Letter from Revd Andrew to the People of St Pauls 11 September 2020

Greetings in Jesus’ name during this Season of Creation, Youth Month (in the Province of Southern Africa) and Heritage Month!

Sunday 13 September

Our preacher this Sunday is Revd Shaun Cozett.  Initially trained and worked as an environmentalist at UCT, he is based at St George’s Cathedral (Cape Town).

(There will be no Zoom service)

Season of Creation

The theme for this year’s Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope.”  On 1 September Pope Francis issued a message on this theme, part of which is below.  See full message here.

“In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared. The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.”

Throughout the Season of Creation Green Anglicans (the environment section of our Anglican Church in Southern Africa) offer services on their YouTube channel (“Green Anglicans”)

Services going forward

While infection rates appear to be falling we continue to urge everyone to be cautious and not to “let our guard down” so as to prevent “a second wave” of infections.

In their meeting on Tuesday next week the Parish Council will discuss the reopening of services in church at St Paul’s.  In the meantime we ask you to fill out this  “Google Form” so that we can get an indication of parishioners’ readiness to return to services. Please complete the form by Tuesday morning.

We all need to take note of the norms and standards that have been issued for all religious gatherings that we need to strictly follow.  In addition to the various health and safety precautions that we as a church need to undertake in arranging services the following precautions apply to those who will attend any service:

  • there must be a maximum of 50 persons at a time; personal contact between persons is strictly prohibited
  • there should be at least 1.5 meters social distancing
  • singing of hymns must be limited to soloist or pre-recorded performances
  • the name and contact details (address and telephone number) of persons attending worship  must be obtained, and kept in a register for at least 6 months
  • all attendees to use sanitizers upon entry and exit; no sharing of equipment, objects or books; social activities before, during and after religious services are strictly prohibited
  • all people must wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth
  • every person must be screened for symptoms associated with COVID-19 i.e. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • all persons must be required to report if they suffer the following prior or while at the place of worship: body aches, loss of smell or taste, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness
  • all people with prior symptoms noted above should not be permitted to enter a place of worship
  • all people who experience symptoms during worship should immediately be isolated and safely referred for medical examination and testing.

Martyr for Hope:  Bantu Stephen Biko

12 September, marks the anniversary of the death of Steve Biko. For the first time this year his commemoration is included in our lectionary.  At a time when racism continues to plague our society, it is helpful to remember Biko’s legacy. The following is part of the description given in the lectionary for him:

“Bantu Stephen Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist, intellectual, father of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), and martyr.  Being human and humane was a foundational ethic for Steve Biko.  At a time when South Africa was led by a white government, which marginalised people of other races, Biko worked to instil a sense of pride and identity in fellow Blacks.  He challenged the institutional church to be an instrument of human dignity and freedom.   He worked towards fulfilling a vision of a transformed South Africa and world….A lifelong Anglican, Biko had an ecumenical outlook and practiced explorative religious consciousness, especially with ideas from African culture and religion, and the politics of religions.  However, he engaged passionately in African liberation theology, in Christ-like justice and righteousness, and had a clear vision of a redemptive, compassionate God.  Biko clearly had as his inspiration the mystic-activism of the Christian faith seeking to embody a radical Christ-Presence in the works for the lives of all.”

Shaun Thabo Nodangala-Mncwabe

Yesterday the funeral for Shaun, who died in a car accident on 23 May, was held at St Pauls. For a picture of Shaun see our memoria page , where a virtual eternal flame burns.  Let us continue to pray for his mother, Portia, as she both recovers from the trauma of his death and her own injuries sustained in the car accident.

In Hospital

Please pray for Dawn Underhill and Irene Marchant who have returned to hospital.

Diocesan Finances 

In the in the interests of transparency and openness we have been keeping you informed of the ongoing developments in the Diocese.  The most recent letter is appended below.  You will see that the intention is to reduce the clergy numbers in the Diocese by about 38.  Concern is also expressed around the Mothers’ Union Conference facility.  We need to be aware that the Diocesan financial situation can impact negatively on local parishes.

 Giving

We are grateful to those who have continued to give their Planned Giving directly into the church bank account and to those who have also given loose plate collections and donations in this way.   This has enabled us to continue to pay staff salaries and our assessment. Please continue to give. (The St Paul’s banking details are: Account Name: St Paul’s Church; Account Number: 50854628623; Branch Code: 221426;  Bank: FNB.)

Words of Jesus

Come to me… and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

I will be with you always. (Matthew 28:20)

Follow me. (Mark 2:14)

Peace be with you. (Luke 24:36)

Yours in Christ

Revd Dr Andrew Warmback

Rector: St Paul’s, Durban

To: The Clergy of the Diocese of Natal

From: The Diocese of Natal Ways and Means Committee

Date: 28 August 2020

Re: Update following first meeting of the Committee

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Diocese of Natal Ways and Means Committee held its first virtual meeting on 21 August 2020. As mentioned in the Archbishop’s letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Natal, the Ways and Means Committee (Committee) is the body that has been put into place to look specifically at the number of clergy in the Diocese following the engagement of 40 additional clergy during the period 2016 and 2019. The engagement of these additional clergy has put significant strain on the diocese to the extent that there is unsupported payroll cost at a level of R10.8m per annum. Of these 40 additional clergy approximately 22 are clergy ordained following their return from College. It was considered by the committee as vital that there be good clear communication with all diocesan bodies and the clergy as to the work undertaken by the committee. It was hoped that regular communication would assist in dealing with some of the anxiety that had been the outcome of the Archbishop’s letter to clergy, and help, to some extent, with the fragmenting of the unity of the diocese as a whole.

The Committee, as its first order of business, discussed the terms of reference that had been drawn up for the committee. Following discussion it was agreed that the committee was specifically charged with looking at a process of reducing the clergy number in the diocese by approximately 38 to ease the pressure on the finances of the diocese. The issue of the restructuring of the diocese was part of the discussion. The restructuring would take the form of looking critically at the parishes making up the Diocese of Natal and beginning a process of twinning parishes, converting some parishes to chapelries, team ministry and in need, the closure of parishes that are no longer serving a meaningful purpose. It became apparent that parish boundaries also needed to be looked at urgently as this was often giving rise to ministry tensions. Overall this process was seen as a short to medium term process and would need to be handled internally by the Diocese of Natal and as such would not form part of the mandate of the Committee.

The Diocesan Secretary gave a detailed overview of the finances of the diocese looking at historical data and giving projections forward. It became clear that for many years the Diocesan Trusts’ Board had been subsidising the Central Fund and that in the last four years this support had escalated. If left unresolved the Diocese of Natal would run out of capital by 2025 and hence the reason to look at reducing the expenses of the diocese. In this regard the overall expenses of the diocese had been looked at in detail and some actions taken. These included a moratorium on the training of ordinands at the College of the Transfiguration for the next couple of years, and a hard look at the administration costs of the diocese, particularly in light of the two suffragan bishop vacancies. As a result of this process two lay staff members, who had provided support to one of the suffragan bishops, had been retrenched in 2020. The administration of the diocese is however lean and there is not a great deal of scope for reducing staff further without compromising the effectiveness of the administration.

It was felt that the situation facing the diocese needed to be disseminated broadly and to this end the financial data presented to the committee, and spoken to by the Diocesan Secretary, is attached to this memorandum for information purposes.

Other areas of expense that were looked at are as follows:

  • The number of Archdeacons. The cost of archdeacons is a factor in the overall cost of diocesan administration and some thought was needed to look at the model and whether the diocese would be better served in having executive archdeacons who could be more focused on their role without parish commitments;
  • The number of paid Lay Evangelists needed to be looked at critically as the role that was played by them was akin to an unpaid lay minister and there was no over-sight on their activities;
  • The possible closure and sale of the Greyville property was an avenue that the diocese needed to work on urgently. It may be possible to relocate the administration performed on this property to another suitable site in the Durban area;
  • The income derived from rental property also needed to be reviewed. It was noted that the rental income derived was reported as part of the annual financial statements but in the light of the crisis facing the diocese, identification of property that may be suitable for generating income needed to be a priority. To this end property terriers needed to be brought up to date with clear details on which properties were generating income and which additional properties could be looked at development/rental;

It was acknowledged that the expanded payroll cost was not the only issue facing the finances of the diocese. On the income side there are also challenges. Despite a reduction in the 2020 budget parish assessments, the income from the parishes had been below budget from the beginning of the year and since April 2020 COVID-19 had only worsened the income streams. In looking at the poor income flows a number of areas of concern were highlighted and are as follows:

  • The growing number of parishes that had, or were looking to acquire PBO status. This had the effect of diverting parish income into PBO activities and, depending on the registration, would allow s18A certificates to be issued thereby allowing for tax allowable deductions;
  • The approval of the Mother’s Union conference facility was also drawing funds from parishes to the extent of R1000 per month contribution by members towards the cost of the facility;
  • It was acknowledged that there were underlying reasons for poor parish income. Not all placements made were ideal and that the process of placements needed to be more deliberate, with a view to matching the placement with parish so that there was synergy rather than, as often happened, conflict, which compromised income. During the course of this process it was requested of Chapter that placements be put on hold until the end of December.
  • The handling of the crisis in the diocese had been poor to the extent that it had simply not dealt with the issue decisively. Broadly, Anglicans tended to ‘vote with their pockets’ when there is unhappiness in the diocese/parish and this aspect could be part of the reason for the reduction in giving.

Whilst there are many ancillary issues affecting both income and expenses these were the key outcomes of the discussions held.

Turning to the reduction of clergy in the diocese, this was broken up into two distinct discussion areas. Clergy older than 60 years of age who could be approached to consider early retirement and the identification of clergy who could be offered for placement in other dioceses and, if unplaced, considered for retrenchment.

In terms of the clergy older than 60 years of age who could be approached for early retirement, work had been done on this by the Committee Chair in his capacity as Principal Officer of the two pension funds. The extent of this was looking at the cost of removing the early retirement penalties, a cost that would be borne by the diocese.

The clergy falling into the 60+ category comprised 22 stipendiary clergy of the Diocese. Considerations in this grouping was the amount of notice required to be given, the issue of retirement housing and the mechanism for dealing with leave due, both annual and accumulated. The Diocesan Registrar gave input and confirmed that in terms of leave the Acts of the Diocese were clear, leave could not be paid out and would need to be taken. The notice period required was confirmed at 3 months’ notice. The issue of retirement housing was also discussed and the Diocesan Secretary provided details of accommodation available in the diocese.

Following lengthy discussion it was agreed that the Chair be authorsied to approach the 60+ clergy to open discussions around early retirement. This needed to be handled quickly and to this end the Chair would contact the affected clergy and arrange one on one meetings in Natal in the next two weeks.

The identification of the clergy to be considered for placement in other dioceses was debated at length. The Registrar gave input in terms of the Canons of the Church but also spoke to the Labour Relations Act (LRA). It was acknowledged that the LRA was a good, fair piece of legislation and that any consideration in terms of a retrenchment process needed to follow the LRA guidelines as closely as possible, whilst not losing sight of the Canons, to ensure that there was fairness to both parties. The agreed initial identification of clergy falling into this category was to be based on the ‘last in, first out’ principle and to this end the Diocesan Administrator was asked to draw up a list of clergy falling into this category for the period 2016 to 2019 excluding clergy returning from the College of Transfiguration and ordained during these years. A small group of the Committee would look at the names, once provided, and recommended a short list to the next sitting of the Committee for consideration. It should be noted that the ‘last in, first out’ principle is only a first step in identifying clergy who may be considered for placement elsewhere but that this process could be overlaid with operational considerations.

There were a number of take outs of this meeting and it was important that these were not lost and that these be dealt with by different diocesan bodies as part of the overall response to the crisis facing the diocese. These are as follows:

  • The issue of the Lay Evangelists needed to be dealt with. It was not clear who had oversight of this body of personnel but in the end this was referred to Diocesan Chapter for engagement;
  • The reported growth in PBO’s and NPO’s in the diocese was referred to the Diocesan Trusts’ Board. The DTB would compile a list and interrogate the rationale for the creation of these entities and the effect on parish income. The DTB would also look to amending legislation to require DTB approval before a parish began this process;
  • The suggestion that Executive Archdeacons be considered was referred to DTB with view that this be considered as a management change for the future and perhaps form part of the Diocesan profile in the lead up to the election of a Diocesan Bishop. This would also need to be approved at Synod;
  • The issue of diocesan property and the optimal use thereof and together with the terrier of property and rental properties was referred to DTB for further action;
  • Diocesan Trusts’ Board were tasked with reviewing the decision around the Mother’s Union conference facility and the impact that the funding of this was having on the Diocese as a whole;
  • An investigation into the failure of parishes to pay assessments in full was referred to DTB to initiate.

The next meeting of the committee would be around mid-September to allow time for the various initiatives to be dealt with.

The Chair was tasked with engaging with the Archbishop regarding the possibility of a Zoom/Teams meeting either with Chapter or the clergy of the Diocese.

The Committee were of a mind that communication throughout this process was vital and as a body committed themselves to frank and open communication with the clergy of the Diocese of Natal, Diocesan Trusts’ Board and Chapter. There would perhaps be a need for an ad clerum to the wider diocese but this would be discussed at the next meeting.

Signed for and on behalf of the Ways and Means Committee,

The Very Revd Ndabezinhle Sibisi

The Dean/Vicar-General

The Diocese of Natal