Craig van Gelder, in his book the ministry of the missional church: a community led by the spirit (2007) – from which I quoted in my report last year – gives a useful definition of vision and mission: Spirit-led congregations look to the Bible to define their purpose; Spirit-led congregations look to their context to discern their vision. What we do in terms of worship, care and fellowship, education and discipleship, service and witness, should not be goals in themselves but rather the instruments through which we live out our mission and reach towards our vision.
As we prepare to look forward into 2012, it is important to look back in thanksgiving and acknowledge that God has brought us to this place in time and history. 2011 marked an important watershed in our history as an Anglican community in the east of Pretoria: our 30th Anniversary! We importantly took time to celebrate this, and Council allowed other priorities – which we will now pick up – to sit on the back-burner. The Churchwardens’ Report, to be made available at our Annual Vestry meeting later this morning, chronicles the activities and events that make 2011 and our 30th Anniversary a valuable marker in our history. Without attempting to steal the Wardens’ lime-light, it is worth noting that the institution of the Corpus Christi Family Cross in June, and the installation of environmentally friendly and electrically efficient lighting towards the end of last year, have been two major and important highlights of our celebrations. The Family Cross, as it travels from one parish family to another, is a constant call to deeper communal prayer and spirituality; the lighting is a major step to becoming environmentally aware and more caring of the world God has given us.
Having celebrated 30 years in Garsfontein, along with the growth of our community over this time, we now need to reflect on our purpose (“purpose” being another word for “mission”) and vision as we move into the future. Our present “Statement of Purpose” has carried us through a transitional stage as we have moved from being a so-called “White” parish founded during the late stages of Apartheid to a parish that today reflects the diversity of our 21st century South African and African society. It was deeply gratifying – in the survey we completed in 2010 – to have parishioners comment that our intra-cultural harmony is an important factor in sustaining their involvement and membership of Corpus Christi. This is not to say we have “made it” in terms of the transformation agenda, but that we have begun to journey together in exploring what it is to be an intra-cultural community and a truly New South African community. We are, I believe, committed to affirming each other’s humanity, and able to acknowledge that we are all, each one, made in the image of God.
The challenge in building a vision for the future is not marked by race or culture, but is one of worldview. We live in an age of discontinuous, fast-paced change. This is not just in terms of technology or information, but also in the manner in which people see and understand the world. While not necessarily age-specific, there are emerging worldviews that differ substantially from the Church’s formative world view, a world view that understood the world to be governed by timeless principles and eternal absolutes, driven by a commitment to transcendent truth and principle. As was highlighted by the 2010 parish survey I mentioned above, many parishioners – especially those over 40 – still hold to this particular perspective of the world. The growing crisis is that those under 40, and especially those in their late teens and early 20’s, hold to a world view that is discontinuous and potentially conflictual, certainly paradoxical, to the predominant outlook of more senior members of our community.
Looking forward, if we want to take younger people seriously and if we have any interest in the Church being relevant to our young people and to coming generations, we need to increasingly take account of perspectives on the world that emphasise egalitarianism, ecology, systemic health, holistic identity and convergence (and I can see you all mentally scratching your heads as you wonder what these terms mean, let alone what such worldviews may look like!). Michael Armour and Don Browning in their book Systems-Sensitive Leadership (2000) indicate that it is relatively easy to understand worldviews that have contributed to the one you now hold, and very difficult to understand newer worldviews that are built on the one that presently defines your perspective of the world.
And so the challenge I have put to our new Council for 2012 is that while we seek to sustain what is important – and has been important to us at Corpus Christi for 30 years – we need to have the courage to embrace paradox, to think creatively, to experiment, and not to fear failure. In other words, we need to keep the baby while having the courage to change the bath water! And there is no space or time to take the baby out the bath while we change the water; and therein lies the challenge to ingenuity. It brings me back to Craig van Gelder’s comment that I quoted earlier, that our purpose as a Christian community is to be found in Scripture (and as an Anglican I wish to add, “in Tradition and Reason, too”) and our vision is to be found in our context. Scripture, Tradition, Reason is our life-line; the paradox of worldview is our context ... along with the social, political and economic challenges of our time. My hope is that if our 30th Anniversary is truly a watershed event in our community life, then 2012 marks the beginning of a new journey of transformation and spiritual growth. My prayer is that our 2012 Churchwardens and Council will have your full support, involvement and participation as we begin this journey together.
We have faced challenges in 2011, and will continue to do so in 2012, especially as the social, political and economic context of our country continues to be taxing on a number of levels. As you are aware, we began 2011 with a deficit parish budget in the region of R60,000. You will be pleased to hear, when we receive the audited accounts later this morning, that with the concerted effort you have all put in we have managed to meet all our financial commitments for the year. While addressing the parish deficit during 2011 Council identified that, while we spend a lot of time helping the poor through Tumelong, there are people in our own community struggling financially to put food on the table while meeting the financial demand of education for their children. This has led to the addition of what we are calling “Inreach” to our Pastoral Care portfolio for 2012, together with a budget item, in an attempt to be able to help parish families in crisis. “Inreach” is not just about financial crisis, but it is designed to focus on meeting the wider needs of our parish community and includes focusing on new members, the Corpus Christi Family Cross, practical support, meals, as well as financial assistance.
Archdeaconry, Diocese and Province
Diocesan Synod was held during 2011, and as usual was a wonderful experience for many as representatives from all over the Diocese, together with stipendiary and self-supporting Clergy, came together to consider the state of mission and ministry in the Diocese. A key focus was numerous changes to our Diocesan rules, bringing them into line with common practice at both Provincial and Diocesan level, and updating them to meet the needs of the Church in the 21st century.
The theme proposed by the Bishop Seoka and accepted by Synod for the next three years is:
Renewed and Empowered through Baptism to be “Servants of God
and Stewards of the Mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
The Bishop, in his Charge to Synod, highlighted the need for us to understand that the Church is all about community rather than buildings; the need for us to implement integrated ministry rather than just being a community where the Clergy do it all; and, the need for us to go beyond denominationalism by working together with other churches at grass-root level in the communities we serve. We are asked to revisit our vision and mission as a Diocese, to focus on teaching about mission and ministry, and to build small faith communities in people’s homes.
Synod was marred by attempts from the Cathedral Archdeaconry to undermine the authority and leadership of the Bishop, which led to Synod unequivocally demonstrating the Diocese’s support for Bishop Seoka and his leadership. These attempts, together with other issues, have led to the Dean being brought before a Diocesan Tribunal, which is presently adjourned and will reconvene at the end of February. Please continue to pray for the Dean and his family, the Cathedral Parish, the Bishop and the Diocese, during this difficult and uncomfortable period in our Diocesan history.
Society and Nation Building
Our National environment remains a difficult and challenging context. We await the outcome of Julius Malema’s appeal on his suspension from the ANC, and the ANC’s elective Conference towards the end of this year. Corruption, mismanagement and incompetence continue to mar Government at every level, and hinder the provision of services to the poorest of the poor. We pray for the rise of ethical and courageous leaders, and commend and pray for those – a number of whom are part of our community at Corpus Christi – who seek to serve our country and people with diligence and integrity.
2011 has been an interesting year for the Long family. July saw Dawn and I visiting the U.K. to meet my birth-father – and family – for the first time since my last contact with him around the age of two. This was an exciting and deeply meaningful event, and a journey we are both pleased to have undertaken. Through this contact my family of origin has doubled, and while it is a joy to have gained three extra brothers, it continues to prove a little daunting for us both as my family now consists of twenty-seven close relatives, not to mention an extra aunt and uncle or two or three (or four!) all in the U.K. Combined with my parents move to the U.K. in March, and my Grandmother’s death in 2010, it has substantially shifted my “magnetic North”. I do not adjust to change easily, and I am hugely appreciative of Dawn’s willingness to stick by me as I settle into a new space of self and family.
Dawn started working for a new employer in August, and has had to do a lot of travelling, which will continue. She is home most weekends, which we look forward to with longing all week, and are often either too exhausted or too busy to truly enjoy. We had some time together in Pretoria over Christmas and enjoyed New Year together in Cape Town. We enjoyed a day and good food in the Cape Point Nature Reserve on New Year’s Eve (the Two Oceans Restaurant has a wonderful view over False Bay), and a long walk down the beach at Pater Noster up the West Coast on New Year’s Day. It was wonderful to have continuous and uninterrupted time together where we could talk and share our lives. As I write, I look forward to Dawn’s return tomorrow (Friday) from East London where she has spent the last ten days.
Our son, Nathan, and his girl-friend, Megan, announced in September that we are to be Grandparents in early June this year. Needless to say, rather a surprise to all concerned! Their relationship had developed out of friendship, and so has a strong foundation, and is one in which Dawn and I have confidence. They moved to Durban just before Christmas so that Megan could be closer to her family. We miss them already, and the house is very quiet! The most recent scan shows the baby to be a girl, so we look forward excitedly to welcoming little Rebecca into our lives and family in a few months.
Our daughter, Cassie, has had a difficult two years health-wise, eventually being diagnosed eighteen months ago with an under-active thyroid. We chose to go the slower, Homeopathic route in dealing with it, and she has at last regained her energy and is back to the daughter we remember! She has begun working part-time, and is beginning to think seriously about her future, all of which is hugely positive.
Thank you to you all for your involvement and commitment to parish life during 2011. Once again – big or small – your contributions of time, talents and resources, have made a meaningful difference. My special thanks to my wife, Dawn, for her ongoing support and love in what has been another challenging year for us personally; to Cheryl Rogers who has continued to be a power-house of organisation in the office and my sincere thanks to Cheryl for what she does both in and beyond the call of duty; to our outgoing Churchwardens and Council, thank you for your support and contribution to the leadership of the parish during 2011, and as a smaller group than usual for carrying a heavier load; to the Ministry Team and support ministries, thank you for your ongoing dedication in keeping our worship and pastoral care alive and well; to Julian Kok and Danny Adonis, for your help particularly with Sunday services in my absences due to Archdeaconry duties or leave; to Steve Verryn, thank you for your unflagging support and friendship, and for your commitment to Corpus Christi as our resident Deacon over a number of years. Steve, we wish you well and pray for you as you prepare for your ordination next month.
MARK R D LONG