PASTORAL LETTER JULY 2016
Dear People of God,
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7b).
Firstly, please accept my sincere and profound gratitude for raising me to this weighty vocation. I am deeply humbled, and more than overwhelmed at the trust invested in me. I ask for your prayers which I need to ensure that I will “be worthy of the call with which I have been called”(Eph.4:1).
The words of St Augustine of Hippo have helped me to overcome a little of the trepidation which I experienced after the elective assembly and the service of consecration: “Believe me brothers and sisters, if what I am for you frightens me, what I am with you reassures me. For you I am the bishop, with you I am a Christian.” I take comfort from knowing that I am not alone, I am surrounded by God-loving people, and together we are Christian, and we shall give our best to God.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”(Acts 2: 42-47).
Secondly, I have come to discern this description of the early church as a driving force for my episcopal leadership amongst you. Words and phrases like the ‘apostles’, teachings’, ‘fellowship’, ‘breaking of the bread’, ‘prayer’, ‘together’, and ‘everything in common’will be the foundation and mission priorities for my episcopacy. The essential elements of the religious practice of the early church came into being, as described in Acts, because of the early church’s acceptance and rootedness in Jesus Christ. Here we find an illustration of what happens when God’s people are blessed with an endowment of the Holy Spirit to equip them for the service of God. I commit to seek, work and pray for no less in obedience to Christ and to my vocation.
Thirdly, the first fifty days of my episcopal ministry have been an absolute rollercoaster ride. But amongst the many firsts were two very sad occasions which deeply affected our common life. At the beginning of June we stood over the open graves of both Revd Zwelikude Sondiyazi and his wife Tselane.They tragically died of natural causes within three days of each other.Then in the middle of June we joined the Ohlson family to bury Billy, husband to Revd Canon Patricia Ohlson. Your continued prayers are asked for the Sondiyazi and Ohlson families.
Lastly, a word and a prayer for the upcoming local elections on August 3rd this year.I urge all to cast their votes on the 3rd August to elect local leaders who will have the courage to speak out against the entitlement and patronage politics that has come to define our political landscape. The pre-election violence which resulted in the sad death of five people and the mindless destruction of property in Tshwane recently brought into sharp focus the bickering prevalent even amongst members of the same political alliance. This is most worrying. It adds to the downward spiral that characterises our common life.
Our democratic dispensation has been hard won. Many have paid with their lives for us to enjoy the full democratic privilege of all citizens to put our own leaders in place. The ideals and gains of their sacrifice have all but been realised. The elections present us with an opportunity to say ‘not in our name’. Pope Francis recently said that we need “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!”(Joy of the Gospel, page 205). Political parties and individuals who show that they are genuinely disturbed by the high unemployment rate, corruption, the slow pace of service delivery, substance abuse, the rising cost of living, and high levels of crime, amongst others, should enjoy our support.
I am working with the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, and others to forge relationships which would help us to respond jointly to events in our city that need a word from our church leaders. We are planning an open air prayer meeting at Church Square during the lunch hour on 20 July. Details about this are communicated in a separate communication. In addition here is a prayer that you may want to use in the assemblies of the church or in your private devotions:
Gracious God, you change times and seasons,
depose kings and set up kings;
We acknowledge You as the Lord,
not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.
We thank You for the privilege
of being able to participate in our local elections
We thank You for the opportunity that this election
puts before us.
Grant us the wisdom to discern how we should vote
so that we may be blessed with leaders who are
genuinely concerned by our social ills;
And who would want to commit to work for the common good of all,
and especially the poor and marginalised.
Grant us peaceful elections.
Through Jesus Christ who has revealed the Kingdom to us,
And in the power of the Holy Spirit who reigns with You,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
“Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever”. (Eph 3:20-21).
God bless you all