you have some teaching experience or are just keen to work with young people, please speak to our Churchwarden, Bruce Harvey, or to myself – this really is urgent and important!

A Lenten Commitment

Choose this day whom you will serve; WE WILL CHOOSE THE LIVING GOD
The road is narrow that leads to life; WE WILL WALK THE WAY OF CHRIST
Faith is not our holding on; FAITH IS LETTING GO
We offer more than words, O God; WE OFFER YOU OUR LIVES.
(from Lent & Easter Readings from IONA, pg 18)



Rector's Report to Annual Vestry 2010 - St Anne's, Equestria (7 Feb 2010)

Today is our 2nd Annual Vestry Meeting, and marks just over a year of our existence as the Mission Parish in Equestria. Since our 1st Meeting we have gained an identity, and I hear us talking about ourselves as “St Anne’s” as if we’ve always been here, which I see as exciting and positive. We come today to celebrate the last year, which is good; but more importantly we need to look forward with expectation. We need to make ourselves available to God, again, that his life may flow through us so that we may be truly be the light of Christ in this part of God’s world. We need to hold close to our hearts Pauls words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?“ (Romans 8:31b TNIV)

The foundation of our Christian confidence lies in four things: our calling; our identity, where we have come from; and where we are going. It is about vision, knowing who we are, and understanding our context.

Our calling
When I arrive in the Archdeaconry five years ago there was a desire to expand the Anglican Church eastwards, and two areas were identified: the area from Silverton through to Silver Lakes, and the area south east of Mooikloof. These two options were explored and land bought. A development centred in the Willows was identified as the priority area and in 2006 I was asked by the Diocese to drive the process with Corpus Christi (Garsfontein) as a base with support from St Francis (Waterkloof) and Holy Trinity (Lynnwood). By July this year (2010) the first phase in reaching this vision, this mission development, will be achieved with a worshiping community based in a new worship facility in Stellenberg Road, Equestria.

Where we have we come from
We needed to define a new Anglican community, and the Diocese committed to helping us do this by providing a clergyperson-in-training to help us determine if we could get a community off the ground. In 2007 Vernon Foster began canvassing in the area, speaking to various parishes, and before long we had a core group of Anglicans willing to join this new venture; the missionary congregation of Willow Glen was formed, and necessary ministry and administrative structures were put in place during 2008. The community was not growing fast, but the journey was exciting.

Alongside this process another more painful journey was taking place. This was the journey the Parish of All Saints (Silverton) was on with the Diocese. Again, a small core of people working diligently to keep head above water, but with the currents of Diocesan opinion – combined with an increasingly semi-industrial environment booming in the wider Silverton geographical surroundings – threatening their existence.
In July 2008 I was asked to explore the possibility of combining the Parish of Silverton with the missionary congregation of Willow Glen. The option was clearly viable, but necessitated the very hard step of Silverton saying good-bye to their home in Pretoria Road and, a bit like Abram and Sarai, stepping out into an uncertain journey. It required of Willow Glen a willingness to walk away from their still new identity, and inclusively embrace a hurting community.

And so a new community was born on Advent Sunday 2008, and the Mission Parish of Equestria (us!)  came into being. Fr Veron acted as mid-wife to this event before his almost immediate redeployment by the Bishop to take up the position of Rector in Lynnwood. Alan O’Brien, also a clergyperson-in-training, was assigned by the Bishop to assist me, and has helped oversee the nurturing of us as a new community. It is thanks to Fr Alan’s leadership, as well as your willingness, that we have forged a united Mission Parish over the last year. While not negating our past we have had the courage to overcome our pain that walking away from the Parish of Silverton required and the sense of loss that walking away for the very young Willow Glen congregation required – and for your courage I salute you!

Our identity
We are still, like Abram and Sarai, on our journey to the “Promised Land”. The site and building-in-progress in Stellenberg Road is giving some tangible reality to the vision, and we are thankful for these facilities at Willow Ridge High School that help contain us on the journey. During 2009 Diocesan Chapter placed the dedication of St Anne on us, which we have accepted. It has some roots in our shared history with Silverton, and so is a touch-stone with the past. St Anne was the grandmother of Christ, and there is always something very comforting about having a granny in residence! But just as Anne bore Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, so our name is a continual reminder to us that our calling is to make Jesus known to the world, to give birth to him in the wider community we serve, and to give birth to others who will continue to give life to the vision and continue to respond to the call.

It has been encouraging to see our community grow from under thirty people at worship early in 2009 to regularly around fifty people now. Our financial position has been far in excess of our Budget for last year. Although we may be relatively small in number there can be no doubt that we are big in heart! My thanks to all who have worked and contributed tirelessly in helping us become who we are, and who we will be. I’m encouraged by God’s name, as he shared it with Moses, because it can be translated as “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be”: a reminder that we are always more than we appear to be, and that we must never limit our future by how we perceive ourselves in the present.

Where we are going
I know that many of us are mourning Fr Alan’s redeployment to St Bede’s (Soshanguve), and that we had hopes that he would be with us for another year. The reality is that we have had substantial help from the Diocese over the last three years in the form of both Vernon Foster and Alan O’Brien, and there can be no doubt that had they not been with us we would not be where we are today. The Dioceses’ support in the form of Clergy-in-training has helped us find our feet and become a viable Christian community.  With Alan’s recent move there is the temptation to feel abandoned by the Diocese, but if we are honest with ourselves such a response is that of any young adult facing the world as parents set them free to explore the world on their own. As we know, parents wait anxiously see if their child will fly, and are ever ready to step in with support. We now stand as many Chapelries and Mission Parishes stand throughout the Anglican Communion: on our own feet with the challenge to grow to the point where we can fully support our own full-time priest. In the meantime we are better resourced than many: we have a Rector with our needs at heart; we have access to two self-supporting Clergy who, together with the Rector, will ensure we have a Eucharist most Sundays; we have four trained and licensed Layministers; we have a committed Council and Churchwardens, also with our needs at heart; and we have each other.

The vision for our existence has been the vision of others; we have accepted that vision, but the challenge now is to make that vision fully our own, and sustain a vibrant and growing sense of family, meaningful worship, caring and fellowship. Both Vernon and Alan have helped engender this in our midst. The timing of the Bishop’s redeployment of Alan may not be ideal from our perspective, but know this: God has purpose in it, and we will look back in time to come and understand. It is part of the journey. Jeremiah says, ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:11-14a TNIV).

Let us hold to the vision and keep the faith!

The year ahead
Challenge number one: hold the vision, keep the faith!

Challenge number two: we are family together in Christ, and we need to stand together. It is likely that by July we will be ensconced in our new home, and the challenge will be exactly that: to make it “Home”.

Challenge number three: grow! We need to find and take every opportunity of reaching out into the community. The sooner we grow our numbers, the sooner our income will expand, and the sooner we will be able to apply to the Bishop for a full-time priest. However, this should not be an end in itself, nor the focus of our efforts. If it is it will fail. It needs to be an almost unintended consequence of our desire to serve God through Jesus Christ, to serve God’s creation and the wider society in which we find ourselves.

The challenge that lies on the shoulders of our new Council is to give us direction and lead us into the “Promised Land”: it is a massive task. But I trust we will all share the load and continue to walk this journey together. God is here, we are not alone, and we have the archdeaconry and the Diocese behind us.

Let us embrace God’s love, and walk together in his grace.

God bless!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rector's Report to Annual Vestry 2010 - Corpus Christi, Garsfontein (31 Jan 2010)


Our Annual Vestry Meeting is an important opportunity to stop and reflect on what God has been doing in our lives and community, and specifically where we are in our journey of Faith. We are asked to give “bodily form” to that which is largely intangible, and certainly difficult to define outside of material instruments. In our meeting we will table parish Councillors’ attendance at Council meetings, assess our finances, and hear reports on various actions and activities. I hope we will leave with a sense that it is good to be here, that it is good to belong to the Anglican community in this part of Pretoria.
Through all our deliberations we need to be asking more fundamental questions: is God with us; are we growing into greater maturity in our relationship with God, both as individuals and as a Christian community; are we impacting positively on the world beyond the boundaries of this building in terms of Christian values, morality and ethical behaviour? What is the nature of the Good News we share with God’s creation: do our lives, our relationships reflect the inclusive nature of God’s love? And this despite our brokenness, our human fragility, the shattered nature of our daily existence.
In Ephesians 2:6-7 (TNIV) Paul says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” This reflects an ultimate Christian outcome, and leads us to ask, “How are we creating Heaven within the realm of daily life, struggle and existence?”


The past year has been a difficult one for me: standing as a candidate for Episcopal election in the Diocese of the Highveld, believing that I have the gifting and call to fulfil the role, and then not being elected left me in a dislocated place. Knowing that I was an outsider, understanding that the Diocese may have other priorities and may well elect someone they are already in relationship with, didn’t make the outcome any easier to deal with. Standing for election makes one visible, and I was subsequently approached by one of the larger parishes in Johannesburg. Dawn, too, has been through a difficult time in terms of her career, and while God has been good in providing opportunities for her to consult in the Motor Industry, she has a deep desire to find a professional direction of deeper meaning and purpose. I remain uncertain as to the present nature of God’s call on my life, but do know that it is good to be here at Corpus Christi, and appreciate the deepening relationship that I share with many of you. Being priest, pastor and teacher in your midst remains a fulfilling existence … and my sense right now is “Long may it last!”
I have registered for an introductory course to Spiritual Direction through the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg, as well as a formal academic course towards a Masters Degree in Contextual Congregational Leadership through Tukkies. So, 2010 promises to be full and stimulating.


I look back over five years and suspect that we are a different community to that which we were in 2005. I experience a deeper ownership of parish life by most who attend Worship on a regular basis. The “us & them” mentality that noticeably marked parish life when I was first appointed has lessened, and is almost invisible. Challenges remain, and at our Council Planning Day for 2010 last week concern was expressed that we find ways to get the various ministry communities to be more representative: we noted that the catering community has only one “pale African” and that the Children’s Church Teachers are largely “Whities”. On one level this may seem a nit-picky issue in the light of far greater challenges that face our wider society, but they do speak to what it means to be family and friends in Christ. My thanks to all who continue to work hard to reach across the boundaries that mark our different cultural and international identities – you make a valuable difference.
Our financial position suggests that most of us have weathered the economic downturn quite well, and I appreciate that for many committed parishioners your regular financial contribution has become more sacrificial in recent months. I was humbled recently by a most substantial “thanksgiving donation” received from one of our parish families as they celebrated God’s sustaining presence in their midst in recent very difficult circumstances.
All our lives are increasingly busy and not unaffected by the massive amounts of time many of us spend in the chaotic Gauteng traffic that steals significant time from our family and community commitments. I appreciate the time that many of you give beyond the call of Worship, and your willingness to involve yourselves in organising, or just attending, our various parish activities. We have had some wonderful times together in the last year – our Cultural Event stands out with everything from Zulu dancers to Jenny Moser masquerading as the late Queen Mother!
Many of us set Sunday morning aside for Church, and outside of winter and various holiday periods, our Worship attendance has grown, an encouraging sign. I am hugely encouraged by the youth that gather each week for Children’s and Teen Church. We continue to find it difficult to get youth to support activities outside of Sundays, although we had a great turnout for our 2009 end-of-year event organised via Facebook.
Spiritual growth has taken place through our Baptism and Confirmation preparation classes, our Lent Course which focused on transformation, and through our post-winter course on the Baptismal Creed. There are various focus groups that meet where fellowship and spiritual nourishment are received: from the Monday night Cell Group to the Thursday afternoon Bible Study, to the monthly Friday afternoon Women’s group and the monthly Saturday afternoon Comfort Group where the bereaved and divorced meet for fellowship. The Men went fishing (again!) and celebrated 10 years of fellowship and fishing-frustration, and excitingly the Women had a Spiritually-focused weekend away that I hope will also become an annual tradition. Relational counselling has taken up a great deal of my time over the last year, both in preparing couples for marriage and in trying to keep other couples married!
Our main challenge for 2010, apart for praying for miracles from Bafana-Bafana, is to become a community that arrives early for Worship. Towards the end of last year I became aware of a conversation taking place in various contexts of people’s frustration with those who arrive late. No matter how quietly late-comers seek to enter our Worship space, their movement creates distraction. We are not a community that struggles to find transport, and so late-coming, while distracting, is also perceived to be disrespectful both to God and to those already gathered; and so my focus this year is to encourage us to be a community that values arriving early. I’m specifically encouraging parish leaders to be present at least half-an-hour before our Worship begins, and realise that for some there are major challenges in getting children and spouses to join this journey. I am attempting to set this example myself, although being at Church by 06:30 on a Sunday morning is admittedly a challenge!


At our recent Council Planning Day we revisited our parish “Statement of Purpose” and a good deal of the discussion focused on our second core purpose of building the Kingdom of God in the wider community through outreach and service. We have visibility in the wider Diocesan areas of outreach (Irene Homes, Tumelong) and in the wider Pretoria (Louis Botha Homes and Women Against Rape). The question was raised as to whether we are visible in our more local geographical environment of Garsfontein, Constantia Park, Moreleta Park and Faerie Glen. This was more difficult to define.
Outreach is a powerful form of Christian service, and if we are to truly serve we need to be confident in our calling (vision), our identity (who we are), we need to know where we have come from and where we are going. To this end our “Statement of Purpose” is critical to our confidence in serving both God and the world: our core purpose of being a place where others meet Christ, of building the Kingdom of God in the wider community, and of sustaining traditional Anglican practices needs to guide us; our core values of dignified worship, opportunity, friendship, and broad-based parishioner involvement need to motivate us; our Scriptural imperative “…go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19) must impel us. The focus of many of my Sunday sermons has been aimed at equipping us for our role in the world.


The focus of our mission as a parish over the last few years has been the encouragement of a new Anglican community in Equestria, and this has been a combined project with Archdeaconry and Diocesan support. Our contribution, apart from the facilitation that I have provided as Rector, has been our partial support of a clergy person-in-training who has been charged with the day-to-day pastoral care and worship coordination of the Equestria community. At the beginning of 2009 the small congregation of Willow Glen combined with the shrinking parish of Silverton to form the mission parish of St Anne’s, Equestria. The Worshipping community has grown from just under thirty regular attendants before Easter to regularly around fifty people by December 2009. Their financial commitment has grown accordingly, and their budget for 2010 is healthy, but not yet at the point where they can, even with our help, provide for a full-time clergy person. The building of the new Church facility for Equestria in Stellenberg Road has begun, and our plan is that it will be completed before mid-year. The construction is largely being funded by the sale of the Silverton Church facilities (R1,800,000), although the agreed cost of R2,500,000 will require ongoing fundraising to meet the shortfall; in this regard, my thanks to all who supported the Welsh Male Voice Choir Fundraising event last year.
We have been fortunate to have had Vernon Foster (now Rector of Lynnwood) and more recently Alan O’Brien as the clergy presence in Equestria during their training, and together with the Equestria community we are most thankful for the Diocesan support in covering their stipends and medical aid while we have met their allowances and other costs. The Bishop, due to the pressure to fill vacancies in parishes that are able to meet the full cost of a clergy person, has made the decision to remove Alan as of 1 February 2010 and place him in one of these parishes for his year of post-ordination training as a Priest. While I remain their Rector I will not be able to offer the same level of presence that Alan has been free to do. There is no doubt that Anglican communities find security, and therefore growth, when a dedicated clergy person is easily accessible and present. The formation of this new Mission Parish remains at a critical point.
Our other area of mission focus has been to support the Louis Botha Homes, as well as Irene Homes, Tumelong and Women against Rape. We have a new, enlarged parish organising community in place for Tumelong, and our Christmas Party for the children of Maboloka Haven attests to their efficiency as well as to the generosity of our Parish community. We continue to collect food-parcels, although the number of parcels contributed by parishioners has decreased significantly in recent months, which is a concern. We also give out many tins of food from the Office during the week to the hungry and destitute.


Our Diocesan theme “Equipping and strengthening families: turning houses into homes” remains our focus of mission and ministry until Diocesan Synod in 2011. During 2009 we had “Family Life” as a dedicated Council portfolio, which was largely unproductive with the Parenting Seminars getting very little support from parents. In 2010 all Council portfolio holders have been asked to let the Diocesan theme inform their plans and actions. I was encouraged that three of our Councillors for 2010 expressed a concern for Pastoral Care, and I look forward to this portfolio in particular helping to take us forward in family issues. There are many levels of being family, and perhaps most critically at one level for us as a collective is to explore in the coming year what it means to be God’s family, the family of Christ; and at the other end of the scale finding support as parents balancing children and highly demanding careers in an increasingly hostile environment.
The Diocesan Standing Committee took a courageous decision in November 2009 to move Clergy onto a “cost-to-church” (cost-to-company) package in 2010. This will not have a big impact on us, as we were already largely following this model. There will, doubtless, be a learning curve here as we move forward, but it is an encouraging and exciting development.
I remain a member of the Cathedral Chapter (an advisory board to the Diocesan Bishop) with the portfolio of Canon Chancellor, which includes mentorship of the Diocesan School Chaplains and facilitation of the integration of the Diocesan theme and other Diocesan ministry imperatives in these institutions.

Society and Nation Building

We live in challenging times as a nation. We hear very little from our State President, Jacob Zuma, and too much from the President of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema. There can be no doubt that our leaders set an example that many in the nation follow. Malema’s example is one of disrespect for one’s elders and the ANC’s silence on his behaviour only exacerbates the situation. The ANC’s unwillingness to allow other members of the Tripartite Alliance space to influence Government policy is of concern. Stories of money for social development paid out to contractors being divided before payment to other “interested” parties, along with excessive packages paid to Parastatal executives, highlights the degree of corruption and immoral behaviour that pervades our society.
As Christians we have the responsibility to live a moral and ethical lifestyle, despite the immorality and unethical practices that surround us in both Government and Civil Society. While we cannot impose Christian values on others, we can impose them on ourselves and on the manner in which we interact with the various institutions and representatives of Government and Business. We need to persevere, even when under severe pressure to conform to the immoral behaviour that society increasingly appears to accept as normal. It is the Christian call on our lives as individuals and as a community; it is also our duty. Our actions may seem insignificant and ineffectual in the tide that threatens our nation, but Jesus’ message was always about the apparently insignificant being the source of transformation and abundant life.


You will doubtless have noted that I have mentioned few by name, and thanked no-one specifically. This is purposeful, firstly because someone “important” is often overlooked, and secondly because we do not do what we do for human accolade. God knows our hearts and actions, and will judge us all accordingly. You know what you have contributed, and my thanks goes to everyone who has contributed in some way, great or small, towards the growth of our parish over the last year. Special thanks to those who have supported me in various leadership and caring capacities, and those who have enabled our corporate worship and fellowship events. Know that your efforts are highly valued and greatly appreciated: you have made a difference, and for that I am most thankful.
Bless you!