Dear People of St Paul’s
Greetings in Jesus’ name on this Ascension Day.
After the Resurrection Jesus appeared to his followers a number of times and spoke to them about the Kingdom (or reign) of God. It was after this period of 40 days that his Ascension took place. He entrusted his disciples with the mission to continue his work through the power of the Holy Spirit, which would come upon them at Pentecost. So we celebrate God’s continued presence and work through us.
The Archdeaconry Ascension Day service this year is hosted by St Thomas’ Church. One of our lay ministers, Linn Matsebula, reads the gospel. The preacher is Revd Vernon Hammond. Here is the YouTube link to this service.
Ascension Day Collect
your ascended Son fills the entire universe:
strengthen our witness that all may acknowledge his reign;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Ascension to Pentecost 21 May to 31 May
This period is a special time for prayer. I mention two initiatives:
The “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”. While in some countries the focus is during the week towards the end of January, the focus in South African is in this current time. While not producing specific resources for this year, the Church Unity Commission provides general prayers and liturgy for this focus on unity of the churches.
The “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer initiative, started a few years ago by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is also held during this time: “Now in its fifth year, the movement began as a call to prayer for evangelisation within the Anglican Communion in the period from Ascension to Pentecost, but now draws thousands of Christians together, across different denominations and traditions, to pray for their friends, family and neighbours to come to know the love of Jesus.” See their website for resources.
Anglican Communion Sunday 24 May
In our lectionary this Sunday is Anglican Communion Sunday. For more on this day and the Anglican Communion
No church services: See in the Archbishop’s letter below about negotiations with government about the possibility of churches reopening. For the foreseeable future we will not be holding church services.
Parish Council: The Council met this week, via Zoom, to deal particularly with matters that affect us during lockdown, including security, staff and finances.
Confirmation: When we advertised confirmation preparation classes at the beginning of the year a few people responded. We will start the preparation “on-line”. If there are any others who would like to join these classes please tell me by the end of this month. In terms of diocesan guidelines, those considered for Confirmation need to be at least already 15 years old, or turning 15 this year.
Daphne Huet: One of our members, Daphne Huet, 89, died on Monday this week. We give thanks to God for her life and pray for her daughter, Carol, and family, including her niece, Shirley Dickson. I have obtained a permit to conduct the funeral service tomorrow at St Gabriel’s Anglican Church, Wentworth. Only family members will attend.
Blog: We have started on our website a “blog” called “Reflections during the Pandemic.” The first contributor is one of our lay preachers, Zoh Mdhladhla, with an article called “Lockdown in townships – Level 5 or 1 it’s the same!!” We plan to have weekly contributions to this “blog”.
Finances: 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 in this way. (The St Paul’s banking details are: Account Name: St Paul’s Church; Account Number: 50854628623; Branch Code: 221426; Bank: FNB.)
Pentecost Offering: A reminder of the appeal made by the church wardens for this offering for our assistant priest, Revd Mduduzi Mathe. Please give generously. “Pentecost (on 31 May) provides us with an opportunity to express appreciation for our assistant priest, Revd Mduduzi Mathe, for his ministry among us at St Paul’s. The Church Wardens invite you to make your contribution directly into his bank account. The details are as follows: Bank: FNB; Account Number: 62064028220; Branch Code: 250655; Account Holder: M Mathe”
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7).
Yours in Christ
Revd Dr Andrew Warmback
Rector: St Pauls, Durban
LATEST LETTER FROM THE ARCHBISHOP 18 MAY
Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops
With no end in sight to coronavirus lockdowns, we are having to plan ahead for Provincial meetings to take place online. Already, retired bishops are communicating on WhatsApp, as are members of the Synod of Bishops. Other groups are being encouraged to connect and pray together online, and Liaison Bishops are meeting with bodies such as the youth, Provincial organisations and the like.
Now our legal team, the Provincial Executive Officer, the Ven Horace Arenz, and the Provincial Treasurer, Rob Rogerson, have worked out a way in which we can hold “virtual” meetings of the Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee in September. More planning for the PSC will take place in an online meeting of its Service Committee this week.
As South Africa enters a new level of lockdown, we face a difficult path ahead. We are having to adjust to the reality that the virus will be with us for a long while to come, and that to balance the need to save people’s lives with the necessity of preserving their livelihoods, we have to relax some of the restrictions – even as the epidemiologists are projecting an increase in Covid-19 cases that will likely peak in late August or early September.
As two of our leading experts, Professor Salim Abdool Karim and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, said recently, there is no way of stopping the virus from spreading. Instead, they warn, we have to find a way to live with outbreaks, trying to “flatten the curve” when they happen, while the government adjusts lockdown levels as part of a risk-adjusted approach to mitigate their effects. As President Ramaphosa said in his latest address to the nation, adjustments will be made according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infections.
For the Church, learning to live with the coronavirus means developing our own risk-adjusted approach to returning to worship. Over recent weeks, I have been heading a task team of church leaders put together by the SA Council of Churches which has done a thorough examination of when and how we can reopen our churches. The SACC has had constructive encounters with government, at which we have been represented by our bishops in the Gauteng dioceses, and we look forward to an agreement on the conditions under which we can open our doors again. We cannot stay in lockdown in perpetuity.
In the meantime, I urge you as parishioners to continue to give whatever financial and material support you are able to our ongoing ministry. Today I joined a meeting of the Deans of cathedrals in ACSA and heard some of their challenges, as well as the innovations which these senior clerics are effecting. I am grateful for their ministry. Another part of my rhythm is keeping up with young people. I was most encouraged by their postings this last weekend, and how they are keeping hope alive. At the invitation of Father Chesnay Frantz of Cape Town I have shared a two-minute message for them to help them keep up their hope.
The most distressing sights during the lockdowns have been the long queues of people lining up for food parcels. HOPE Africa and a number of dioceses have been working hard to alleviate hunger and the Deputy Provincial Registrar, Canon Rosalie Manning, has helped to access more resources as we partner with others in feeding programmes. We also support the SACC’s efforts to advocate making food vouchers available, which both feed those in need as well as generate business for traders and thus support livelihoods.
Despite the challenges, I pray that we will keep up hope for the future even as we work through the reality of the pandemic, however long it takes. Hope, as Denise Ackermann has written, “is not that blithe sense that all will end well”. Hope is about acknowledging our fears, dealing with the pain, the reality and the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus. It is a journey beset with headaches, a journey with and in Christ and during which we know for certain that He is not here in the grave, but He has gone ahead of us. Hope is the story of our salvation, our lives lived with the assurance that “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” (1 Thess. 5:24)
During this time, I have begun to join Archbishop Emeritus Desmond once a week in prayer, and have found it strengthening. I urge you too to pray without ceasing, and as we move towards Ascension Day, I want to challenge you: what are you planning to do as we move into the next season in the Church’s rhythms of worship and celebration?
God bless you.