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!
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?