Thursday, 26 October 2017

Spring Newsletter 2017: Article

Dear Friends

Investing in the Future

I am struck that as the Western Cape embraces Spring in the midst of the present crippling drought that living is not for the fainthearted. Despite the low rainfall the Spring flowers still open, and with them our spirits lift. It takes courage to embrace the challenges that life places before us, and to not be diverted from the opportunities for growth that continue to exist. Humanity has an amazing ability to reach towards a greater vision despite the chaos of the present moment. This was true of Europe after World War II, true of South Africa in 1994, and it remains true of us as South Africans: despite the daily revelations of corruption and wrong-doing, not just in Government but in collusion between Government and Business interests – both of which should be trustworthy – there is a greater vision of what South Africa is and can be. The vision dims, but it is not destroyed.

St Andrew’s: a Future

What of our St Andrew’s vision for the future embodied in our proposed Building Project? In the last eighteen months we have grown the funds dedicated to this project from R2 million to just over R5 million. This is an amazing achievement: individuals and families have made some very generous donations via the Buy-a-Block initiative; individuals have got together to contribute by organising a number of fun and successful fundraising events and concerts that have enabled us all to contribute in some way; others have committed to monthly or annual ongoing contributions. As we will explore at our upcoming Vestry on 9 October 2017 we are sitting – to use a rugby analogy – just over the half-way line and there is still some ground to be won before the try-line is in reach: a dropkick or two are needed, and the Fundraising Committee has a game plan in hand for this (to be discussed at our Vestry meeting). To mix sporting metaphors at this point, we need to ensure we don’t score an own-goal at this critical point in the game!

Game Plan: Building Project

A game plan is driven by an overall vision of what we wish to achieve. As time passes and the context of the game changes it is easy to lose sight of what we sought originally to achieve. We have a long-time commitment as the Newlands Village Church to offering educational facilities and opportunities to the local community stretching back into the mid-Nineteenth century, and our present project seeks to maintain this historic commitment. The present School building was originally built in the 1950’s to serve the working-class families of Newlands Village and at its fullest held 257 learners. The school was built with loans that rental from the early years of the present Kildare Pre-Primary helped settle after the demise of Newlands Village (due to the enforced removals in the early 1960’s, which caused the closure of the original Kildare Road School at the end of 1966). During 1967 the building was refurbished with funds raised from the sale of the cemetery across the river, with three of the classrooms converted into our present Church Hall. In January 1968 Kildare Pre-Primary opened with 40 children, and it was only in 1994 – due to changes in the Education Act – that the Church and School administration were separated with the Rector ceasing to chair the School Board. It is worth noting that through the 1970’s and 1980’s St Andrew’s relied almost completely on the rental from Kildare Pre-primary School for financial survival; and it was only in 1991, when the Parish embraced Dedicated Giving, that the school rental was freed up for development and maintenance, morphing earlier this century into funding a healthy percentage of our Outreach initiatives (Ministry to The Needy).

Our Building Project – as presently proposed – seeks to uphold education as a core mission and ministry focus and commitment to the local community, no matter the nature of that community.

The other driving elements of our vision for this Project are our own needs as a faith community: we need a Church Hall that is more easily accessible. This accessibility has three focii: easier access to the Hall from the Church building, and easier access to the Hall on weekdays, along with dedicated spaces for youth ministry (which under Elizabeth and Jess’ watch is growing again). Access to the Hall in the mornings will enable us to increase our ministry to the elderly and retired in our community for whom mornings are a better option to evening gatherings, along with opportunities to make our Hall and meeting spaces available to the wider community when not needed by us. While pressure on the parking will always be an issue, there are four hours available from 08:30 to 12:30 every morning between school drop-off/pick-up times. Easier access from the carpark and from the Church will all add to a fuller sense of cohesion on Sundays - especially for our children - and offer more pleasant facilities for fellowship and other social events.

The journey has proved more complex than expected when a potential building project was first discussed some ten or more years ago. Fatigue sets in, doubts set in. This is not unusual for an extended journey towards a future as yet unseen. We are people of faith!

Intentional Engagement

We all need to engage intentionally with this vision. Our Vestry meeting in October is a critical point on this journey, and if you have any desire whatsoever to engage with the future of St Andrew’s we need you present at this meeting, please.

Investment in the vision is crucial, both financially and spiritually. If you have already contributed funds towards this project, are you able to commit further? If you’ve been on the sidelines – watching and waiting (as we all do on one level or another) – are you willing to join the game? Do you have access to potential external sources of funding that we can draw on? Do you have an idea for a fundraising event? Have you considered a codicil to you Will?

And are you praying? Is this vision part of your personal times of prayer and reflection? Please pray!

Sisters and brothers, the time is now.

Blessings
Mark

Winter Newsletter 2017: Article

Dear Friends

Reflections on Volmoed

The Winter edition has become, in the last couple of years, the instrument for me to reflect on our Church Weekend away at Volmoed. As you will see elsewhere in this Newsletter, it was once again a valuable time away in which relationships are formed and renewed: an important gift in a world where we so often struggle to connect face-to-face, and communication is in brief 240 character messages or text on a small screen. We had a good time, again!

On the Saturday morning we took time to reflect on our roots in Anglican culture going back to St Augustine of Canterbury’s arrival in Britain in 601 CE, through the challenging period of the “Tudor Saga” (1509-1603) that saw the Kingdom of Henry VIII excommunicated by the Pope and the English Church interdicted by Rome; the schism with Rome that continued under Edward VI and was somewhat repaired under Mary; to the orthodox – yet refreshed – Church during the reign of Elizabeth I (she was declared an unlawful Sovereign by the Pope), a Church committed to following a middle path between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. We then reflected on our own experience of Anglicanism under the African Sun, and more specifically in Newlands.

We met in small groups for the latter, asking what it is that we value about our Anglican ethos today, and how we might become more relevant to the communities we serve through St Andrew’s. These are some of the responses that came out of our discussions:

There is value in belonging to a Church that is part of a worldwide, global community, willing to play a role the in secular and political discourse, and offering a broad commitment to inclusivity, structures for dialogue, and a focus on the power of prayer. Our teenagers expressed that the gift of forgiveness and a reminder that we can believe in something bigger than ourselves is really important.

A number of questions came up such as, “While the Church fills our need for diversity and different viewpoints, how do we explore this when we’re all very similar?” and our Teenagers asked, “How do we give back with a focus on community service where we can share our faith through what we do?” One answer offered was that St Andrew’s is a safe place from which we go out into our lives, and perhaps there is some way we can live the gift of reconciliation by creating dialogue amongst ourselves and with communities that may be in conflict, showing that anger and defensiveness can be held without resorting to violence.

Not unexpectedly, worship came up as a focus. While we value the different focuses of our three Sunday Services, we acknowledged the importance of always being welcoming of whoever attends. There was some thought that the Evening Service could focus on becoming Church Unusual, rather than Church as Usual! A rock band, opportunities for more interactive sermons, something different. A “Community Service” was suggested as a means of getting to know each other better, where we can talk with each other as well as worship.

We value being a family-focused Church at St Andrew’s, but questions were asked about where one fitted in if one didn’t fall into the “Family” demographic? What do we offer for single people, especially those under 50 who aren’t parents, younger folk who may not yet be professionals, older folk who may be divorced or widowed; where is the discourse for these various groups located? Home groups were mentioned as a possible response – and there are a few in the Parish -  and there is certainly room for the development of more groups as this is often a space where faith comes alive.

Our discussion also touched on our values, recognising that (obviously!) at St Andrew’s we hold to Christian values, but that we needed to be more explicit about those Christian values that are special to us, and in this light to make space for people to be welcome, and find ways to say, “You’re needed, wanted, included!” We need the courage to reach out, too, to our local community in an unthreatening manner, and it was suggested that advertising our activities through our Ministry to The Needy (MTN) to the Newlands community may be an avenue.

So as you can see our reflections were broad-ranging and engaging, and – as at least one person reflected – too brief! The purpose of our Annual “Volmoed Dialogue” is to have an opportunity to hear from each other, and there is no specific agenda for these conversations to impact in any special way on Church life. However, useful ideas do float to the surface, and it is likely at least some of it is Spirit-inspired. You may or may not have been present, but does any of the above strike a chord for you? Is there something you would like to see come to fruition? And if so, are you able to commit to helping us explore what this may mean for the way we do – or stop doing – things at St Andrew’s? If you wait for an invitation it may never materialise. Dawn and I have a sign at our front door: it says, “If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it!” This is your invitation!

Keep warm! Blessings,
Mark

Rector's Report to Annual Vestry 2017: St Andrew's Church, Newlands

“… if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.”
John 13:14 NRSV

Introduction

“Religion, War, Victory, Peace!” was the mantra of the ancient Roman Empire, which Rome didn’t claim to have invented, but did perfect; and every Empire before and after has sought to create “Peace through Victory!”  This ethos entered the Church early in our history, around the time of Constantine, and has been a dominant theme in world mission as  the Church grew on the back of Empire. Yet it is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, highlighted in the above quote from John 13, that calls God’s people to wash one another’s feet; and seen in Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount) where Jesus enjoins us to love our enemies. We are called to nurture peace, not through victory, but through service.

Our catchphrase as a Parish over the last couple of years, in essence a summary of our Mission Statement, has been “Serving each other; serving the World”: how are we doing with that? How are we serving? How are we washing feet? How have we been served? How have our feet been washed? When and where have we allowed others to wash our feet?

While Annual Vestry is all about reports, elections, and an opportunity to address matters that affect our future and common life, at the heart of these various conversations we need to explore our experience of God, recognising that we do so through each other: we are God’s hands; we are God’s feet. Our words may be God’s words to one another.

One of the desires that envisions our Building Project is to position ourselves as a community Church: a Church IN the community, SERVING the community. How are we doing with that? How have we washed the Bishop and his family’s feet? How have we washed Kildare Pre-Primary School’s feet? How have we washed Maitland Cottage Orthopaedic Hospital’s feet? How have we washed the feet of Creswell House? How have we washed the feet of the Newlands Volunteer Wildfire Services Base? How have we washed the feet of our neighbours in Kildare Road and across the Newlands Stream? How have we washed the feet of our neighbours in Newlands and beyond? How have we washed the feet of our neighbours who drop off and collect their children form the Pre-School each day? How have we washed one another’s feet as we come together for worship, prayer, Bible Study, fellowship and outreach?

You’ll find some of the answers – but not all – in the Churchwardens’, Finance, and Ministry to the Needy (MTN) reports. You’ll find the rest of the answers in your own and your neighbours’ experience.

Looking back: 2016

2016 has been a full and difficult year, and yet within the wider context of social, political, and economic struggle and the more intimate matrix of our personal joys and hardships, there is much to give thanks for in our Parish life. My personal thanks to each one of you for the manner in which we have been able to create space for God’s love to be manifest in us and through us. There are many of you for whom I am especially thankful because your efforts have stood out; there are others for whom I am also extremely grateful, but I don’t know who you are because you have quietly been about God’s business among us. Know that noticed or not, you have helped grow God’s Kingdom in our world: thank you! In particular my thanks to our Churchwardens, to Roger, Rosemary, and Michael (our alternate), for your support, wisdom and leadership; and to our Parish Secretary, Bev, who works absolute miracles everyday in keeping us all on track in an office that more commonly reflects a railway station and storage unit, and demands a broad skill-set! Special thanks to Dawn who gives me incredible support while dealing with all the challenges of being a Clergy spouse, which includes an expectation of omnipresence from parishioners: if you don’t see her around, know she is hard at work ensuring we have food on the table and the possibility of a reasonable retirement one day; or she may just be on the beach, basking in God’s wonderful creation.

Big moments in 2016 included the opportunity to welcome Stephen Middelkoop on board again, together with his family, and the additional gifts he is able to provide, complementing the wonderful ministry Bishop Geoff and Denise Ackermann continue to offer us. We completed the major task of replacing the waterproofing material on the Church roof; and internally, the Lady Chapel at last has new furnishings – a projected initiated before I was appointed as Rector – paid for by a number of bequests, as well a substantial gift from the Bean family in memory of Frances.

Looking forward: 2017

2017 has begun well, and fast! We welcome both Elizabeth Cherry and Jess Gwynne-Evans onto the staff: already they are impacting the lives of our young people. We are thankful for the foundation Janine and William Tough, together with Raymond Quinlan, have laid down over the last few years in this area and wish them well as they explore different opportunities for ministry in this community. It’s wonderful to still have the St Cyprian’s Boarders join us on a Sunday evening, and they continue to add a positive dynamic to our evening service. We welcome Jo Griffiths, the new Kildare Pre-Primary School Principal, to our wider community and look forward to the new energy she will bring to our relationship with the School. We’re thankful for the new opportunity the Chomi Pack initiative brings to our involvement with Maitland Cottage Orthopaedic Hospital across the road, and the invitation to offer a more formal Chaplaincy to that institution. God has blessed us with the core triangle of traditional mission in this area of Cape Town: spirituality, education, and health-care .

Our Building Project

Our Building Project looms large on our horizon for this year. We have been aware, since our Annual Vestry in 2015, that we have set ourselves a significant challenge in raising sufficient funds in order to bring this visionary plan to fruition. Best business practice informs us that we have taken on an impossible task, but we are not a business: we are a Church. We serve the God of the impossible . If the Diocese of Cape Town had followed best business practice in the late 1960’s then St Andrew’s Church and this school facility would have been sold off had it not been for the commitment of Barry de Villiers, with Sam Johnson’s help, to ensure the Church was open for prayer on a daily basis, and the belief of the wider Johnson family and others – in the midst of the devastation caused by the forced removals of that time – that the community would rebuild in time to come. The School building exists because of Canon Samuel Hinchliff’s vision of consolidating the Parish commitment to education (going back at least to the early 1900’s, if not earlier) on this site. You and I sit here today, more than fifty years later, because these people implemented a seemingly impossible vision. In another fifty years we want an Annual Vestry to meet in the new Church Hall and reflect thankfully on our courage to be faithful to this visionary plan in our time.

Subsequent to our Annual Vestry meeting in March 2016, the Gabriël Fagan Architects advised that we submit plans to the City of Cape Town for the full project, not just the first phase, as the full project needs to be tested as there are possible parking concerns, for which the Architects are confident an offset can be obtained. Parish Council put the process on hold while the Fundraising Committee did some hard work; work which continues. Parish Council at their meeting in November, after receiving a report from this committee that sufficient funds are available to do the preliminary clearance work (including the relocation of the garages) and the renovation and relocation of the school, agreed that the process of application to the city of Cape Town continue. The Architects have been advised to prepare the necessary plans and documentation and to submit the plans to the City of Cape Town on our behalf. The Diocese has approved the entire project and given permission for the first phase to go ahead, with the assurance that as funds become available we may approach the Diocesan Trusts’ Board for permission to continue with the subsequent phases. We have invested almost R334,000 so far in Architects Fees (our previous Architects and now Gabriël Fagan).

While we are a Church and not a business, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to take reality into account, and Parish Council has been very aware of this in their deliberations. Our fundraising efforts only really got off the ground mid-2016. Our interaction with Kildare Pre-Primary School around a new lease and their contribution was put on hold when Margie Froud resigned as Principal mid-2016, and this has been revitalised with the advent of Jo Griffiths as the new Principal in January this year. The Parish Council (in June 2016) has given Kildare Pre-Primary School a commitment to sign a ten-year lease. Avenues towards raising sufficient funds have not yet been exhausted, and further time is required to explore our options with the plan as it stands at present. At the beginning of 2015 we had R2,000,000 in our New Building Fund: this has doubled, with a substantial amount coming in over the last six months. If we can double this again over the next eighteen months, we will be on a winning wicket. It is my fervent hope that this Annual Vestry will continue to allow Parish Council this scope.

Same-sex Unions

Another issue that faces us in 2017 is the ongoing impasse in the wider Anglican Communion around sexuality and gender, and while this may seem a somewhat distant debate it is relevant to us. Two loved and respected members of this Parish, who are in a same-sex relationship, are engaged to enter into a Civil Union towards the end of this year. Their heartache and mine is that their desire to have their union formally blessed in the Church in which they regularly worship is denied them due to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) holding firmly to the wider Anglican Communion moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions. At the Provincial Synod in 2016 it was abundantly clear that this is unlikely to change anytime soon with over 75% of our Bishop’s voting to maintain the status quo, a stance backed strongly by the Laity present, and somewhat less strongly by the Clergy. One glimmer of light is that at a recent Synod of the Church of England members voted to “not take note” of a report of their Bishops to essentially maintain the status quo. Our upcoming Diocesan Synod in August will give us an opportunity to explore local attitudes to this issue, but until ACSA has the courage to be truly inclusive and to reject this discriminatory practise there are at least two people among us who experience the effect of this bigotry and the consequential pain and heartache that accompanies it. I plead that we find tangible ways to demonstrate God’s acceptance and love for this couple, and for other individuals and couples of the LGBTI+ community who regularly worship beside us in the pews of St Andrew’s.

In Conclusion

This is my fourth report to Annual Vestry. In it I have sought to give some direction in at least two important areas that affect our common life. I am aware that my position as Rector gives me a “loud voice”, and I’m sure that before the evening is out, we will hear from other voices that speak loudly among us. Being loud is not about volume, but about perceived influence, and my sense – and I may be wrong – is that in previous meetings some have been nervous to speak, either due to a perception that your voice may lack sufficient influence, or that somehow you may be victimised for expressing a different opinion. Generally those of us perceived to have loud voices are only sheep in wolves clothing, so please don’t be afraid to speak your mind as your words may be God’s words; and your silence may silence God.

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NRSV

MARK R D LONG
Rector
6 March 2017

Summer Newsletter 2016: Article

Dear Friends

Come and See

John the Baptist’s disciple, Andrew, is invited by Jesus to “Come and see”. We were reminded of this invitation as we began Advent this year with the celebration of St Andrew’s Day. It is an invitation to each of us as we journey through Advent, preparing to embrace once again the extraordinary gift of God’s self in the birth and life of Jesus. Extraordinary, yet ordinary: an event that over two millenia later we still struggle to find words and images that make full sense of it. Jesus’ words, “Come and see” remind us that it is not ultimately about words and finely tuned doctrines of faith, but about participation and immersion in the moment and in the relationship. “Come and see” is an invitation to explore, to experience, to know and to understand in a space beyond words and concepts, beyond theories and theologies, in the wonder created by birth and new life. It is about expectation, healing, and hope.

There are implications to accepting an invitation, especially one to “Come and see”, and especially if one responds with expectation. We respond out of our context, out of our desire for healing and wholeness, and out of our desire to make a difference. The New Zealand Prayer Book contains a wonderful Maori version of the Lord’s Prayer, which includes these words:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

These words reflect something of the implications for those of us who seek to respond to Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see”, and for those whom we invite – as Andrew did Simon Peter – to join us in this exploration of relationship with the Creator, Restorer, and Sustainer of life. There is a deep desire in the common heart of humanity for wholeness, for life and relationships filled with peace and freedom, with justice. To “Come and see” is to be reminded that in God we are able to find the strength and vitality to participate in making this God-given longing a reality in our world, in the spaces in which we have influence and in the context of our daily relationships with family and friends, with colleagues and neighbours, with strangers.

And so may this Advent that flows into the Christmas Season and the New Year be one in which we find the willingness to “Come and see”, and the courage to invite others to join us in this journey of life and faith.

Blessings
Mark

Spring Newsletter 2016: Article

Dear Friends

More than Stone: Laying the Foundation for the Future

Our Common Commitment

How do we meaningfully serve each other and serve the world? This is a question that is brought into sharp focus as we consider our proposed building project. We had a wonderful Fundraising launch in August, and our common commitment to this is important. The numbers are big, but so is the vision. I’m reminded that it was only when the Israelites put their feet into the waters of the flooding Jordan River opposite Jericho that the mudslides happened further upriver, creating dry ground for the Israelites to cross-over and make tangible the vision that had held generation after generation enthralled since God first made the promise to Abraham. Had they not had the courage to put their feet in the water, the vision of the Promised Land would have remained what it had been for generations: just a vision.

Our Journey

Similarly, our proposed building project has been around awhile: Liz Murray remembers seeds of a discussion while she was Churchwarden. It has gained some form over the last few years: we have committed R190,000 to the project so far, which includes the initial plans by Austin Architects and the present plans from Fagan Architects, as well as an Environmental Impact Assessment. The project is now ready to be birthed, and requires us to take the next step of applying to the City of Cape Town for approval. The present estimated cost of R10,000,000 sees the project completed by the end of 2018. The Diocese has given the go-ahead for the first phase, and provided we have a financial plan in place to complete it, for the whole project.

Engaging Courageously

There is always a choice: we can have courage, and put our feet into the flooding river; or we can continue to wander in the desert (as the Israelites did for over forty years), watching and waiting, to end up only renovating what we have, leaving no new legacy for future generations. What do we choose?

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9; NRSV)

And so I am wondering where the Fundraising pamphlets are that we received at the Church door? Are they gathering dust in a “I should do something about that sometime” pile, or perhaps in the file 13? Or have we acted by making our contribution or indicating what this may be over a period of time? Have we had the courage to pass the pamphlet on to a family member, a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance?
I’ve put the digital version on the Church Facebook page and shared it with my extensive Facebook network; and handed out pamphlets to some of my colleagues. I know of a parishioner whose aim is to raise R25,000: he pesters his fellow-golfers, and has emailed his friends, one of whom sent in R5,000 to purchase a Sandstone block, and some of whom have given him R100 to go away! Another parishioner arrived in the Parish Office with some beautifully hand-knitted jerseys and gloves for us to sell towards the purchase of a block. Other parishioners have put sizable donations into our Church Bank account, or donated via the GivenGain website. What is your story? What are you doing? Please let us know!

Our Challenge

There is (of course) the issue of the amount of money required for this project, and I see this concern lurking in the back of our minds, and the obvious question: “Should we be spending this sort of money on ourselves?” There is no easy answer except perhaps to reflect on our sphere of influence as St Andrew’s Church in Newlands, and how this may be extended through our building project to benefit our extensive outreach projects. The School rent has enabled us to provide the equivalent of R2 million in today’s money in bursaries for tertiary education to people in less-privileged communities in the wider Cape Town over the past ten years. The more attractive and accessible our Hall and meeting rooms are to the broader Newlands community, the greater the opportunities will be to partner with the local community in our outreach projects and Christian mission, expanding our circle of influence and our access to local resources. This building project will provide us with a significant renewed base from which we can continue our Christian mission in Newlands and beyond, and will of course benefit future generations of those who live and worship in this space.

Are we willing to trust that there is reason – purpose – that for more than a decade this vision has held, has not gone away, and is now demanding our attention? Friends, let’s put our concerns, scepticism, and even fear aside. Let’s embrace this God-given opportunity and make it happen!

Blessings
Mark