Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 2011 - Hope and Expectation

Dear Friends


Our new Church Year has begun with our celebration of Advent Sunday last week. We have begun a new journey of Faith on a well travelled road; a journey of reflection and expectation. We will journey this year with the Gospel of Mark, a book built around the arresting conviction that there is no keeping God at a distance. The writer of Mark’s Gospel asks us to reflect on where God is to be found, and suggests that God is not to be found in the expected places: in heaven, in church, in special and magical events. It is not that God is not in these places, but that God is not confined to these spaces, and that these may not in fact be God’s favourite spaces. Now there’s a thought!

Mark’s Gospel, the Good News, is that God is in the ordinariness, the everydayness of life.

I am not sure I want to meet God in the everyday; I suspect I’d be more comfortable keeping God for those special moments in life, when I need God to be GOD. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with God being in the midst of a family disagreement, or in the intimacies I share with my wife. I am not comfortable with God being around when I succumb to road-rage, and share a few choice thoughts with the taxi driver who has just – suddenly – stopped in front of me. Am I comfortable with God being “around”? I’m not so sure.

But I find myself asking, “God, where are you?” Where are you when the person I love is murdered violently? Where are you when I NEED you? Where are you when my loved one is ill? Where are you when natural disasters kill thousands? Where are you when war wracks our world? Where are you when the collapses of national economies make the world sneeze and catch cold? Where are you when famine and civil war overtakes our continent? WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?!

“I am around ...”

Hope and Expectation

God is around, in our midst, incarnate, with us. Advent is lived in the expectation that God will act because God has acted. The incarnation (God born in human form in Jesus) took place over two millennia ago, and seemingly paradoxically – believing as we do that God is already with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit – we prepare for his return. Our Church Year is based around the re-enactment, the remembering of the restoring acts of God in history. It will again, but unique to the present context, remind us that God is with us. And so as we prepare this Advent: what are our expectations; what is our hope? There is always the temptation to demand that God act as we want him to act. The challenge is to allow God to truly be God, and to open our lives to that reality, and to seek God in the brokenness of our lives and society, in the everyday, in the ordinariness of life.

Christmas & New Year

If the speed with which this year has sped by is any indication, Christmas will be here in a blink of an eye! And the New Year will be in swing before we know it. Our Parish Christmas Tea was a huge success last Sunday: a little early, perhaps, but an opportunity to come together as a community before we all head off in different directions for the Christmas break. For those who will be around, please join us for our Christmas Carol Service on Sunday 18 December 2011 at 6pm where we will explore something of the history lying behind some of the better known Carols. There will be the traditional Crib Service at 6pm and Midnight Mass at 10pm on Christmas Eve, followed by a said Christmas Mass at 7am and the Christmas Family Eucharist at 9am on Christmas Day. If family or friends are visiting, please bring them along! For those travelling over this period, please drive carefully and responsibly; and return safely to us in the New Year.

A very blessed Christmas and New Year to you all!


Monday, October 31, 2011

November 2011 - Servants and Stewards

Dear Friends


I reminded us in my article last month that the vision of the Anglican community in Southern Africa is to be “Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God's Mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit.” The full vision, mission and priority statements can be found at , and I do recommend you take time to read them. Bishop Jo, at our recent Synod, indicated that in 2012 there will be a process of revisiting our Diocesan statements in order to align them with the Provincial commitment, as well as to the context in which our Diocese finds itself, namely that we now have a rector in every parish in the Diocese, allowing every parish to become increasingly a centre of spirituality, mission and ministry.

Diocesan Theme 2011-2014

The Diocese meets for Synod every three years, and each time sets a theme for the three years to follow. The theme is designed to help us reach aspects of our Diocesan Vision and Mission, and to give us a focus for development and growth between Synod meetings. Synod 2011 accepted the theme:

Renewed and empowered through Baptism to be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1)

I believe this theme will usefully help us redefine the focus of our Diocesan Vision and Mission as we seek to explore, in terms of the present Diocesan Mission statement, what it truly means for Parishes to be forming centres of spirituality, mission and ministry. In addressing this theme in his Charge to Synod, Bishop Jo reflects that we need to move our focus from the Church as a building to the Church as community. We need to spend time teaching and reflecting on what it means to be Christian Community, on what it means to be servants and stewards in the realm and domain of God.

One of the keys to building community that Bishop Jo points to in his Charge is the importance of establishing small faith communities in people’s homes. So much of community in the Anglican environment is established around our building and our Sunday worship, and so there is a huge challenge here. It has been touching in recent weeks to experience how the Corpus Christi Family Cross is taking the focus of community into our homes – drawing together the family, drawing in friends – as we meet to pray. It has been encouraging to experience something of the supportive and faith-filled friendships that uphold many of our parish families.

Our responsibility, however, is not just to ourselves, and not just to building our own community; we have a responsibility to the wider community of humanity and creation. The faith community forms our foundation, but we are called to build beyond our faith boundaries. Bishop Jo reminds us of this in his Charge when he says, “we must, as a matter of our confession, live a life reflecting God’s love which demands unity and requires justice for all humanity.” A strong aspect of this journey is being willing to reach beyond our own boundaries and to join hands with people of other denominational, and even religious, outlook. Unity can never exist if we are unwilling to embrace diversity. We also need to embrace our struggles, suffering and hurt, the fragmentation of human life and community. We are reliably informed that by the time you read this the global human population will have reached seven billion. What is the implication of such numbers for survival? What is the implication for our world? What does it mean for our faith?

The challenge is to live differently and meaningfully, to build community that rejects isolation and breeds wholeness, creating a secure future for our world. Bishop Jo’s challenge to us in this regard is that, “Our work for the kingdom of God must create an environment that has the character of heaven on earth.”


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

October 2011 - Stewardship and Leadership

Dear Friends


During September we have focused on Stewardship: an opportunity to reflect on our resources of time, treasure and talent; to take stock of how we use these resources in the service of ourselves and in the service of others. For most of us the bulk of our financial resources are used in sustaining our families, and a disproportionate amount of our time and talent in furthering our professional lives in the work place. The challenge of Christian Stewardship is to reprioritise the manner in which we use these resources: most of us need to allocate a greater proportion of our time to our families, a greater portion of our talent to the benefit of the wider community; and we need to direct our finances towards the eradication of personal and family debt.

As Christians a proportion of these resources need to be directed towards the Church. We often confuse Christian giving with one of the Old Testament forms of taxation known as the Tithe. Christian Stewardship needs to be based on the New Testament principles of thanksgiving, generosity, and the service of others. Christian Stewardship is a call to advance the reign of God in our society through the wise and selfless use of our resources. The Church is uniquely placed to be a vehicle through which we can do this. As Christians committed to these principles, we need to ensure the Church is abundantly resourced to facilitate our involvement in the extension of God’s reign in the greater breadth of Creation.

The vision of the Anglican community in Southern Africa is to be “Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God's Mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit.” How does your stewardship of your time, talents and treasure exercised through the Anglican Church in Garsfontein (Corpus Christi) resource this vision, and effect the Anglican mission: to honour 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? When last did you audit your resources? As an Anglican in Southern Africa, are your resources aligned to the vision and mission of our Church?

We will be celebrating Christian Stewardship at Corpus Christi on Sunday 16 October 2011. You are asked to affirm your commitment to the mission of the Anglican Church, and indicate the manner in which you will allocate your resources to this mission, on this day.


October ‘s focus is on leadership, and at a special Vestry meeting on Sunday 23 October 2011 we will elect our parish leadership for 2012. This will be the election of Churchwardens, Council and Synod representatives.  Areas of responsibility on Council in which leadership is required are: worship, evangelism, education, social responsibility, pastoral care, community needs, Christian stewardship, ecumenism, finance and property.  Nomination forms are available: please prayerfully consider offering yourself for election and/or nominating fellow-parishioners.

What are some of the qualities we are looking for in Churchwardens and Councillors? The Christian Leadership and Management manual put together by Hope Africa (2008:9-17) offers the following definitions of good, effective Christian leaders: a good leader will be a person of spiritual commitment and personal faith, a fervent listener to God through the mechanisms of daily scripture reading and prayer, a person of integrity and example, and have a servant spirit with all ambition surrendered to God; an effective leader will be willing to pay the price, see the big picture and know the source of their strength; a good leader is also one who shares power.

This is quite a daunting definition, but Council is a place where we draw out and develop these principles of leadership in each other. It is important to remember that all of us can develop leadership skills, and leadership is not reserved to specific people: leadership is a God given gift to everyone. Perfection is not required, commitment and availability are, and a willingness to offer your time and skill to the growth of our Church.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

September 2011 - Family

Dear Friends

Diocesan Family Day

The Diocese will come together for a Diocesan Family Day on Sunday 11 September 2011. The last Family Day was held in 2008, and was a great occasion. It is not often that we have the opportunity to remind ourselves that we belong to the wider Anglican family, and so really do encourage you to make this pilgrimage. The outdoor service will begin at 09:30 at St Alban’s College (Clearwater Road, Lynnwood Glen) on the Cricket Field below the Pavilion. There will also be access to parking on the field from Maldon Road. We are asked to be “seated” by 09:15 – please bring a blanket to sit on, or a garden/camping chair and something to protect yourself from the sun. The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul, will be the preacher.  We are encouraged to stay on after the service and enjoy a picnic together. Please note that braai-fires are not allowed and alcohol is discouraged. Also, there will be no services at Corpus Christi on 11 September 2011.

Please pray for Diocesan Synod that takes place on the Thursday to Saturday  prior to the Family Day. It is the most prominent decision making body of the Diocese, and will set our direction as Anglicans in Pretoria for the next three years.

Family Cross

The Corpus Christi Family Cross is continuing its journey around the Parish. It is wonderful how the Cross has been welcomed. It is also proving  a joy for the Clergy and Layministers to be able to visit the family hosting the cross for family prayers on a Wednesday evening. If you would like to have the Family Cross in your home, please contact the parish office to find an available week. And while we encourage the family to give testimony when they return the Cross on a Sunday, there is freedom to just hand it back without testimony, too.


As many of you have been aware, Dawn and I spent July in the UK meeting “new” family, and catching up with “old” family on my side. It has been quite a journey, and has stirred many emotions for both of us. Dawn’s comment, just before we landed in Manchester, was pertinent: “This is like going to meet the future in-laws, except you haven’t met them yet!” Contact via email and contact via Skype before we left meant that we weren’t travelling into the complete unknown, but I was apprehensive as we walked through the airport doors to meet the family for the first time. I find it very difficult to find the words that fit the moment or the feelings that accompanied our meeting, and the time that we spent together. I began, during our time with my father and step-mother, brothers and their families, as well as the wider family, to realise that I have carried an empty space in my being for them all my life. To have that space filled is truly amazing.

Joyce Rupp, in her book Open the Door speaks of “The Power of the Threshold” and says that “A threshold contains the power of transformation.” Our visit to the UK has been in many ways a threshold experience, a doorway that has opened up the reality of new relationships unfolding into the future. And we embrace those relationships, the welcome and the love we are given, the home that is made ours. We are eager to explore this new space together. There is so much to celebrate.

Joyce Rupp also speaks of the threshold as a “bleak in-between place”, which may sound strange and paradoxical to the goodness of our visit, but is – I think – a place that we find ourselves in as we return home. In being embraced by a new family we embrace a new narrative, and a new history. But there remains an existing narrative that is my and Dawn’s experienced history, and is a narrative I can’t lay aside. Rather it needs to become a transformative process for us all, old and new family alike. The threshold is, in Joyce Rupp’s words, a space where we lose a sense of clear identity, question what seems to be a dissolving relationship with our self and, perhaps, with our God; a space in which we are cleansed of false perceptions and weaned from feeding on what no longer nurtures us.

The process of building a narrative that embraces who I am, who I might have been, with emerging possibilities of who I want to be, has begun. The journey of building a transformed identity has begun. My journey through the threshold, its impact on my identity and clear sense of self, is costly. Dawn walks a similar path as we walk it in concert, transforming the narratives that impact on the life we share together.


Friday, June 24, 2011

July 2011 - Community and Nation Building

Dear Friends

30 Years in Reflection

Our 30th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday 19 June 2011 was a truly wonderful occasion. It has to have been the best attended event in our history! A special “thank you” to Lex Jackson and Steve Verryn for giving leadership to the organising committee, and to the Catering Committee for the great food. We had some wonderful speeches, our Youth surpassed themselves with the entertainment they provided for us, and it was a joy to welcome back a number of past parishioners and clergy. Our Family Eucharist was also blessed, and set the day off on a good note. Thank you to you all for participating and making our 30th an event to remember!

Family Cross

The Corpus Christi Family Cross was blessed as part of our 30th Celebrations, and began its journey around the parish with the Ndlovu family. Queen and her daughters have used the Cross’s presence in their home to draw them together in family prayer, and we look forward to their testimony in Church on Sunday as to how the Cross’s “visit” has reminded them of God’s presence in their lives. The idea is that the Cross is returned each Sunday and handed over to the next parish family. Members of the parish ministry team (clergy and layministers) will visit during the week for a short time of prayer with the family and (hopefully) a cup of tea. If you would like to have the Family Cross in your home, please contact the parish office to find an available week.

Community and Nation Building

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, in his recent “Ad Laos”, had the following to say:

 I returned [from a visit to the Diocese of Niassa – Mozambique] to find the press full of Julius Malema’s statements on reforming land, mines and the whole economy.  What he has raised is not new and we should not be alarmed.  We need to engage him, and all young people, on what it means to make democracy work.  As I discussed in a telephone conference with SACC church leaders, we must have educated public debate on today’s very different sort of ‘struggle’ – the commitment to rightly-focussed hard work that delivers economic justice, and tackles the needs of poverty, education and opportunity which (and Malema is right on this) particularly affects young people so adversely.  There is hope, but we must not be afraid of rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.  As my visit to Niassa showed, dedication and perseverance, even in very difficult and uncertain times, can deliver new life.  So we must go forward with joy and resolve, and speak up for the poor, the fearful, the despairing, in the true hope of Jesus Christ.

There can be no doubt that we continue to live in precarious political, social and economic times. The recent deaths of Albertina  Sisulu, and now also Kadar Asmal – especially in parallel to the recent re-election of Julius Malema as ANC Youth League president – mark a profound loss to South African society of individuals whose positive personal values helped build the foundation for the growth of democracy in South Africa. Personally, I struggle to see what value Malema adds to South African society, and wonder what hope there may be for our country if such a person is the voice of this generation’s young people. Archbishop Thabo’s response (above) is helpful in that he reminds us that despite the advent of democracy in our land, there is still a “struggle” – different to that waged against Apartheid – that impacts on the hopes of our youth in particular; that the Malema’s of this world give voice to the reality that the advent of democracy, and the manner in which democracy is practised, has not yet dealt with socio-economic issues that impact on our people, and that our young people do not see much hope in what our government’s socio-economic policies will offer them in the future. A wise priest under whom I trained taught me the importance of searching out the truth, no matter how small, in the words and actions of people with whom I disagree, or suspect to be fools. The Archbishop’s comments echo this wise advice.

I have just returned, along with other stipendiary clergy of the Diocese, from a three day course on Poverty and Development run by Hope Africa, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s social development arm. The course has been helpful in giving me some insight into why the struggle for economic justice continues despite huge steps being taken to build democracy since 1994. Our government’s economic policies are aligned with those of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, whose policies are directed by Neo-Liberal economic thinking that believes all economies should grow through production and trade. While there may be nothing essentially wrong with this thinking, in the African context it is not helping everyone achieve a satisfactory standard of living. Some would argue that even in the West the Neo-Liberal approach to economics is unsuccessful and that the disparity between rich and poor continues to increase. There is a fundamental inequality that these policies will never bridge, and thus issues of poverty – and poverty itself – will never be effectively dealt with in our society. And the Malema’s of this world will continue to have grist for their discomforting rhetoric.

As part of the Poverty and Development course, we were offered a different economic model better suited to the developmental needs of the African continent, and one which is practically implementable by churches in our efforts to deal with communities caught in cycles of poverty.  This model is known as the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) and places people at the centre of development, thereby increasing the effectiveness of developmental assistance. This approach is a way of thinking about the objectives, scope and priorities for development that produces goods and services needed to better the lives of people while also being environmentally-friendly, minimising waste and using renewable resources. It is a model that creates meaningful purchasing power, as well as greater economic and social equity.

The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) asks the seemingly strange question, “What is the wealth of the poor?” In essence, what are people already doing to survive and how are they maintaining this? SLA is a comprehensive model that looks to build on these strengths, seeking to bring together all relevant aspects of people’s lives and livelihoods in developmental planning, implementation and evaluation. It is also a model that is able to respond quickly to changing circumstances.  In terms of poverty financial resources are often negligible, and so SLA takes natural, human, social and physical resources of poverty stricken people and communities into account. This makes it a relevant model for development across society, and a workable alternative to models that presently drive our South African socio-economic policies via our link to the IMF and World Bank.

This course on Poverty and Development raises issues about the role of the Church in society. And about how we “do Church” in Garsfontein. Perhaps on my return from the UK we can explore what this may mean?


Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 2011 - Celebration

Dear Friends
30th Anniversary Celebration
June marks our Patronal Festival and we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of our Dedication on Sunday, June 19th. Our organising and catering committee have been very busy getting everything in place, and we are looking forward to a truly awesome event! If you haven’t indicated you are attending, there is still time! The 19th is also Fathers’ Day, so we are hoping you will use this as an opportunity to give “Dad” a good lunch—it is a Spit-Braai! There will be a wonderful bottle of wine on auction, so bring a bit of extra cash to ensure your “Dad” gets an extra gift!
Easter Offering
Thank you so much to all who contributed to the generous Easter Offering that I received—it is clear that you love and appreciate me!
Budget Deficit
As you have all been aware, the budgeted deficit for 2011 has been of concern to Annual Vestry and an ongoing concern for Parish Council. There is good news, and a presentation will be given during both Services on Sunday 5 June 2011. The April Financial Report indicates that we have dropped the deficit from just under R80,000 to around R10,000. This is an amount Council feels we can manage. A BIG thank you to everyone for responding generously as you have done, and for taking seriously the financial needs of the Parish. However, let us not be tempted to relax on our laurels at this stage as the wider economic context in which we find ourselves still appears quite volatile.
Holiday—Meet the Parents
Excitingly, Dawn and I will be on holiday in the UK for the whole of July! As many of you are aware my whole family lives there, with my parents Tim and Kirstie being the most recent of the clan to move over to the UK earlier this year. What most of you have not been aware of is that I have a second set of parents and an additional set of siblings also living in the UK. I have been a “Long” since the age of four when my mother remarried. My last contact with my birth-father was in 1968 and as I was just two years old the memories are very hazy. So the main purpose of the visit is to “meet the parents”, and we will be immersing ourselves with the “Moore” clan for most of our time there, with a week or so in the south to catch up with the “Longs”. Please pray for Dawn and I as we make this pilgrimage. It is daunting, yet exciting, in so many ways. My birth-father, Tony, made contact some three years ago, and email and Skype have helped us develop an emerging relationship. Our visit will cement what has already begun, and enable us to build meaningful relationships going forward.  I worked out the other day that—between parents, siblings, spouses, nephews and nieces—I have twenty-seven close members of the family in the UK, many of whom we will meet for the first time!
A blessed Winter season to you all!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

May 2011 - Rejoice Always

Dear Friends

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4 (TNIV)

2011 marks our 30th Anniversary  as the Parish of Corpus Christi in Garsfontein.  From our humble beginnings in 1981 we have grown into a fully fledged Anglican parish, and are able to hold our heads high in the Diocese and in the Pretoria East Archdeaconry. Paul’s words to the Philippians (above) echo the nature of Christian life at Corpus Christi, and I pray will be words that enfold us during our celebrations next month. The Message translates this verse as,

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!”

What do we celebrate?

Firstly, we celebrate that we have been called by God to be a part of the Missio Dei (the Mission of God) in this part of Pretoria, and to make a difference for God in the communities we serve. Secondly, we celebrate those who had the courage to step out in faith, trusting God, to give birth and nurture this community in the early days. Thirdly, we give thanks for everyone who is presently part of the life and mission of Corpus Christi Anglican Church in Garsfontein!

As we look back in thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to us over 30 years, it is equally important to look forward and ensure that we have a life-giving and creative vision for our future. A vision is built on what we believe in, on what is important to us.

Our parish survey during 2010 highlighted that “belonging” and “family” are important to us at Corpus Christi, along with our “intra-cultural harmony”. It is critical that we build these three values into the foundation of our present and any future vision.

The survey also affirmed that our parish life offers significant opportunities for meaningful caring and worship.

The survey highlighted that we are being true to  our present “Statement of Purpose”, the core of which is being a place where others meet Christ. The “Statement of Purpose” also affirms that we value friendship, youth participation and broad-based parishioner involvement. These create that sense of belonging , family and intra-cultural harmony that the survey highlights.

Vision is all about creating a worldview that is compelling, truthful and motivating. The challenge that lies ahead for us is that the context that defined us in 1981 no longer defines us  or the communities we serve in 2011. Physically, in 1981, we were on the very eastern outskirts of Pretoria; not so in 2011!

Our present “Statement of Purpose” has carried us through a significant few years of transition, and it is important that we review our vision, our sense of purpose, our values, our mission as we look forward into our next decade.

How do you see our future?

                            Resurrection Blessings

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April 2011 - Life in Christ

Dear Friends

Life in Christ

The service of Admission of Catechumens (adult candidates for Baptism and Confirmation) asks the important question, “Friends, what do you seek?” The bold reply is, “We seek life in Christ!” – it is a brief response that holds an eternity of implication. Each Lent and Holy Week journey asks this question of us anew, and we respond anew.

What is it that you seek this Lent, this Holy Week? What are your expectations of resurrection and new life this Easter?

New life, resurrected life, life in Christ: what are the implications? And what are the foundations on which it is built?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 (CJB), “Don't think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete”. Most English translations follow the Greek by translating the Hebrew word Torah as Law. However, Torah is better translated as Teaching. This gives us a possible different perspective on the 10 Commandments: rather than being Law it is Teaching. The 10 Commandments teach the principles on which we build our community as God’s people, and they become the foundation of our “Life in Christ”.

The 10 Commandments are a teaching given in the context of God’s call to his people to be different from the society that surrounds them. Moses encourages the Israelites to observe the Commandments as they are about to enter into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, so that, “... this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6; TNIV). The call to be different is highlighted by phrase in the Commandments, “You shall not ...”. You shall not be like the people around you, you shall not steal like them, you shall not give false evidence like them. BE DIFFERENT!

The question of wrong-doing, breaking the teachings, comes to mind. In today’s world sin has become equated with being caught out, rather than wrong-doing; it is often equated with sex. However, in terms of the 10 Commandments, sin is conforming to a society where wrong-doing is acceptable, deforming ourselves from the principles of Godly community. The 10 Commandments say little about stealing in and of itself; the Commandments highlight that what is wrong is that someone claiming to be a member of God’s people, God’s community, is allowing themselves to be formed and shaped by a society in which stealing (or corruption, or ...) is the norm.

The journey of Lent and Holy Week becomes a journey of re-alignment. We renounce our formation by a society that seeks to deform us from the principles of a God-focused community. We return to the norms of the Christian faith community, responding to the call to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” (Luke 10:27; TNIV). This is a journey of re-alignment, not removal. We are not called to extract ourselves from society, but to reform and recreate ourselves within society, and to respond differently: compelled not by the norms of society, but by the norms of the Christian faith and the principles of God-focused community. Our “life in Christ” becomes a new centre, for ourselves, our communities, our society and our world. We become, again, the light and the hope that we are called by God to be.

Friends, what do you seek?


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 2011 - Life is a Gift

Dear Friends

“Life is a gift. When you receive it as a gift you begin to give yourself as a gift”
– Erwin McManus.

For a while now I have been struggling to get out of bed in the morning. I could bore you with the details, but I won’t. Very simply, I had forgotten that my life is God’s gift to me and God’s gift to others. We all live very busy and stressed lives, and living is complicated and relationships are complex. Sometimes the complexity is just too much to face, and our problems and the problems of others become overwhelming. We get caught in the maelstrom and are overcome. And we forget whose and who we are.

Erwin McManus’ words reminded me that I had become too involved in myself, and that I needed to look beyond myself and my own need, and regain a sense of purpose and be reminded of my potential: “You ... need to be able to go to bed at night and know that based on who you are and who God has made you to be, you’ve contributed the greatest good that you can for the good of others. And that when you get up in the morning you can’t wait to get out of bed because there is this eager anticipation that your life can be a gift to the world.”

I am not a gift to the world, my life is. My life is God’s gift to me, and it is also God’s gift to others. It is not about me, it is about the gift God has made me to be. It is about the potential God has placed within me to make a tangible difference both to my own life and also to the lives of others. And as I turn off the morning alarm, and turn over to hide under the duvet from the world, I remember that my life is a gift. I begin to wonder how God will use this gift this day, what opportunities will arise, and what God will do. It is not long before I throw back the duvet and head for the shower.

The day is rarely perfect, often fractured and chaotic, crisis-filled and full of frustration. But it is different, because at vague moments I remember and seek again to give myself as a gift. In these moments the sun shines again, and I discover an energy within, God within. And strangely, the fracturing, the chaos, the crisis and the frustration also become God’s gift. They become God-given opportunities to interact and engage with life itself, with issues, with people, with God. There is peace to be found in the chaos and the struggle, and hope.

Yes, my life is a gift. So is yours. It is a gift given to be given away, not thoughtlessly but shared. And the strange part is that in sharing, in giving and in giving away, we find wholeness and renewal. Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSV).

There is a need for us to reflect on whom or what is stealing our lives. What are real boundaries, and what are false ones? Who or what is defining us? Who or what is controlling us? Where is God in our journey?

The Church season of Lent, leading up to our Easter celebrations, is an opportunity to explore these questions; to reflect on how we are living the gift of life God has given us; to seek God’s guidance and leadership afresh. There are a number of resources offered to us during this season: a Diocesan booklet of daily meditations for personal use, or family discussion; a Lent course “Growing the Church”; weekly meditations on the cross; a healing Service on the first Sunday in Lent; our Holy Week and Good Friday programme; Baptism and Confirmation preparation classes.

Friends, what do you seek?


Quotations from Erwin McManus are taken from Master Leaders: Revealing conversations with 30 leadership greats by George Bana with Bill Dallas (2010).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rector's Report to Annual Vestry - Corpus Christi, Garsfontein (30 January 2011)


Craig van Gelder, in his book the ministry of the missional church: a community led by the spirit (2007) says that there are three important questions a congregation needs to ask, “What has God done? What is God doing? What does God want to do?” The first question is another way of asking “Why are we here?” The second question is about faith and discernment. The third question is about wisdom and planning.

In light of the above, today is about telling more of our story, adding to our history. We are here to review in particular what it is that God has done in our midst during the last twelve months: we are not only to reflect on our actions, but importantly on the meaning of these activities within the broader call to serve the kingdom of God in the wider world. We are also here to apply our wisdom and give the incoming parish council some direction in their planning for 2011.


On a personal note the past year has been a challenging one, the second half in particular. I became acting archdeacon of Madibeng, a missionary area to the west of Pretoria, and was asked by the Bishop to investigate its viability for the future. It is my hope that the work I have done will enable the Bishop to appoint a full-time archdeacon during this year, and I will get back to being a Canon. During this time I was one of two candidates for Dean of Kimberly and Kuruman, and a final interviewing candidate for Dean of Cape Town. Both positions went to locally known people. In between all this Dawn and I have completed the Jesuit Institute’s Prayer Guide Course, and Dawn will go on to complete the Spiritual Director's course over the next two years. In February I will complete my post-graduate certificate in Congregational Leadership through the University of Pretoria. This certificate counts as the course-work for a Master’s Degree, which I will hopefully complete during the course of 2011/2012.


My strong impression is that 2010 has been a year in which we as a parish have caught our breath. The previous year (2009) had been a busy one, and many of us entered 2010 needing to draw breath and recollect ourselves. The impact of the Soccer World Cup, and the demands it made on us as a society, has also had its impact. This was evident in that our Patronal Festival and Christmas events were celebrated with teas, not lunches; and one of our fund-raising events was cancelled.

This said, the 2010 was not uneventful! Isobel Holden once again organised a wonderful Parish Fete that raised in the region of R30,000; our Confirmation candidates enjoyed a spiritually nourishing camp; attendance at the Men’s Fishing Weekend was its largest in its eleven year history, and the clergy spouses hosted a very successful “Ladies Spiritual Spar Day”; our Confirmation Service, with Bishop Jo present, was one of our worship highlights for the year; we managed to produce a Children’s Church Nativity play for the first time in a number of years, and its contemporary format was a definite hit with our teenagers and younger children; attendance at our occasional Youth Fusion events was up, and our Children and Teen Church numbers were high; all of which suggests we are doing something right!

Our outreach has again been a highlight of parish life. We have maintained our relationship with Louis Botha Homes, and our “Shrove Sunday” event with them was life-giving. We donated just over two-thirds of the proceeds of our fete to Tumelong, and have maintained our monthly provision of over 30 food parcels. The Tumelong Maboloka Christmas Party was well-supported, and it was great to see a larger contingent of parishioners involved on the day. Council has also committed to a monthly financial pledge to Tumelong. Irene Homes and WAR continue to get our attention, and I hope we will give better support to our Tea Table at the Irene Homes Fete this year.

Our parish facilities (hall and barn) play an increasingly important local community role: a senior-citizens exercise class takes place every Monday morning; Taekwondo classes are offered twice a week in the afternoon and Jujitsu classes twice a week in the evening; the Cake Icing Guild meets once a month in the hall, and a branch of Alcoholics’ Anonymous uses the Barn on Wednesdays and Saturdays; the local residents security association (GarsB3) uses our hall on a monthly basis for residents meetings and the barn for a committee meeting.

Money is always a difficult subject. We have done well in 2010, all things considered. The effects of the global economic crisis continued to affect our pockets last year, and this was seen in our income from Generosity Giving remaining at 2008 levels; and commitments for this year appear unchanged. There is a limit to how much we can control expenditure increases, and your cooperation is needed to reach our commitments for 2011. I realise we are all more inclined to give to people and to specific projects rather than to a general operational budget, but while our budget looks like electricity, petrol, and other consumables, it is actually focused around people: our staff, parishioners and strangers. Craig van Gelder (quoted above) notes that our financial giving reflects the degree to which we recognise our calling to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in bringing about changed lives, transformed communities, and redemptive ministry in the world.

Our parish has become increasingly intra-cultural over the last few years, something I believe we need to celebrate more often. In particular we need to find ways for our music to reflect this: music is one of the few areas of parish life where we struggle to find ourselves on the same page; we are a little out of tune with each other in this aspect of our worship, and we need to discover a melody that reflects our diversity more fully.

There is need, too, to review our Parish vision and our sense of purpose. This need was noted at our November Council meeting, and some time was spent at the Council Planning Day last week reflecting on leadership, the changes taking place in our society, and a possible model to help take us forward. Craig van Gelder (quoted above) offers a useful model that the incoming Council has agreed to interact with. It is a model that offers an open-systems perspective on congregational life, taking our religious heritage (Biblical and Confessional values), our denominational history (core ministry values), our facilities and location into account. Being an open-systems perspective it acknowledges that the church’s boundaries are porous, that the world affects us and that we impact on the world. In essence, van Gelder’s model asks us to focus on Scripture in defining our purpose (mission) and on our context in discerning our vision. Our core practices (worship, evangelism, education, social responsibility, pastoral care and community needs) become the primary manner in which we carry out our purpose and minister meaningfully in our context. The model also takes sincerely the need for strategic structures, and our programs, people, communication, facilities and finances are all taken seriously. It is a holistic model that recognises the importance of the Church being a transforming community, with the Holy Spirit being the prime guiding agent. At the heart of this model is the understanding that the Church is called, gathered, and sent into the world to participate fully in God’s mission.

Archdeaconry, Diocese and Province

My appointment as acting Archdeacon of Madibeng necessitated the handing over of responsibility for St Anne (Equestria) and St Agnes (Stanza Bopape) to other clergy in the Archdeaconry. Excitingly, the new home for St Anne in Equestria has been completed and dedicated. Frustratingly, it is taking some time to get the water connected, and the community is still worshipping at Willow Ridge High School. There is good a good possibility that St Anne should be able to take full occupation of the new Church in time for Lent. This will mark a new step in their journey, and our child has flown the nest. Thank you to all here who in some form have contributed to seeing this vision of a new Anglican Community in the East take root.

The Bishop is calling the 83rd session of Diocesan Synod to meet in September this year. This will bring to an end the present Diocesan theme focused on family life. I was encouraged by how many parishioners here at Corpus Christi noted in response to the survey we held last year that it is the strong sense of family that drew them to join this parish, and remains one of the major reasons they stay.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa adopted a new mission and vision statement, along with eight priority areas for focus, at the Provincial Synod last year: a call for us to ACT, to be Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit. This is a pivotal step that the Province has taken, and it is important that we find ways at Diocesan, Archdeaconry and Parish level to incorporate these principles into our common life.

Society and Nation Building

We live in a broken and hurting world. As God’s people we are called to be a light to the nations. Leonard Sweet, in his book So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church, says, “When it comes to culture, we are to be in-but-not-of-but-not-out-of-it-either.” He goes on to say that, “to live in the twenty-first century you have to come to terms with paradox, whether you are a disciple or not.” I believe we often experience these challenges as we seek to live out our lives in the midst of family, work, community involvement, as well as in our friendship circles.

Our national life seems to remain chaotic, and Government continues to give the impression of incompetence and corruption at many levels. We need to remain positive, and highlight positives when we find them, and support those who do live out their values in our often compromised social, economic and political society. There are a number of our parishioners working at various levels of Government, and we need to hear the success stories from you, and also hear how we can better support you.

Walking through Woolworths in La Lucia Mall while on leave I was struck by posters up in the store: one read, “We’re destined for great things: the future is SA” and another, “I’m so looking forward to tomorrow: the future is SA.” South Africa remains a land of great opportunity and possibility, and the success of the Soccer World Cup last year demonstrated this in many ways. What I particularly enjoyed is that we shared a common language for the duration, and suddenly had something to talk about whether it was to the petrol attendant or till worker, CEO or shop-floor assistant. It was a wonderful time of unity, and we need more of these moments in our national life. Our future lies in our hands, and we must not be afraid to stand up and claim it.


In my earlier reports to Vestry as Rector I note that I thanked various groups and people for their support and leadership. It is testimony to our growth that I am no longer sure where to start with such a list. I hope it will suffice to say thank you to you all for all that you have contributed this past year. Big or small, your actions and contributions have made a meaningful difference to our parish life. My special thanks to my wife, Dawn, for her ongoing support and love in what has been a challenging year for us personally. Cheryl Rogers has proved a power-house in the office and my sincere thanks to her for what she has done both in and beyond the call of duty. To our outgoing Churchwardens and active members of Council: thank you for your support and contribution to the leadership of the parish. To the Ministry Team and supportive ministries, thank you for your dedication in keeping our worship and pastoral care alive and well.

Bless you!