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!