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Ad Laos - to the People of God - Advent 2016

Dear People of God

As I was completing this letter, news came in from Bishop Manuel Ernesto of
the Diocese of Niassa that 60 people were reported killed, more than 100
injured and many are still missing after a fuel tanker travelling from Beira to
southern Malawi exploded while on a road in the community of Cafrisange in the
central province of Tete. Bishop Manuel asks us all to pray for Archdeacon
Martins Nselela and his team in Tete as they minister to the families affected.

In recent weeks, I have preached at a number of celebrations in the Province,
going on consecutive Sundays to Bloemfontein for the 150th anniversary of the
Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael, to All Saints, Durbanville in the
Diocese of Saldanha Bay for their 160th anniversary and, close to home, to confirmations
in the Parish of Wynberg in the Diocese of Cape Town. Looking at both the long
history of the Church in Southern Africa - including the joys and the crises we
have seen over the past century and a half - and the vibrant life I see not only
in these parishes but in other visits across the Province, I am filled with a
renewed appreciation of the power of grace and the resurrection life in the

    In the Diocese of the Free State, I called for Anglicans and
others across South Africa to soak the country in vigils of silent prayer to
lament the state of our nation in these times. I did so using the concept of
lament as expressed by Denise Ackermann, who has written that lamenting '...is
a refusal to settle for the way things are. It is reminding God that the human
situation is not as it should be and that God as the partner in the covenant
must act.'  My call was that we draw on God's power to help us strive so that in
all our different contexts, and in all our dealings with others, human dignity should
be upheld, justice ensured, equality advanced and moral courage promoted. My
appeal was for us to rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just South Africa
which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy and to work and pray to
bring that about.

    In Cape Town, a large group of us held the vigil publicly on
the steps of St George's Cathedral, where I was struck by questions around the
goal and meaning of life in the broader sense, particularly for those of us who
are baptised in the name of Christ. Again and again, the need to address these
issues with 'faith and courage'  seem to undergird this wrestling with and
finding answers to the deeper questions of our lives. (You can find the
prayer which I used on the Cathedral steps at the end of this letter. Please
feel free to use and adapt it to your own needs.)

    Our world has experienced great challenges in the past year.
Our brothers and sisters in South Sudan, northern Nigeria, Burundi, the DR
Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia have gone through times of desolation, suffering
from political conflict, war, the threat of war, human rights violations and
drought. Withdrawals from the International Criminal Court by South Africa,
Burundi and Gambia give power to dictators and threaten to rob millions of ordinary
Africans of any recourse to justice. The results of the American election have
shocked many and it is deeply disturbing to see the emergence of acts of hate
in its aftermath, including the daubing of racist, anti-immigrant slogans on
our sister churches there.

    In South Africa, the tensions and conflict on our campuses
continue. At the meeting of the Synod of Bishops in September, we heard input
from a number of university vice-chancellors on the  #FeesMustFall crisis.
As bishops we decided that we needed to move 'from the monastery to the
marketplace'  in caring for the students, parents, academic staff, university
administrations and law enforcement services affected by the serious breakdown
of academic activity in the universities. Recognising that the crisis has its
origin in the inequalities of the past, we called for urgent action to be taken
to address it and offered the ministry of the church to those who are seeking a

    The Anglican Board of Education is recommending that
Education Sunday 2017, the first Sunday in February (February 5), should be
dedicated to speaking to the crisis and to prayer for students, teachers and
parents at our tertiary institutions. Students are looking to the Church and to
their parents for our presence, our prayers and our support. For the sake of
our futures we dare not fail them. Let us call to mind John 1:5 The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

    I was reminded of this biblical passage by Mayor Patricia de
Lille of Cape Town recently, when she conferred on Archbishop Emeritus
Njongonkulu Ndungane the Freedom of the City of Cape Town. Honouring him, she
described him as a source of light for us all. Our heartiest congratulations to
Archbishop Njongo on this signal honour.

    I have asked a few retired bishops of our Province to draft
Bible studies for Lent 2017 around the theme of the biblical basis of Anglican
social teaching. I recommend these as a resource enabling us to study, pray and
act together. Provincial Synod has declared this a season of the Decade of
Evangelisation and the youth have asked that we declare 2017 the 'Year of the
Young'.  On behalf of Provincial Synod, I declare it as such, and Anglican Youth
and the Anglican Students' Federation will provide us with material after
Easter next year for us to study and pray over as we focus on the young.

you have not yet prepared a Bible study programme for Advent, I urge you to
consider adopting a useful study on the story of Boaz in the light of the
growing phenomenon of 'blessers' who are - simply put - wealthy elderly men who
lure young township girls in need into abusive relationships. It has been
prepared by Gerald West and Bev Haddad of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Otherwise, do create an opportunity to use the study next year.

    The Advent I will again be sharing a series of weekly
homilies, which I will record on audion and distribute through our SoundCloud
for people to listen to on the internet and download on their
mobile phones. The Advent period never fails to create the spiritual as well as
the biblical framework for me to ask these deeper questions, to lament and
finally to get to appreciate deeply and to value more dearly the hope of
Christmas, not as another story but as a very personal and specific life-giving

want to say that whatever the challenges or sense of darkness you may have felt
or be feeling this year, know that Christ the hope and light of the world has
been there illuming your path. As you work through Advent to the celebration of
Christmas, may you, to borrow a phrase from Advent's sister season, Lent, 'bury
the past in ashes.' Remember that we are people of the Resurrection and are
called to spread Christ, the hope of the world, this Christmas, Epiphany and

    Thank you all for your prayers, your messages, your tweets,
your Facebook posts, your letters, your jokes and your confrontations over the
past year. I feel surrounded and enveloped in these, and especially by your
prayers in whatever I do. I pray that you too will continue to feel my humble
prayers for each one of you. To all the Bishops of the Province, to their
clergy and staff and to all who help and advise us, a big thank you.

May you all enjoy a blessed and happy Christmas.

God bless you

+ Thabo Cape Town

A lament for our beloved country

Lord, where are you in these trying and challenging times and amidst these great developments in our country?
Shakespeare said: 'Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.'
Lord, we are living through a time of acute misery, amidst an unprecedented political crisis.
Lord, we know though that South Africa is not broken;
Because notwithstanding this orchestrated attack on the foundations of our country, we remain a constitutional democracy;
Our judicial system remains intact and plays a critical role in protecting these foundations.
We are thankful for this, Lord, and we are determined to work to maintain this.
Today, we gathered in silence at the footsteps of your Cathedral, asking you Lord to speak to us and help us discern your will for us.
While we cannot change the past, we must change the future. As South Africans we must hold ourselves up to a higher standard.
We are your children and the children of giants such as Nelson Mandela.
We long for a just, equal, fair and a moral and values-based state, which we know is possible to achieve in Africa.
Lord, we cannot afford the luxury of corruption, quarrelling and never-ending internal strife. We know there is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen!
We know Lord your that you have destined us to be a great society, an infinitely capable society, a hard-working society, a society which has the right to expect something from life.
We refuse to be a society in which, no matter how hard we work, the fruits of our labour are often corruptly stolen from us.
On this All Souls Day, what we see, what we feel, what we know, is that there is a New Struggle that every group in South Africa is beginning to embrace, a New Struggle to end inequality, a New Struggle to end the inequality of opportunity.
So above all, we express our renewed faith in you, God, in our society and in the outstanding, industrious, hard-working and decent people who call themselves South Africans.
We express our faith that this society will have a bright future, because it is we who will ensure that future, and we commit ourselves to pray and to work for such a future.
Our destiny is not a matter of chance, God, it is a matter of choice, your choice, our choice.
God bless you and God bless South Africa. Amen

Posted: 2016/11/24 (08:54:12 AM)

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