As I look back over 2012 I am aware of January and I am aware of December. Quite what happened to February through November is a mystery, and I can honestly describe 2012 as the quickest journey of my life. I am hoping 2013 will happen more slowly, and that I can savour life more fully.
Today is an opportunity for us as a Parish to look back and to look forward. Many of the reports to be received in our meeting later today will look back over the breadth of our parish activity, and will doubtless remind us of those seemingly missing months. One of the key responsibilities of this report is to reflect not on the detail, but on our purpose, and on how we are living it out in the breadth of our lives.
We have spoken over the last two and a half years at Council level of the importance of renewing our vision. This conversation has grown out of an increasing awareness that we have moved to a new place as a Christian family at Corpus Christi, and we need to reflect on our future: on who God is calling us to be, where God is calling us to go, and what God is calling us to do. The vision and sense of purpose that has driven us since 2006 has seen us through a journey of transition, and has melded us in a new way. The journey has been marked with moments of great joy and moments of great pain. The journey is not over, it will continue, but with a renewed sense of purpose, a renewed vision, and with new priorities.
The late Anthony de Mello, a Roman Catholic writer, in his book One Minute Wisdom tells the story of Arrival:
“Is the path to Enlightenment difficult or easy?”
“It is neither.”
“Because it isn’t there.”
“Then how does one travel to the goal?”
“One doesn’t. This is a journey without distance. Stop travelling and you arrive.”
I share this story as I suspect that at some point in the last three or so years we discovered this truth for ourselves. And I hope we will hold on to it as we explore our future.
As you are aware we have been asked to explore the present Diocesan Theme – Renewed and empowered by baptism to be “Servants of Christ and Stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1) – at Parish level, using it as a platform to explore and renew our own sense of purpose and vision. This process began for us in August with a Parish Workshop where we explored the Theme and reflected on what this means for us here at Corpus Christi. The conclusions of this workshop were shared via the monthly magazine and opportunity given over a couple of months for comment. This process has culminated in a new mission statement, vision statement, and a statement of priorities that I am proposing on behalf of Parish Council to Annual Vestry today for adoption. We are attempting to keep these statements brief for two reasons: firstly, so that we will easily call them to mind; and secondly, so that there is room for a breadth of interpretation as we seek to implement them in the diversity of Parish life and activity. You will notice that since my last communication concerning this process we have added two more priorities, drawn from the results of our August Workshop. The statements Parish Council is proposing we adopt are as follows:
Our mission is to be role-models and responsible risk-takers for Christ where we live, work and worship.
We are passionate disciples of Christ – committed, willing, disciplined, equipped – living our Faith in daily life.
Inclusive participation in our shared vision and mission
Strong internal community relationships affirming diversity
Family and Youth development
Outreach to less advantaged communities
Explore the potential of a new Anglican community in South East
Faithful stewards of our resources
Active in Social Media
Effective leadership and management
“… make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 19-20)
As a Christian community our purpose (or mission) is to be found in Scripture, and as we reflect on the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – we see God’s people called to be role-models to the world; we see the influence of God’s purposes expanded in that same world when individuals and communities take risks; and we see that the influence of God’s people is diverse, encompassing the communities in which they live, work and worship. We have chosen to hold onto the passage of Scripture from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, but have chosen to highlight a different aspect of it. This passage is the link between our past, our present and our future, and has underwritten Parish life over many years.
Our vision seeks to reflect on the nature of our context, and on who we wish to be in that context. Our context at Corpus Christi is complex: most of us live in the wider geographic area; many of us work in diverse contexts, locally, nationally and internationally; we choose to worship here. Our challenge is to live out our Faith in this multifaceted context, within the breadth that our individual and community lives encompass. There is much food for reflection in this brief statement, words that point to the hidden depths of Christian commitment, and to what it truly is to be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Our priorities are linked to our core practices of worship, care and fellowship, education and discipleship, service, and witness. Our core practices are the primary ways in which we carry out our purpose (mission) through organised activity designed to help us embrace our vision. The Parish Council portfolio structure has been reorganised for 2013 around these core practises, with the addition of resources, communication and administration. Each portfolio is to be staffed by two members of Council, who will carry responsibility for one or more of what we have traditionally called “The Arms of the Parish” that reflect the responsibilities and functions of Parish Council outlined in our Diocesan Rules. Each portfolio is responsible for one of the areas of priority, thus making Parish Council truly accountable for the implementation of our mission and vision. The new portfolio structure and the Arms of the Parish will be published in the February Parish Magazine, and I ask that you help keep Parish Council accountable by participating in these structures.
This is an exciting vision for our Parish as we move into the future. Please embrace it.
One other important proposal I need to make on behalf of our Parish Council is that Annual Vestry consider the appointment of a Youth Worker for the Parish. In reviewing the effectiveness of our ministry to young people over the last few years we are hugely thankful for the talented ministry of people like Kerry MacGregor, Sandra Verryn, and Thando Ntshebe, who have kept our ad hoc youth group functioning, and for the on-going ministry of Wonder Muthana and Mmathabo Aphane in giving leadership to our Teen Church. However, there can be no doubt when looking at Churches both within the Anglican fold and ecumenically that a fully-time person empowers growth. This person would not replace our volunteers, but complement and facilitate this ministry, with a focus on young adults and teenagers. This position is not catered for in our 2013 budget, but a portion of our funds held in deposit with the Diocese could be used in conjunction with additional commitments from Parishioners.
Archdeaconry, Diocese and Province
At Diocesan level the on-going impasse between the Diocesan Leadership and the Cathedral community, both around the Dean’s Tribunal and subsequent to his untimely death, has dominated the Diocesan horizon. It has been frustrating and energy-sapping on many levels. We failed in 2012 to find a compassionate solution to the situation, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel as a process of mediation has begun. Thank you for your constant prayers for the situation, and please don’t stop!
In July I stepped down as acting Archdeacon of Madibeng, having completed a two-year process of restructuring ministry and mission priorities in the area. Bishop Jo has appointed an Archdeacon from within the area, the now Venerable Madi Moshime. My time as acting Archdeacon was fulfilling, and I believe I have been able to leave a meaningful legacy. Thank you for your support and understanding as my Archdeaconry responsibilities often had me out and about, and therefore unavailable to you for substantial periods of time.
There has been considerable forward movement in exploring the possibilities of forming a new Diocese based around Rustenburg, incorporating most of the present Archdeaconries of Rustenburg and Madibeng. There is still much work to be done before a decision on sustainability can be made, but the people of the area are clearly on board with the process. Bishop Jo has requested that each Parish in the Diocese commit 1% of our annual Budget to supporting the on-going development of the region, which Parish Council is happy we do. It needs to be a decision of Annual Vestry, and Council proposes this amount be paid out of accumulated funds held in deposit with the Diocese.
At Provincial level the first two women Bishops have been elected, consecrated and installed in the Dioceses of Swaziland and False Bay. At the Provincial Synod in 2010 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba stated that one of his key hopes for his Archiepiscopacy was that this should happen! This is a significant step for the Anglican Church in the Global South and for the Church in Africa as a whole.
Society and Nation Building
Most of 2012 focused on the leadership race and run-up to the ANC Conference in Mangaung. I have some hope that the newly elected ANC leadership will be more focused on leading the country and less focused on internal squabbles and power-mongering, but only time will tell. Marikana and protests in the Western Cape, and now Sasolburg, are not encouraging signs of a working democracy, nor is the falling Rand.
We need to persevere as South Africans, and as members of Corpus Christi allow our Christian commitment to strengthen our resolve to serve our country to the best and fullest of our ability, whether it be in government, business or the social sector. Our proposed new mission and vision call us to this commitment.
2012 was a difficult year for both Dawn and I and we enter into 2013 uncertain as to what the future holds for us. However, 2012 was not without its highlights, chief among them being the birth of our first grandchild, Rebecca-Lee. She is eight months old already, and is now crawling with her grandfather’s proficiency. She is a happy child who smiles easily and wonderfully!
My involvement in the Dean’s Tribunal and subsequently as a member of the Diocesan Executive (before I stood down as acting Archdeacon in July) in the on-going saga with the Cathedral impacted heavily on me spiritually and emotionally, and I have realised that defending an institution is neither a glorious affair nor what I believe the focus of my life should be. Our more recent Parish focus on re-exploring our purpose and vision has been life-giving and restorative.
Dawn’s job has made huge time and travel demands on her and has not given her the fulfilment we had hoped it would when she started with her new employers in 2011. The fit has not been good.
The last year has made us both aware that work is not all there is to life, and as we explore that “empty-nest” space and reflect on our common goals for our marriage and our life together there are no easy answers. We find ourselves in that mid-life space – often referred to as “crisis” – seeking to identify what is important for us, both as a couple and as individuals, as we face life’s “second half”.
Thank you for your continuing interest in our lives, for your support and care.
There is a lot to give thanks for as we will hear in the reports to be received during the meeting. The Parish continues to grow: numerically, financially, relationally and spiritually. Thank you to each and every one who contributed to this growth during 2012! My special thanks to Dawn who has continued to support my ministry despite the challenges of life and Faith; to Cheryl Rogers, our Parish Administrator, who goes more than the extra mile and beyond the call of duty, holds us all to high standards, and is tireless and constant in her commitment to the smooth functioning of Parish life; to our assistant priest, Steve Verryn, for his support and friendship, and our congratulations to him on his Priesting in February 2012; also to Fr Danny and Fr Julian for their support and help, especially while I was acting Archdeacon of Madibeng. Thanks to the 2012 Churchwardens and Council for their leadership and guidance and personal support; to our Layministers for the worship support and pastoral care they have provided; to those who have carried specific responsibility for key aspects of parish life from Sacristy to Children’s ministry and everything in-between.
When one asks what people find special about this Parish the answer is generally “Family”, but actually I suspect it is a willingness to be a contributing part of the team.
Thank you! 2013 awaits us …
MARK R D LONG