This morning we share an article from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.
Monday, 16 November 2020
Ad Laos – to the People of God – November 2020
Dear People of God
As President Ramaphosa gave South Africans a timely warning last week to remain alert and prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus during the Christmas holiday season, I was at the same time reminded by the themes of hope and joy in Psalm 145 that we also need to look to the future beyond the pandemic.
Yes, it is true that Covid-19 infections are increasing in a number of areas, especially the Eastern Cape. And as other issues reduce the dominance of reporting on the virus on our TV screens and radio channels, we need to remember it is real and in our communities. We must please keep up the distancing, we must maintain health protocols, wear our masks and pray for equitable access to vaccines once they become available.
Yet I want to repeat what I said a couple of years ago – that social scientists caution us against too much focus on crisis, negativity and fear, since they can easily beget the very outcomes we seek to avoid. Both hope and joy are twinned in Psalm 145, and perhaps a good way to stare the pandemic in the face and ensure we flatten the curve is not to deny its impact, not to deny the science, but to look to a future promised by a God who has always, and will always, provide for our sustenance, even into that future.
In remaining hopeful, we need not discount the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the poor, who have in the main been those who have lost jobs and livelihoods. We must continue to intervene with relief measures even as we find ways of living joyfully and hopefully in the midst of the challenges we face: the emotional stress, the anxiety, the fatigue and the uncertainty. Looking back at the 234 days of lockdown, when last did you smile and laugh or talk about things such as care for others and for the environment?
There have been some differences in the way dioceses are dealing with singing hymns during worship. Our legal experts tell us us that there is some uncertainty in the law, so our advice is either not to allow congregations to sing, or to allow them to sing only wearing masks, observing the 1.5 metre distance rule and keeping to the legal limits on the number of worshippers. My advice is: If in doubt err on the side of safety, especially if older congregants insist on coming to church.
In recent weeks we have held innovative meetings on Microsoft Teams to take the steps required by Canon 4 to fill episcopal vacancies. I am happy to report that candidates have been nominated and I will make their names known soon. We are looking beyond the time of closed doors at how we can put episcopal leadership in the vacant dioceses to continue God’s mission in the world through God’s church.
Also in recent weeks, 37 of the 41 Primates of the Anglican Communion – the heads of the churches across the world, including those in Africa – have met online [Communique – PDF] to reflect on the impact of coronavirus at the Communion level and to receive an update on the Lambeth Conference of Bishops and their spouses in 2022. We welcomed plans for an 18-month process leading up to Lambeth which will be an ongoing “virtual” Anglican Congress, drawing in bishops and their spouses, young and old, lay and ordained, ahead of the face-to-face conference.
Discussing the work of the Communion’s Safe Church Commission, we re-committed ourselves to making the Church a safer place for all those who are vulnerable. We also heard stories of the impact of Covid-19 across the Communion and of new Provinces, the restructuring of the Anglican Communion Office in London and of the establishment of an Anglican Communion Science Commission, which will deal with matters of science and faith. We were addressed by senior World Health Organisation officials on Covid-19 and progress on a vaccine. The Archbishop of York, Dr Stephen Cottrell, briefed us on Living in Love and Faith, a new teaching resource from the Church of England designed to help discuss issues of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage in a biblical context.
Turning back to our own Province, we have declared the youth and Theological Education Sunday as priorities of our church, but declarations alone – important as they are – are no substitute for action. The parish is the basic unit of any diocese and of the Province, and as such we rely on you in the parishes to take such broad and general declarations and translate them into concrete action applicable to your own circumstances.
Please pray for our sisters and brothers in northern Mozambique, where more than 50 people have been reported beheaded in a vicious attack by militants on a village in Cabo Delgado province. We urge Mozambique’s government to act firmly to root out this form of terrorism, and for the international community to devote as much attention to this conflict as to others in the world. On a more positive note for ACSA, Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo reports good progress in setting up working committees to plan for new dioceses in Tete and the Púngue River area.
Lastly, following a decision of the Provincial Standing Committee, I am declaring through this Ad Laos that Lent 2021 will focus on combatting gender-based violence (GBV). The liaison bishop on GBV, Bishop Margaret Vertue, Hope Africa, the Provincial Liturgical Committee, the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission and their teams will provide us with more details and the necessary liturgies and study materials. A guide to some resources follows to help you devise contextually relevant material for your parishes and dioceses, and I commend to you the full PSC resolution on GBV for your prayers and action.
God bless you.
†† Thabo Cape Town
Guide to resources: https://anglicanchurchsa.org/16-days-of-activism-resources/