“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3; TNIV)
Last year, as I wrote this column, I was glorying in the daily sight of Table Mountain, and reflected on a passage - also from Isaiah - that spoke of feasting and abundance and joy and fulfillment. As I write today, it is the wilderness, the desert, which catches my attention. I still awake with awe to the sight of the Mountain, I toast the evening with a glass of the Cape's finest, and occassionally see out the day with a drop of God's gift to humankind. However, in the year that has passed I have - even in this paradise - been aware of the desert encroaching on God's beauty that is Southern Africa. Perhaps this has been highlighted (darkened?) by the raft of recent load-shedding, a reminder of the levels of incompetence that mark leadership in our national arena; and the challenge of burying a newborn baby in the coming week that marks something of the deep sorrow we each carry in our own unique way.
The above passage from Isaiah 40 is a poignant reminder of the challenge we face as God's people in this beautiful land, especially in the light of Advent and our preparations for Christmas where we remind ourselves so powerfully through this season that God seeks our lives to be the road of holiness, of life, of hope. It is easy to get caught up by the despair and encroaching darkness and, therefore, we need to actively find ways to recognise, but not identify with, the actions, attitudes and thought patterns that lead us into these dark places. Anthony de Mello, Catholic Jesuit priest and one of the spiritual masters of the 20th century, tells a story in his book "Awareness" that highlights this need for transformation:
There's a famous story about a lion who came upon a flock of sheep and to his amazement found a lion among the sheep. It was a lion who had been brought up by the sheep ever since he was a cub. It would bleat like a sheep and run around like a sheep. The Lion went straight for him, and when the sheep-lion stood in front of the real one, he trembled in every limb. And the Lion said to him, "What are you doing among those sheep?" And the sheep-lion said, "I am a sheep." And the Lion said, "Oh no you're not. You're coming with me." So he took the sheep-lion to a pool and said, "Look!" And when the sheep-lion looked at his reflection in the water, he let out a mighty roar, and in that moment he was transformed. He was never the same again.
We need to be aware if we are to be transformed and transforming agents of God in the communities and society we serve, if we are to truly prepare the way of the LORD. What will it take to wake us up, to truly awaken us, that like the sheep-lion we may recognise our misidentification and awaken to who we fully are as human beings made in the image of God, as children of God, as builders of straight highways in the desert of our lives and relationships, both personal and corporate? This surely is the challenge of incarnation, of a faith environment in which we claim belief in a God who is not only Spirit and Love, but also human like us? The Christian faith is paradoxically both spiritual and material, and focuses us on a God who is both indeterminable and yet definable in human form.
And so what is your "pool"? And what do you see when you look into it? What is the image that transforms you? What is it about this Advent, this Christmas Season that transforms you, that means you will never be the same again?
de Mello goes on to say that, "The three most difficult things for a human being are not physical feats or intellectual achievments. They are, first, returning love for hate; second, including the excluded; third, admitting that you are wrong." And perhaps this is what the incarnation, the Christmas story, is all about: God with us, loving us, embracing us, and forgiving us. That is truly a wonderful gift, is it not? And it is enfolded in the story of the Messiah's birth, visible in Jesus' life and ministry, tangible in our transforming lives. But if we do not ask the question; if we do not listen for God's "word" (as Bishop Geoff has encouraged us to do in his last two sermons to us); if we seek to remain unaware, misidentified, fearful, anxious, depressed and scared; how can we be the builders of straight highways in the desert of our context and environment, be it personal, family, friendship, or community based? We can't, obviously. So, are we sufficiently courageous to stare into the "pool" which is God, and be transformed? And thereby becoming, more fully, God's transforming agents in our world?
May God bless us as we journey through this Christmas-tide towards all that 2015 will bless and challenge us with. As we take this break from work, from school and are enfolded in family and faith, may we discover anew God's strength and vision in our lives. May the peace, joy and hope embodied in the Messiah's birth so transform us that we will never be the same again!
Christmas blessings and love from Dawn and myself.
Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Monday, 8 September 2014
"Serving each other; serving the world"
On Saturday 30 August 2014 thirty-two St Andrew's Church members met to workshop together around our vision for who God is calling us to be as a Christian community in the wider Newlands context. This group was broadly reflective of the Parish as a whole, with each of our three Sunday congregations well represented.
While acknowledging that possibly our biggest strength is our outreach programme via Ministry to the Needy (MTN), feedback from our group discussions highlighted the need for "inreach": a need to caringly reach out to each other that we may then reach out to the world as an engaged, inclusive and welcoming community of Christian disciples.
We recognised the need to build on our Anglican identity and tradition, acknowledging that who we are today as St Andrew's Church is built on the legacy of those who have gone before us over more than a century. Additionally, we recognised that there are aspects of who we already are that we wish to preserve: our three Sunday services with their varied focus; our Ministry to the Needy (MTN); the various Home Groups; our intercessor prayer ministry; our fellowship activities (the St Andrew's Amble, Shrove Tuesday Pancake evening, and our Curry Supper) and tea after our services; the Morning Market; and our strong revenue stream.
Importantly, we noted a number of things we would like to see enhanced or added to our Church life with a focus on creating opportunities for broader engagement and participation by all who belong to, or seek to join, our Christian community here at St Andrew's. This requires a loving, caring and non-judgmental space where people of all cultures are able to grow as disciples of Christ and in width and depth of Faith. In this regard:
- Become a "24/7 Church", not just a Sunday-focused Church. Our building plans are important here, as they will offer us greater weekday access to our Hall and other facilities.
- Strengthen and expand our Home Group structure as a primary space to belong, where caring relationships can be formed, ministry encouraged, and Faith shared.
- Include our children and young people more fully in our worship: have them begin in Church before going down to Children's Church and Teen Church; provide opportunities for participation in music; develop a Servers' Guild.
- Build relationships through fellowship: a regular (quarterly?) combined morning service; review service times to allow for tea after the early service; and weekends away together.
- Provide opportunities for Spiritual development: revive courses such as Alpha, Renew, the Marriage Course; have regular Quiet Mornings; and build prayer partnerships.
- Create focus groups for Mothers and Toddlers, and for those who have been divorced or bereaved.
- Be more intentional about the Sunday evening service: vibrant music and liturgy; outreach to local schools and the university.
- Consider supporting a mission worker.
- Develop an "Info Central" around our website so that information about our various activities and community life is easily accessible.
We also reflected on what we wish to eliminate from Church life. This included the noise the Children's Church make coming for Communion, cliques, judgementalism and negative criticism:
- In terms of our children, there is an excitement about coming in for a blessing or to receive communion, and after the long trek up from the hall, that excitement is difficult to contain, although the teachers do their best to settle them down at the door (another reason why our Building Project is so important); our children need to feel welcome, and some noise is unavoidable!
- One is rarely aware of being in a clique. The best way of ensuring one's friendship group or Home Group doesn't fall into this definition is to be constantly on the look out for those on the margins of Church life, and invite them in. It can be educational to occasionally step out and view your group from an outsider's perspective.
- Criticism can be positive and valuable. We wish to avoid criticism that is judgemental and destructive.
In closing we noted that we wished to avoid the following: losing our Anglican identity; losing members through lack of caring; burnout of the few due to underinvolvement of the wider Church membership; complacency (especially in terms of our Dedicated Giving); and lack of follow-through towards engagement of new members.
Moving forward: we need your input! Please give comment on the above as you may have a perspective we did not consider at the workshop. How can you do this? A conversation with a Churchwarden or Parish Councillor, or the Rector; an email via the Church Office; a comment on our Facebook page. It will also be helpful, if there is any area above that excites you, that you indicate your willingness to be part of a team that develops that specific area in our Church life.
A concurrent process alongside this opportunity for further comment, is the review of our mission statement, the defining of our vision, and a list of priorities in terms of the issues identified at the workshop.
And finally, please hold the ongoing process in prayer. We seek to be about God's work and the purposes of God's Kingdom in our world. It is critically important that our mission, our vision, is aligned in this way.
September marks a change in the seasons as we move from Winter into the wonderful transitional season of Spring! We have been blessed with wonderful weather welcoming this season into our lives: beautiful Cape Town days that enable one to forgive winter for all its wet and cold.
In the Anglican Church of Southern Africa we celebrate September as the "Season of Creation", and at St Andrew's we will be using the special collects, readings and Eucharistic Prayer authorised by the Synod of Bishops' for this season over the next five weeks.
Sunday 7 September: Climate Change "Sleeper, awake"
Sunday 14 September: Eco-justice "Walk lightly on this earth"
Sunday 21 September: Water "Water is life, sanitation is dignity"
Sunday 28 September: Creation and Redemption "On Earth as it is in Heaven"
Sunday 5 October: Biodiversity "Our Sister, Mother Earth"
Please join us as we celebrate God's gift of Creation. And, as always, family and friends are welcome to join us: please invite them!
Thursday, 21 August 2014
My sincere apologies for the lateness of this communication. If this has caught you a little off guard, the opportunity of a second date later in the year may be of help.
Admission to Communion before Confirmation has become a regular practise of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. It is important to note that Admission to Communion is an opportunity for our children to take part fully in the worship life of the church, and helps prepare them more completely for the adult commitment to a life of faith that they will one day make at their Confirmation. The only two conditions that apply to receive Communion before Confirmation are:
- the individual is Baptised, and
- is officially admitted by the parish priest in their home Church.
There is no age limit, although I often find that around seven (7) years children begin to show a more focused interest in participating more fully at the altar rail.
The first opportunity this year for children to be admitted to receive Communion before Confirmation is at our 09:00 Family Service on Sunday 31 August 2014. As this may be a bit soon for some families, there will be a second opportunity at our 09:00 Family Service on Sunday 30 November 2014.
I will run a preparation event on the Sundays prior to the Admission Service, being Sunday 24 August 2014, and on Sunday 23 November 2014, both at 17:00-18:00 in the Vestry. The preparation will include a focus on such topics as commitment, prayer, thanksgiving, the Passover and the Last Supper, Jesus’ death and resurrection, belonging and caring. It is helpful if parents (or a parent) is able to attend with the child.
Parents, please discuss this with your child, and if he/she is interested, please complete the attached form and let our Church Secretary, Bev Shaw (021 674 3851 / firstname.lastname@example.org), know which event you will be attending. Should you wish to discuss this further please contact me on 082 600 6080.
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
I wrote quite extensively about our need to revisit our mission and to explore our vision in the most recent Church Magazine (see http://thelongviewza.blogspot.com/2014/06/winter-newsletter-2014-article.html) and in this regard wish to invite you to join us for:
The St Andrew's Parish Vision Workshop
Saturday 30 August 2014, 09:00-12:00
in the Church Hall
77 Kildare Road, Newlands, 7700
The morning will be divided into three parts:
We will begin with some input around mission and vision, what defines and differentiates these concepts, along with the role of core ministry practices in implementing our mission and helping us embrace our vision. This will be a plenary session.
We will then spend some time in groups reflecting on three questions:
- Who is God calling us to be?
- What is God calling us to do?
- Where is God calling us to go?
Our final session will also be in groups, this time focusing on a revised SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) exercise where we will explore the following four questions:
- What is intrinsic to whom we are which we wish to maintain at all costs?
- What would we like to add that is not presently part of who we are/what we do?
- What do we need to stop doing/excise from Parish life?
- What do we never want to see at St Andrew's (under any circumstances)?
What is the outcome we are hoping for from the morning together? The plan is to gain sufficient input that with further consultation we will be able to elucidate a revised mission statement, give flesh to a Parish vision, and identify a number of priorities for our mission and ministry going forward. We would wish to finalise this process for acceptance at our next Annual Vestry meeting in February 2015.
So please make the effort to attend and participate in this process, and please feel free to already begin thinking and talking around the above questions.
There will be a sign-up sheet at the back of the Church, or you can register for the morning via Bev in the Church Office.
A reminder that our present mission statement says:
St Andrew's aims to be a loving, worshipping, Christian community which encourages everyone to follow Christ as disciples through being obedient to his Word and Spirit, and as a result taking God's love to the local community, to the poor, the needy and the world.
Thursday, 7 August 2014
A reminder that this sunday, 10 August 2014 at 18:30, we have our next Family-focused Service where we encourage families with teenagers and young adults to join us for worship together! Alison Gwynne-Evans and Debbie Coombe are planning an opportunity for fellowship afterwards and I've overheard comments about pizza...
I really hope you will make the effort to join us as we continue to explore this particular desire in our community, and your continued feedback (positive, negative and indifferent) is important, please!
We have recognised the need to differentiate our Teenagers from our younger Children's Church participation on Sunday mornings. William Tough has taken on responsibility for this, and the last two Sundays have proven very positive. Your teenagers participation is important, and again any feedback will be appreciated.
Raymond Quinlan continues to carry responsibility for our ad hoc Youth events, and we are planning something later in the term which Raymond will be in touch about. "Youth" in this context includes are older pre-teens as well. Any input in terms of ideas, and also willingness to help, will be appreciated! And again feedback is always valuable.
Archdeaconry Youth Service
There is an Archdeaconry Youth Service to which we are invited on Sunday 24 August 2014, 18:00, hosted at St Thomas' in Rondebosch. "Youth" in this context is Teenagers and young adults (students), and the Rev'd Allen Goliath (assistant Priest at St Saviour's, Claremont), is the Archdeaconry Youth Chaplain.Please speak to Raymond Quinlan in you would like greater detail. It will be great if we can have a good presence at the service.
Saturday, 12 July 2014
As advertised over the last two Sundays, we are invited to attend Bishop Garth Counsell's 10th Anniversary celebration of his Consecration as Bishop. This celebration takes place this coming Sunday, 13 July 2014, 18:00 at St George's Cathedral; it will take the form of Evensong. As the Parish Leadership we do encourage you to attend.
A reminder, too, that there will be NO EVENING SERVICE at St Andrew's.
This event is important on two levels:
Firstly, it is important to celebrate these significant milestones, being an opportunity here to give thanks to God for Bishop Garth's ministry as Bishop of Table Bay in the Diocese of Cape Town.
Secondly, it reminds us that as Anglicans we are a Diocesan, rather than congregational, Church. Mostly our experience is at local (i.e. congregational) level, making it easy to forget that we belong to a wider Church structure to which we are accountable on most levels. Sunday is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are a small part of the wider Anglican Communion in Cape Town and beyond, and to celebrate the Bishop as a symbol of this unity within the breadth and diversity of local Church experience that makes up the Diocese and the wider Anglican Church.
See you there!
Monday, 30 June 2014
We had a wonderful turn-out at our first Family-focused Evening Service on Sunday 8 June 2014. I received a number of very positive comments from people at the door, and some warm smiles from some of the younger people present.
We did some reflection at our Church Council meeting last week, with various thoughts being expressed. One comment was that it was not that different from Sunday Mornings and it may be difficult to sustain our teenagers interest in the medium to long-term. Another comment reflected that our initial stated aim was to provide an opportunity for families with teenagers and young adults to have an opportunity on occasion to worship together, rather than a full-on Youth-focused event.
The initial thought had been to develop this event aware that there is an established group of people who enjoy the present less-formal format of our evening services, and that the informality may be a more conducive environment for drawing younger members of our community into worship. I am also aware that what we put in place needs to be sustainable in terms of our resources and worship skills, and congruent with who we are.
Feed-back from the wider St Andrew's community will be appreciated. If you are a family that attended, or perhaps have had a conversation with someone who was there, please let me have your thoughts and input towards our next service. Perhaps you were not able to be present, but have some insight? Please share!Due to School holidays in July our next Family-focused Evening Service will take place on Sunday 10 August 2014 at 18:30 - see you there!
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
A reminder that we meet for CURRY on Friday! Our Annual Curry Supper makes a return this Friday, 27 June 2014, 18:00 for 18:30. Beryl and the Team are busy, and we are assured of lovely food for the evening. The quality of the fellowship is, of course, up to us! And the more the merrier!
So if you haven't yet bought a ticket, but are planning to come along, please take a moment to let the Office know, preferably by lunch-time on Wednesday (tomorrow) so that we can ensure we cater sufficiently for the evening. This can be done by email email@example.com, phone 021 674 3851, or in person.
If you are aware of anyone who may not be coming due to financial stresses, please let us know so that we can make a plan for them. The emphasis is on being St Andrew's Family together, and we would really like the evening to be as inclusive as possible.
There will be liquid refreshment, but you are welcome to bring your own favourite along, too. "Corkage" will be exercised by the Rector...
Friday, 13 June 2014
Appointed and Sent
Today, as I write, we remember St Barnabas. The Gospel reading for the day reminds us that God has "... appointed [us] to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 20:16). In this Pentecost season we are reminded of the nature of this fruit: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). In preparation for Pentecost I became aware, in the Lectionary's immersion of us in John's Gospel, that for John everything revolves around the gift of love: it is the touchstone from which all else evolves. In linking this to Paul's teaching in Galatians, it is possible to realise that love becomes tangible as we allow the other fruits of the Spirit to grow in our lives. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all instruments through which God's love may flow into our lives and communities. It becomes even more powerful when we remember that John goes further: "... God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is not just God's love, but God's very being, that is manifested in this way.
On Pentecost Sunday we were reminded that on the evening of the resurrection the risen Jesus meets with the disciples, saying, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). This begs the question, of course, as to what it is that Jesus had been commissioned to do? Again for John it is all about love: Jesus was sent by the Father to live God's love, God's very being, in our world; and we are similarly called. Richard Rohr, in his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, makes this same point: "Jesus became the Human One who believed the divine image in himself, who trusted it, followed it, and told us to do the same" (page 48). This begs a further question: what is the nature of the divine image? Key to this is that having commissioned the disciples Jesus "... breathed [into] them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit"" (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit is the divine image and the source of life: present at Creation; active throughout the millennia; present in Jesus; and as we participate in the body of Christ and the wider family of God, present in you and me.
It becomes possible to draw this conclusion: we are appointed to participate in a mission; we are commissioned to bring a vision to fruition. Are we, personally and corporately, aware? What do we understand our appointment and commission to be, to encompass? What are we being sent to do? And if we are aware, are we being faithful to our appointment and obedient to our commission?
Mission and Vision
At St Andrew's we do have a strong sense of purpose, enshrined in our mission statement:
St Andrew's aims to be a loving, worshipping, Christian community which encourages everyone to follow Christ as disciples through being obedient to his Word and Spirit, and as a result taking God's love to the local community, to the poor, the needy and the world.
We are committed to seeing this statement move from words into action, and it drives our commitment to reach out beyond ourselves in good and meaningful ways, chief among them our Ministry to the Needy. Additionally, I was encouraged by the attendance at the Lent course, which spoke to our commitment to follow Christ as disciples (people committed to growing in their faith). We worship well, we care, and we share God's love. This is a hallmark of who we are as Andreans.
Being obedient to Christ in Word and Spirit is to be continually immersing ourselves in Scripture, searching out the principles that have given life to God's people throughout the ages and seeking ways to make these live in our own context; it is also to be listening for what God is doing in the world today, to be aware of the Spirit's presence in the currents flowing around us, being ready to respond as we hear the call to serve.
We have lived at St Andrew's with our mission statement for some time, and time changes things. The foundation of our mission - Scripture - remains constant, although interpretation may adapt to our ongoing experience. The foundation of our vision - context - is less constant, making it important that we review both our sense of mission and vision from time to time. It is important that we find time to review where we are heading as a community, to ascertain how faithful we are being to that to which God calls us, and to make any necessary course corrections. Parish Council has agreed that we consciously take time as a Christian community to reflect again on who God is calling us to be, what God is calling us to do, and where God is calling us to go. This process will include such further questions as: what is intrinsic to who we are at St Andrew's that we never want to lose; what new things do we want to put in place that will add to our sense of being abundantly where God wants us to be; what do we need to stop doing, get rid of, in order that we may have space to build for the future; and what are those things that may destroy who we are, destroy the legacy that has been built in our midst over a century and more, and that we wish never to include in our activities and community?
It is likely that we will engage as a Church in this process of consultation, reflection and review after the July holidays. In the meantime please, in preparation, begin to engage prayerfully and thoughtfully with the questions I have raised above.
Thank you from Dawn and myself to all who contributed so generously to our Easter gift. It has contributed to one of my dreams: a mountain bike with which I can confidently tackle the off-road beauty of the Cape. Scotty, a black and red Scott Spark 960, has recently joined the family. It is going to need some training, as I discovered on my second ride out that it has a tendency to run away on muddy downhills, buck wildly on steep uphill paths, and generally not always behave as expected. Tar surfaced roads do seem to have a largely calming effect on us both, but the great outdoors beckons, and we will doubtless train each other as time goes on!
Blessings to you all as we enter the cold and wet of Winter, which has already given fair warning of things to come: may the fire of this Pentecost season be warming to your souls!
Monday, 2 June 2014
What defines family? A traditional image is often "Mum, Dad, and the Kids". But family is more than this, and less. A single person is a family of one; some families are child-headed; others are single-parented; same-sex couples adopt children; death and divorce bring pain and chaos; new relationships bring renewed joy and hope.Tradition and new ways of being family all need to inform our picture and definition of family life. Family is less about the individuals that make up family and more about the relationships that build family. And so when we speak of "family-focus" we need to encourage each other to be as broad and embracing as possible of family life in all its variety.
Having said the above, we are aware at St Andrew's that we do not cater well for teenagers and young adults, and that there are families who feel somewhat torn as their teenagers in particular are drawn away to Churches that are more youth-focused, perhaps offering more trendy and exciting options for worship and fellowship; or who no longer enjoy our more traditional form of worship, and would rather just stay at home.
One option that we are exploring is to invite families with teenagers and young adults to join us on the second Sunday of each month in the evening at our service at 18:30. This service is generally an informal form of Evening Prayer with guitars and music from Songs of Fellowship. Of course, though, while we seek to be intentional about offering families with young people an opportunity for worshiping together, the service remains open to all who already participate on a Sunday evening, and to all forms of family!
In light of the above I write to invite you to join us on Pentecost Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 18:30, for a Family-focused Service of Evening Prayer.
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
A reminder to please make use of your democratic right to vote tomorrow, Wednesday 7 May 2014.
Voting is a key responsibility of citizenship, and one that has been hard-won for all citizens in our South African context. Our freedom has been somewhat dented and diminished as good governance has slipped into often corrupt and self-serving hands in more recent times, and the temptation to give in to apathy is always there. I take courage at this time, though, as individuals stand up to denounce the growing evils in our society and governing structures, many by just standing up and doing their duty.
I was struck by the comment of a South African, Lauren, from Port Elizabeth voting last week in Seoul (South Korea), having traveled over two hours from Daegu to get to the polling station: "It was really great to be able to vote towards a better future for my country. I love South Africa and can't wait to return. I felt very proudly South African today."
Let us go out tomorrow to also vote for that better future, and beyond tomorrow let us hold those elected at National and Provincial level accountable to the ideals of service and good governance.
If you have the opportunity, please join us at St Andrew's tomorrow for our Wednesday Morning Eucharist (SAPB) at 09:30, where we will hold the elective process in prayer.
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
At our recent Church Council meeting in March we have agreed on a Portfolio system that reflects our core responsibilities as a Christian community. Each portfolio-holder will be responsible for the strategic direction of activities relevant to their portfolio in relation to our mission and vision at St Andrew's. The purpose of such a system is hopefully to create space for greater participation in our mission and ministry by all who call St Andrew's home. Please feel free to chat to the various portfolio-holders, to share your ideas and hopes, and to offer your assistance in getting new ideas off the ground!
The portfolios are as follows: Worship (Mark Long); Care & Fellowship (Edgar Ruiters & Lauriq Bakomito); Education & Discipleship (William Tough); Service (David Sykes & Debbie Coombe); Witness (Richard Buttress); Resources (Simon Gilbert, Roger Prideaux & Noël Peagam); Communication (Jill Joslin); and Administration (Mark Long & Ivor Jardine).
Dawn and I will be away for the week after Easter. We are looking for accommodation, preferably not too far from Cape Town, from 21 April through to 26 April. If you know of any reasonably priced opportunities within those dates, we'd love to hear from you! Bev Shaw will be taking leave from 29 April to 17 May, and Dawn and Penny Middlekoop will step into the breech and keep the Office running.
Dawn is looking for work from the beginning of May. Preferably, she would like to find something part-time or something that will offer her some flexibility time-wise. Her background is in Financial Management in the Motor Industry (Dealerships), and she has also done consulting in this field including training and implementation around computer-based systems. She has a Diploma in Business Administration, and is particularly skilled in relational organisation in the workplace. Dawn is presently doing an Executive Coaching course through UCT's Get Smart program. Alongside this, and her need for flexibility, Dawn is also participating in the practical phase of a Spiritual Director's qualification through the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg. Our network in Cape Town is still very limited, and we would value any insight or connection to opportunities or people you may have access to.
Saturday, 22 March 2014
The Archbishop reflects...
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Our Lenten journey has begun! In the words of Neil Paynter, "Lent is ... a time for self-appraisal ... It requires a healthy realism about ourselves, so that we can face up to and accept responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings, and realism about the nature and purposes of God, so that we recognise the reality of judgement (which is happening now in the consequences we bear for our decisions and choices) and the hope of grace."
During Lent there will be a few changes in the context of our worship: we will be using parts of the Litany (APB'89 pg 73) and reminding ourselves of the 10 Commandments, along with a starker Church (no flowers!), and a move from an altar dressed in green to an altar dressed in purple. The changes are there to help us realise we are in a different season of worship (a bit like the leaves falling from the trees remind us that autumn is here and winter is on the way), and that we need to be open to God speaking to us differently.An important note for parents: we will be including our children in the first part of our service at 09:00. Children are encouraged to sit with their parents and participate in the introduction and penitence. I will then call them up for a brief reflection on some aspect of Lent and a child-orientated praise song, where after they will go out to Children's Church classes, and we will continue with the readings. So please gather in Church with your children at 09:00 and not in the Hall.
Apart from this Sunday being the first in Lent, it is also The Argus! I am aware that we have some keen cyclists at St Andrew's who will be participating in the race or as supporters. We wish you well! And invite you to join us at our evening service, which this week is an informal evening prayer.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Amazingly, it is time for our Autumn Newsletter. It seems just a few, brief weeks ago I was putting something together for the Summer edition, feeling very new and wet behind the ears! A summertime later, and both Dawn and I are feeling very much a part of the furniture at St Andrew's and more rooted in Cape Town, although still a little disbelieving that we are actually here. Christmas was a good time with lots of family visiting and helping make the Rectory really feel like home in a way that only lots of family can! We were also thankful for all the Christmas gifts from so many of our St Andrew's family, and if we've failed to say a personal thank you our apologies: with our granddaughter present when we opened gifts we got a little distracted as to what we'd received from whom! Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated.
We head into our Lenten journey as I write: a period of reflection gifting us with an opportunity for renewal as we prepare in expectation for Easter. Christmas a reminder that God is with us, the joy of birth and God present to us in human form; Easter a reminder that life is ever renewing, indestructible, eternal, a powerful meeting of now and eternity. I am struck, year by year, as Lent approaches that I take so much of life and relationship for granted, and how seemingly little indisciplines cause me to miss many opportunities to revel in life's goodness. The occasional early morning walk - in the forest or along the beach - has me marvelling at the beauty of creation at daybreak; prayerful meditation awakens me to the beauty of being in relationship with God; and I am challenged in Lent to renew my commitment to life, to disciplined, creative and focused living.
In his sermon around the Transfiguration last Sunday, Bishop Geoff reflected on how we often equate Lent to Jesus' desert experience and temptations, but that in the light of the Transfiguration it can also be about mountain top experience. Both deserts and mountaintops can be desolate places, but both (if you think of the Great Karoo and Table Mountain) give us distant horizons to contemplate, and mountains give us a different perspective on life in the valley. Desolation is an important liminal space that allows us to see with greater clarity, unencumbered by material and relational and spiritual clutter, and our Anglican tradition of giving something up for Lent is a part of rediscovering this space, reopening ourselves to what is truly important, opening ourselves to loss but also to hope. As Bishop Geoff reflected, simply giving something up for the sake of giving something up has little impact on our lives. It is more about rediscovering balance: material, relational and spiritual. My experience of wealth is that too often it gets in the way, providing more than the necessities to enjoy life, often over-encumbering us with comfort and the responsibilities of comfort. Lent becomes the opportunity to realise afresh that if we remove the flowers from the Church and limit our praise then our worship is no less meaningful, and that some of the trappings we've come to believe to be indispensable to our worship are dispensable. And if we can find the courage, we can begin to apply this to other aspects of our lives, and be renewed. There is that wonderful proverb, that one cannot see the wood for the trees: Lent is an opportunity to see the forest again in all its greatness and beauty.
Autumn is a precursor to Winter, and Lent a precursor to Easter. In the Southern hemisphere this relationship plays out differently to its roots in the North. In Autumn the trees are stripped of their leaves, preparing for hibernation through the Winter months; in Lent we are stripped of our encumbrances, preparing us to hibernate in God's love, to be enshrouded in resurrection, that we may burst into Spring rested and strengthened to serve God and the purposes of God's kingdom. May this Lent and our Easter celebrations be God's gift of renewal and hope to us all!
Friday, 28 February 2014
Dawn and I greatly value the welcome we have received into the heart of St Andrew's, and can genuinely reflect that our move here from Pretoria has been a good one, and that we are happy in your midst. We appreciate all the effort that was put into getting the Rectory renovated for our advent, and the variety of welcomes we have received from so many. We are particularly appreciative of the friendship that has been offered us in the accumulating invitations into people's homes and lives. It was wonderful to arrive and be caught up in the exuberance of the Morning Market, and to flow into the various activities leading into our St Andrew's Christmas celebrations! Thank you.
My particular thanks to all who helped keep the ship afloat and moving forward during the interregnum, especially to the Churchwardens, Treasurer and assisting Clergy. Their job would have been all the more strenuous without the smooth operation of the Church Office - thank you Bev - and the ongoing support of the Church Council and Layministers, and the supportive participation of many in the wider Parish. It is wonderful to step into a Church community where key functions work, enabling a focus on mission and ministry and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Craig van Gelder (professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary in the USA), in his book The Ministry of the Missional Church: a Community led by the Spirit, makes a useful distinction between mission and vision: we look to the Bible to discern and define our mission; we look to our context to discern and define our vision. He further makes the point that our core Church activities of worship, care, fellowship, education, discipleship, service and witness - rather than being an end in themselves - become the dynamic space where our mission is implemented and our vision realised. Our present statement at St Andrew's "... to be a loving, worshipping Christian community, which encourages everyone to follow Christ as disciples, through being obedient to his word and spirit, and as a result taking God's love to the local community, to the poor, the needy and the world" is a powerful statement of purpose (mission). The second part may in fact be our vision, and we need to explore this further as vision gives impetus to our mission. Mission is about who we are, what we do; vision is the "why." A key word in our present statement is "everyone", and speaks to our desire to be inclusive, as does the phrase "the world." An example is our Ministry to the Needy (MTN): it substantially realises our mission to take "... God's love to the poor, the needy" and is inclusive in the breadth of need we meet, but is limited in terms of parishioner involvement. We need to take time to reflect on how inclusive the opportunities offered by our core activities really are, and whether they are truly effective in helping implement our mission. People and resources are the primary input into this process, and ministry is the primary outcome as we seek to extend the reign of God in the communities we serve and in the wider context of God's created world.
Our mission (and vision) is important because our purpose helps define who we are, what is important to us, and - in terms of vision - where we perceive God to be leading us. Being human we are often drawn to other success stories, but do we really want to be known as a mirror of another community? There is often a temptation to define ourselves, not by our strengths, but by our weaknesses. To obviate this we need to be asking questions such as: what is our particular gifting as a Christian Anglican community? Where is God blessing us, using us? Mike Keggie, my predecessor, listed substantially more strengths than weaknesses in his final report to Annual Vestry in 2012, and I would concur - even after my short time with you - with his analysis. Weaknesses are opportunities that have potential to drive further growth, but they are not definitive of our identity. We need to build our identity around our values, and again Mike Keggie noted three areas of value here at St Andrew's: proclaiming the Good News, prayer and worship, relationships and mission. We have a lot to be proud of at St Andrew's, which we need to embrace, celebrate and own.
In my listening to you over the last four months there have been three particular topics of conversation that have stood out: our building project; our need to retain our young teenagers going forward; our ongoing use of A Book of Common Prayer (CPSA), more commonly known as the South African Prayer Book (SAPB). Each of these is a conversation in itself, so let the following suffice here:
- in no conversation has the need for the building project been queried, and while detailed usage will need to be explored further, we need to agree on a footprint in order for the project to take a necessary step forward;
- in terms of our teenagers we need to explore "gaps in the market", rather than get competitive with well-oiled machines like Christ Church, Kenilworth, and Common Ground who presently draw off this age-group;
- in discussing our use of the SAPB we need to take care that we do not ride roughshod over what may indeed be of deep spiritual significance to some.
As you are likely to already have noted from my sermons I am in essence a practical theologian, and I relate strongly to James' admonition that we should "... be doers of the word, not merely hearers who deceive themselves" (James 1:22; NRSV), believing that our Faith should at all times inform the greater breadth of our lives. I do - on occasion - recognise my fallibility, and I seek to live my faith by example. There are times when I appear slow to make decisions, due often to my ability to see the issue from both sides and it takes some time to discern the most useful course of action; a nudge is often appropriate. I like to explore how things work before delegating specific tasks, but then trust others to be good stewards of these responsibilities once in their care. I am sure you will discover many quirks in my nature and leadership as we move forward together. One quirk is my support of the Lions (having been born in Johannesburg), and I noted that supporters of the local Cape Town team were surprisingly quiet after last week's clash, but then I guess a 24 point deficit is hard to swallow. I am used to a quiet opposition: my father-in-law is, after all, a Vodacom Bulls supporter! That said, the DHL Stormers will have my full support against the Hurricanes tomorrow evening (how can I not support a team that carries my wife's initials proudly displayed upon their chests?)!
Going forward I would like us to:
- explore the purpose and focus of our three Sunday worship services and two weekday services;
- find ways to extend our home groups (a wonderful base for building relationships);
- in addition to our Lent and Marriage courses identify other courses or programmes that will develop our discipleship experience;
- explore potential links with local schools and the University, and thereby build our ministry to young people;
- find ways for greater individual participation in various areas of our Ministry to the Needy; and
- seek areas to build active partnerships with other Parishes in the Archdeaconry and Diocese.
The task of the new Council will be to help determine the why, what and how, and directed by our mission (and vision), identify people and resources to make these things happen. The role of Council is to direct our Church life, to motivate us and to encourage us all to participate in the mission and ministry of St Andrew's Church as we seek to serve God and the purposes of his Kingdom in the village of Newlands and beyond.
I look forward with anticipation to working with our newly elected office-bearers, and the Parish as a whole, as we embrace the challenges and joys 2014 brings us.
As I close, let us take courage from God's word through Isaiah to the people of Israel:
27 February 2014
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
The Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (and affirmed in the Acts of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town) require that "The Parishioners of the Parish shall meet in Vestry ... at least once every calendar year not later than the 15th of March" (Canon 27).
The Canon goes on to say, "By Parishioner shall be understood any person ... who either is on the list of confirmed Communicants ... or ... being baptised, and not being a member of any other religious body, is an habitual worshipper in the Church ... of the Pastoral Charge in respect of which a vote is claimed."
What happens at the annual Vestry meeting?
We look back and we look forward. We look back over the preceding year, which is done primarily via a report from the Churchwardens on the year's activities, supplemented by additional reports from various Church activity groups, along with an audited report of the state of the Church finances. Looking forward is the primary function of the Rector's report along with what the Canon describes as, "the care ... of the Parish in matters affecting worship, stewardship, ministry, education, evangelism, unity, development and social responsibility." In looking forward we set the tone and direction of Parish life for the year that lies ahead. Decisions taken by the Vestry are binding on the Church Council.
The other role of the annual Vestry meeting is the election of two Churchwardens and an Alternate, Parish Councillors (at least five), two Synod representatives and alternates with an additional representative under the age of 25, and three Archdeaconry Council representatives. There will be a Synod this year from 14-16 August, and there will be two Archdeaconry Council meetings on 22 May and 13 November. And it will be good if we can receive nominations for all these positions prior to the Vestry meeting.
What is the process and who should we nominate as Churchwardens?
Canon 29 requires that, "Every Churchwarden ... within this Province shall be a confirmed Communicant of the age of twenty-one years and upwards" and further stipulates that, "They shall be elected by the majority of Parishioners present and voting, with the subsequent agreement of the Incumbent [Rector]." The precedent for voting, set by Provincial Synod, is that each person present will have two votes (as we are electing two Churchwardens), resulting in the nominated persons gaining the two highest votes becoming Churchwardens, and the person receiving the third highest votes automatically becoming the Alternate Churchwarden.
At St Andrew's we have a long-standing policy that Churchwardens should have a limited tenure (tenure is not limited by Canon 29) of three to four years in order to encourage others to step forward into leadership. To ensure that we do not break Canon 29 in implementing this policy, there are two options: the first is for those individuals who have served us as Churchwardens for an extended period to not re-accept nomination; the other is for Parishioners present at the Vestry meeting to exercise their vote in such a manner as to ensure that this policy finds traction. Also it is useful, but not required by Canon 29, that those nominated for Churchwarden have had recent experience on Parish Council. And, perhaps needless to say, we need three or more people nominated!
What is the process, and who is eligible, for election as Parish Councillor (and Synod and Archdeaconry Council representatives)?
Anyone who fits the above definition of "Parishioner" and is a confirmed communicant is eligible for nomination and subsequent election. Vestry decides on the number of Councilors to be elected. Again as per the precedent set by Provincial Synod, if the number of people nominated exceeds the number decided upon, a vote will be taken. If the number of nominations equals or is less than the number decided upon, then those nominated will be deemed to be elected.
If you allow yourself to be nominated and are subsequently elected as Churchwarden you will be required to attend at least a monthly Parish Executive meeting and a monthly Parish Council meeting, two Archdeaconry Council meetings during the year, an annual Diocesan Budget meeting, and any other ad hoc meetings requested of you by the Rector, Archdeacon or Bishop. If nominated for Parish Council and subsequently elected you will need to be available for a monthly Parish Council meeting, and be willing to pick up some form of portfolio commitment as a member of the Council. Synod and Archdeaconry representatives need to be available to attend monthly Parish Council meetings, attend Diocesan Synod (Synod reps) or Archdeaconry Council (Archdeaconry Council reps). Please note that those nominated for Churchwarden, if not elected, are not automatically nominated for Parish Council. This needs to be a separate nomination.
Can we access a copy of the Constitution and Canons, and the Acts of the Diocese of Cape Town?
A full description of responsibilities for Churchwarden and Parish Councillor can be found in Canons 28 (of Parish Councils) and 29 (of Churchwardens and Chapel Wardens), and a full copy of these can be requested from the Church Office, as can a full copy of the Canons and Constitution of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and the Acts of the Diocese of Cape Town.
Hopefully the above information gives you sufficient understanding of what the annual Vestry meeting is all about, and sufficient basis to attend! I look forward to your participation and involvement, and pray that if you are approached for nomination to any of the above positions you may have the courage to allow your name to go forward for election.
MARK R D LONG
30 January 2014
Friday, 24 January 2014
We've had a wonderful Advent and Christmas Season, celebrated well and fully: a wonderful Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols with the UCT Choir; a friendly and welcoming evening of Carols in the Garden; a full Church of children, parents and grandparents for the Crib service; a well attended Midnight Mass and full Christmas Day services. In the midst of it all we had the opportunity to celebrate Madiba's life, and in mourning his passing reflect on the incredible legacy he has left us and the world, which became an important focus for our Day of Prayer for our Nation on the 16th of December. Thank you to all who helped facilitate these amazing and life-giving moments in our Church life.
2014 has arrived and is already almost a month old, gaining strength and focus! And another important season of the Church - Lent and Easter - lies ahead. Before we reach Lent in early March, February will give us an opportunity to reflect on our Church life as we meet in Annual Vestry: an opportunity to take account of the last year, and together with our new Rector reflect on our future ... please plan to be with us on Thursday 27 February 2014 at 19:30 for this important occassion.
We are running a Baptism Course for parents and God-parents on Sun 2 & 9 February at 11:00 with an opportunity for children to be Baptised on 16 February at the 09:00 service. Baptism is all about belonging, becoming part of the family of God, and an important reminder to us all of the call to Faith and God's presence in our lives and community.
We're looking for a new convenor for our Shrove Tuesday Pancake event. If you may be able to help, or aware of a friend in the Church who is keen to, please let Bev in the Office know. Our Pancake evening is always a superb opportunity to have some fun and good fellowship, and a space where we can invite friends and family who may find "normal" Church a little intimidating or over-institutionalised.
We have a funeral this afternoon at 15:00 for Anthony Hall who passed away this week, and a Memorial Service on Wednesday at 14:00 for Felicia Barnard who died last week. If you are able to attend either of these services in support of the families and close friends you are most welcome. I do encourage you to keep the families in prayerful support. May Anthony and Felicia rest in peace and rise in glory!
For everyone who has been away over Christmas/New Year: welcome back! I hope you have had a good break, and that together with those of us who have "stayed home" are ready for the challenges and opportunities 2014 will provide, both within the context of Faith and also of life. If you've been away you may have missed Denise Ackerman's sermon in which she encouraged us to strengthen our trust in God, using the gift of Scripture, prayer and opportunities for reflection. We've subsequently also reflected on the relationship between belief and trust in living out our Faith in daily life; and this last Sunday on Evangelism: noticing what God is doing around us, sharing that with others in everyday conversation, and perhaps encouraging others to participate in these spaces.
I look forward, together with Dawn, in sharing the journey of Faith and life with you all in the months that lie ahead. A blessed 2014!