Covid-19 and Prayer
Yesterday Archbishop Thabo Makgoba made “a renewed and urgent call for prayer after the news that coronavirus infections reached a new daily record high in South Africa on Wednesday.”
He said in a note to the Bishops of the Province: “The second wave of Covid-19 is harsher and fierce. It calls for us to be more vigilant and perhaps make a call to our respective dioceses for a day of prayer again or to intensify soaking our countries in prayer.” The Archbishop encouraged the use of the following prayers which he composed last year during the first wave of the pandemic. Let us use them regularly.
Daily noon-time prayer
God bless the world,
Give it wisdom at this time,
Grant us relief and release,
Be with those who are ill,
And bless the carers fighting this pandemic,
For Jesus Christ’s sake,
Prayer to conclude worship
Lord God, in this season of fear and uncertainty,
as we face the threat of the coronavirus,
Grant us the wisdom and determination to walk in one another’s shoes,
The confidence and the humility to draw closer to you and to those affected,
Empower us to pastor those who are ill, to weep for the dead, to support the healers and to care for and love one another.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always.
Praying for one another
Some of our members have had Covid and have recovered, some continue to struggle with it. This past week I have been aware of some of our members who have lost family members and close friends. Let us continue to pray for one another.
On Sunday I communicated that Timothy Nsereko, a lay minister, was very ill in Uganda. Thankfully his health has been improving.
Gifford Sparks, a retired lay minister, AGAIN tested positive for Covid-19.
Rest in Peace
We pray for the families of those who have passed on – both within the parish and beyond. Naureen Craig passed aware on Monday this week in Nazareth House. Some of you will remember her helping out in the church office. David Hughes was able to take her communion on her 90th birthday last month.
Parish member Thoko Elizabeth Gumede passed on on Tuesday this week. Her funeral is planned to take place at St Pauls towards the end of next week. Purley Samuels passed on this morning. See In Memoria
The following clergy from our Diocese have passed on this year. Revd Mvuyo Ndenze a Self-supporting Priest of the Cathedral Parish of the Holy Nativity (2nd January); Revd Tabitha Makhathini, Assistant Priest of the Chapelry of St John’s, Indaleni (1st January).
Dealing with Stress
In his Epiphany letter below the Archbishop offers some helpful tips in dealing with stress, something we are all feeling to some extent at this time. It is a topic we will revisit in the weeks ahead.
Electing a Bishop
This week the names of the candidates for our Diocesan Elective Assembly to be held on 5-6 February (virtually or in person) were made known. They are:
The Very Reverend Xolani Dlwati (Dean of Johannesburg)
and the following clergy of the diocese
The Revd Mlungisi Hadebe
The Revd Barnabas S Nqindi
The Revd Sithembiso Ntshangase
Call to Prayer for the Assembly
In the formal notice of the Assembly the Archbishop calls us to prayer: “[W]e counsel all within your Diocese to give themselves to prayer and fasting, as we shall not fail ourselves to do, so that being of one heart and of one mind, and drawing near to God with one voice, we may obtain from God, for the filling of this office, the blessed gift of a Ruler and Pastor stained by no fault, deserving no blame, but approved of Christ, accepted by people, who shall by his/her life and doctrine witness truly for his/her Lord, exercise godly discipline, feed in faith and love the flock committed to his/her care, and at length present it faultless before God whom he/she serves”.
Attendance and Electing
The Elective Assembly is attended by the following: the Archbishop, who presides over the Assembly; members elected by the Provincial Synod last year to the Advisory Committee with the right to speak but not to vote (they are really present as observers); all clergy licensed in our diocese (essentially stipendiary clergy only); two lay representatives per parish, elected at Parish Vestry meetings last year (Judo Saane and Raphael Mdepha are our reps); lay persons elected at the previous Synod of the Diocese to serve on the Advisory Committee. (The Chair of the Advisory Committee is Prof Bonke Dumisa.)
In the Assembly the candidates are each presented followed by discussion and voting (by secret ballot). To be elected bishop a candidate needs to receive two-thirds of the vote from both the laity AND the clergy (counted separately but voting at the same time). At any stage, by a two-thirds majority, the Elective Assembly may delegate the choice of a bishop to the Bishops of the Province. This is also what must happen if no candidate obtains a two-third majority of the vote from both the laity and the clergy. All proceedings are confidential.
Elective Assemblies will be held during February for the following dioceses: Kimberly and Kuruman (9-10th); Lesotho (16-17th); Zululand (19-20th). (For the Zululand Diocese the two candidates are currently priests in the Natal Diocese: The Revd Lewis Eisenhower Stevenson Gumede and The Revd Vikinduku Victor Mnculwane)
God bless you and your families in the New Year.
Yours in Christ
Revd Dr Andrew Warmback
Rector: St Paul’s, Durban
Saturday, 2 January 2021 – Ad Laos – to the People of God – A Message for Epiphany
Dear People of God,
2021 is more than a new year: it presents us with a new dawn. The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines will help return our country to a base of normalcy that will allow us to address the inequality of equality and the inequality of opportunities. But even before that, 2021 gives us the breathing room to reflect on the lessons we need to remember about the year we’d like to forget, 2020.
For a start, life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving unless we make the effort to become morally and emotionally stronger and mentally more resilient. At Christmas, I said that if nothing else, we need to stop and reflect seriously on “What have we learned about ourselves during this Covid-19 crisis?”
Firstly, I believe that we learnt that no one has proved tougher than South Africans. Sadness is often the result of thinking in one context and acting in another. During the pandemic, we learned that it is essential to acknowledge your thoughts, emotions, and circumstances for what they are, as they are, not as you wish them to be. We learnt about the importance of emotional resilience – as young people’s T-shirts say: “Stay Calm.”
We learned to tolerate uncomfortable feelings; to remember the importance of being authentic and true to yourself; that it’s okay to express what you feel and to ask for help. Announcing the Level Three lockdown, President Ramaphosa expressed his anguish for South Africa publicly and we are grateful for his gift of tears.
We also learned the need to be realistic, that bad things happen and although they are setbacks, they create the opportunity for comebacks. Comebacks happen when you don’t allow a crisis to steal your calm.
Lastly, despite what we faced, we learned always to feel gratitude. Jesus was always thankful and we can follow his example by focussing on what we have, not what we’ve lost. If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we must let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.
Opening the door to 2021 gives us a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily lives to realise what we dream of. God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. They have not fulfilled their promises. We need a New Struggle that gives to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life, to land, lodging and labour. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.
To come out of this crisis better, we must remember an essential truth, that as a people we have a shared destination. We all have scars from our Covid-19 experiences. Scars remind us where we’ve been. They don’t have to dictate where we are going because you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. My father always used to say to me, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” We are a nation of resilient souls. We have had to be, to get this far.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you to go on in spite of all. And so today, I still have a dream.”
My prayer for 2021 is to see a South Africa where the horrors of Covid-19 and the lessons we have learned about ourselves become the genesis of a realisation that we are all children of God, and begin to enjoy historic levels of the equality of equality and the equality of opportunity.
A closing thought: 2021 should be the dawning of a decade of trust. It is up to each of us to hold those we elect to public office accountable, able to demonstrate that they acknowledge that 2020 has closed a decade of distrust. Despite the hardships of this past year and past decade, 2021 demands that we stop focussing on self-preservation (the ME) and ask, “What can I do for my neighbour? What can I do for my community? What can I do for my country? How can I contribute to the benefit of the WE?”
From my family to yours, a very happy New Year. God bless you and your family. God loves you and do I.
†† Thabo Cape Town
We give thanks to those who have returned their giving envelopes for the past few months. Thanks too to those who are giving into the loose plate collection when they attend services. 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 enables us to continue to pay staff salaries, our assessment and most of our accounts. 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.)