Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops
On Easter Monday I had a wonderful discussion with the youth of our Province, from Angola to South Africa to Mozambique, which they joined on the Zoom video-conference facility.
The young people, including those involved with the Provincial Youth Council and the Anglican Students’ Federation, as well as others, were exuberant and irreverent, demonstrating a sense of purpose and energy. They believe this time of the coronavirus will come and it will go, and that it will in the end be resolved. I was also touched by a number of their concerns – for example, that priests will continue to be paid despite lockdowns, and that parishioners ought to keep up their giving.
I have been very disturbed by the photos circulating in the media of brutal treatment of people by the security forces in South Africa during the lockdown. They have a difficult job to do, and we praise them and appreciate them when they do well. But I am pained when people’s rights are trampled on by the army, and I call on the SANDF to ensure that their troops behave humanely.
The worst reports have come from Alexandra in Johannesburg, where I grew up, and the scenes there evoke bad memories of police and army abuses there in the 1970s and 1980s. When I see them, much as I want to maintain hope, I shiver inside with fear because I know that such behaviour can trigger unintended consequences. The rule of law remains the rule of law, even in a crisis.
I want to thank Bishop Charles May for representing me at a meeting which the South African Council of Churches had with President Ramaphosa in recent days. The SACC is in the process of compiling valuable recommendations for both short- and long-term responses to our situation, and must be commended for their work. Many of you will have received details via MyAnglican of their new website, coronachurch.org.za which has useful and accurate information on the pandemic in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages.
As the Season of Easter begins and we move towards Low Sunday, I want to make a renewed call for us never to tire of praying. Often at a time of trauma, we first go through a stage of disbelief, and then of despair. But let’s keep on focussing, as the youth did, on the fact that even this shall pass.
Thank you to those who have voiced your concern about me looking after myself. As we look ahead, I am inspired how the Psalmist throughout the Psalms often starts out by lamenting, then remonstrates with God, then petitions God, and finally ends up thanking and praising God.
I want us to look at that formula, and say, “Yes, we are going through difficult times, yes, this is a virus which can spread exponentially and will get worse before it gets better, but must we thank God for all those who are working to overcome the disease and for the fact that its spread is not as bad as it could have been.”
We should also look ahead to life after lockdown, and to a time when I believe we should arrange huge thanksgiving events and services, acknowledging that mistakes have been made, that people have struggled with grief and loss, that people have gone hungry, but that when we thought we were alone, God through his mercy and grace was walking with us and continues to walk with us. And I hope such thanksgiving will happen annually, into perpetuity.
Two final notes:
- The Consecration service of Bishop-elect Joshua Louw as Bishop of Table Bay has been postponed to a date yet to be decided;
- A very happy birthday to Professor John Suggit, that theological powerhouse in our Church, who turned 98 today. Yes, 98! What a blessing he has been and remains for our Church over many generations.