welcome to the warehouse!
The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.
This resource was produced by The Warehouse in response to the challenges faced by church secretaries and receptionists as they respond to people coming to the church for help. The book consists of four parts:
Part 1 is addressed to “the Keeper of the Gate”, that person who answers the door and is the first to face the people needing help. It deals with the balance between responding with compassion while protecting ones own needs, and includes tips on how to say “no”, how to avoid being patronising, and how to discern God’s heart in each situation.
Part 2 is aimed at church leadership. It provides ideas for supporting the front-of-house person and for drawing the whole church into a unified response to needs that arise, by developing guidelines that are consistent and of which everyone is aware.
Part 3 provides some practical tools for enhancing this ministry, including ideas for developing a resource directory of your neighbourhood.
Part 4 contains two forms for your use; one for developing your directory, and the other for keeping records of interactions with people who come for help.
The book is available in two formats: a pdf version that can be downloaded and printed yourself, and a printed manual in a ring-binder. The ring-binder enables you to add your own notes and ideas, so that the book becomes a working manual.
In a country that is in turmoil around race, xenophobia, inequality and divisions of every kind, there are people choosing to live another way ... Meli Moyo is one of those people ... listen to some of his story here.
If you would like to donate towards The Warehouse making more movie clips like these, please click here http://www.givengain.com/cause/1976/projects/15498
As I reflect back to listening to Dr Ron at The Warehouse one statement he made really struck me about God’s involvement in relation to the oppressor and the oppressed. What we often hear is that God is on the side of the oppressed, which is true, but my question is … what is He doing there? This statement is often used to comfort people in their varied experienced miseries and that can weaken the truth of this statement at times. Can we be saying the same things about God being on the side of the oppressed for more than 500 years of our history, and continue to be okay with the oppressed being on the receiving end of injustice?
I have always thought a lot about the role of a Christian in the matters that relate to justice. How should a Christian engage with the injustice of the world? In a church world that does not seem to have a room for the prophetic voice, how should one engage? I have always been against the “What would Jesus do?” question, as it suggests that Jesus is no more, which is heresy. A more appropriate question is, “What is Jesus doing?” This is a more biblically sound question for we are dealing with a resurrected Christ who is active in the world today. So, what is Jesus doing concerning the oppressed and the oppressor? If we are able to answer this question then we are no longer left in the dark trying to find out way, because we will join in what He is doing! Dr Ron made a beautiful statement here when he said that “God is on the side of the oppressed, liberating both the oppressed and the oppressor”.
If the Bible says we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves, what is it to love the one who is oppressing and what is it to love the one who is oppressed? I deeply believe that the only help for the oppressor will come from them being enforced to stop oppression. The greatest love one could show the oppressor is to enforce the oppressor to stop their oppression. I love one writer who once said we are all born free until we have encounters with others who were once free, but then were jailed by their own oppression of others. What a powerful thought. Just as our freedom enhances the freedom of others, I believe that our bondage is a bondage to others too. We should never allow the bondage of some become the burden of others. Love will be expressed by standing against the mighty and powerful and in defence of the low and powerless. God is a liberator, not just a sympathiser and comforter. What does it look like for us to join God in what he is doing to being true freedom today?
“We live in a country that has been traumatised by apartheid, and many people live with the economic and social consequences of that every day, with little or no psycho-social support,” says Hilary McLea, Loss and Grief counsellor and educator, who has developed training for people in low-income communities. “For most South Africans counselling is a luxury that they cannot afford and this has dire consequences for individuals, families and communities.”
For this reason, Hilary has developed a training course called Managing Loss, Grief and Continuous Trauma, which is designed to equip mental health professionals to better help those living with loss and ongoing trauma. In early March Hilary trained 15 professionals from various churches and NGOs in a three-day workshop that also earns Continual Professional Development (CPD) points. “All the professionals who attended are already interfacing with people who live in ongoing traumatic situations, and said it was helpful even as they faced their own grief and loss,” said Hilary, “It is specifically geared at people for whom the possibility of change circumstantially is very slim, so need help to deal with the current reality better.”
Siyaphila, rooted in the work of The Warehouse and part of the Resources offered, is lead by Hilary who has been running groups in communities for five years, and training other facilitators for two years. “We need to equip as many people to run these groups as possible, so we can reach the many people who need this kind of help,” she says. “My hope is that people who live in continual trauma in our broken country will be given insight and techniques to cope better with the challenges.”
“It was a great course and so useful to bring the two worlds ... God and trauma .. together” said one participant. “I came expecting to learn about others, but learned so much about myself,” said another. “A must for every health-care professional,” said another.
“People cannot afford the help they need and God’s heart is for the poor, so we need to make excellent support and care available to everyone who needs it. South Africa does not have the number of social workers and psychologists that are needed, so we must develop other tools that serve the purpose of bringing healing and psycho-social support,” explains Hilary, “And Churches are the best possible communities to hold this as they are generally safe places, have clean, protected facilities and the biblical imperative to bring hope and healing to the community.”
Several passages in the Bible record the story of the destruction of Jerusalem and the capture of its citizens. Both Psalmists and prophets record the despair that this brought, Jeremiah being key among them as he pours out Judah’s anguish in the book of Lamentations. Scripture tells us that after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile it took over 40 years before the city was rebuilt, despite there being a remnant who remained there and various groups that returned. This shows the effect that such events have on people. For the Jews it was not only that their city was destroyed and they were taken captive; it was the absolute disregard and total destruction of their entire social fabric and all that they valued. They saw their civic and military leaders killed or taken away; their priests taken or killed, their temple and all its treasures desecrated and destroyed, and the gates and walls of the city, their source of protection, removed as well. Their desolation is aptly expressed in the words of Isaiah “… and all that we treasured lies in ruins” (Isaiah 64:11).
It is this sense of things that are treasured being lost or ruined that is causing a deep unsettlement throughout the world. We see increasing instability in all areas of life – weather patterns, world markets, the price of oil. We are seeing mass murders, increasingly blatant terror attacks; cities that were deemed “safe” becoming increasingly unsafe. People in authority in all spheres of influence can no longer expect or demand respect simply because of their positions or status. There is a general disregard for expectations, practices and formalities that in former years were very much taken for granted. One example of this is our own parliament. Many would say that Julius Malema’s questions are valid, but that he has shown disregard for proper process. Perhaps “proper process” is what’s being challenged over and over as such incidents occur more frequently in Parliament. Perhaps the very institution of Parliament is on shaky ground. If so, South Africa is not alone in this.
It is this uncertainty and breaking down of what we are used to that is causing consternation throughout the world, and for many, desolation. We see all that we treasured – all that was stable and strong and sure and in which we felt secure – going to ruin. And the question for us as Christians is, what should our stance be?
Ezekiel 31 describes a huge tree that was beautiful and majestic; that provided shade to many. The birds nested in its branches, animals lived in its shade. But the tree became so high and so proud that it was brought down and came crashing to the ground. We are living in a time when the big trees are falling - not only in South Africa, but all over the world. The people, nations, institutions that we trusted in and depended on are all crashing down. Paul, in his letter to the Romans speaks of all creation straining to see the children of God revealed (Romans 8:19). But how do we reveal ourselves as children of God? Is it not to stand and show the world that we have something different; that our trust is not in man or institutions or the weather, but in Almighty God himself?
As Paul says in his letter to the Hebrews, “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Heb 10:39). So we should not be joining the weeping and despair. We should not be among those who accuse, complain or blame, or even those who simply laugh. Instead, we should stand as those who hold out the words of life at a time when all is uncertain, because we have the certainty of life. Philippians 2 calls on us to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” The difference between us and “the world” – in our attitudes, actions, choices, conversations… should be as clear as the difference between the stars and the darkness. For us this is not a time of despair, but a time to be looking out for every opportunity to shine, to bring new life, new hope and to show in all that we are and do, that God is real and his kingdom is here.
We don’t often blow our own trumpet, but we did decided to let you know what some of our friends from the USA think about who we are and the work we do. We take our mission and calling very seriously and are blessed to be in partnership with like-minded Christians around the globe.
Reverend Wes Gristy
Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, Jackson, TN
“Can an organization that serves local churches in Cape Town in their response to poverty, injustice and division reach all the way around the globe to inspire other churches in similar efforts? You better believe it! The Warehouse has done just that for our little church in West Tennessee, enriching our vision of what it means to continue the work of Jesus in transforming our own community. We are blessed by ministry of The Warehouse!”
Gary L. Wyatt Ministries, Sure House Open Bible Church, Tacoma, WA
“I first met Craig Stewart and The Warehouse staff in April 2010 and I was totally blessed and impressed by the pure heart that they possessed for the poor of South Africa. In my short observation it was very clear to me that the service they provide uplifts the total man including the mind, body and soul of those who are in desperate need of assistance. I highly commend and confidently recommend them for the superb job they are doing with Kingdom class on a daily basis. I’m confident that giving financial support to The Warehouse efforts will never be in vain.”
Professor Mary Anne Poe
Acting Associate Dean of Social Work, College of Education & Human Studies, Professor of Social Work, Director, Center for Just and Caring Communities, Union University TN
“The Warehouse is perhaps the most inspiring organization that I have encountered. They offer a joyful, transformative, Christ-centered approach to the challenging work of doing justice and building community in broken and dark places. Their efforts to assist churches to reflect deeply on the teachings of Scripture and to equip them to be reconcilers is Christian practice at its best.”
Beth A. Birmingham
Ph.D.Chair, School of Leadership and Development, Eastern University, Pennsylvania, USA
“The Warehouse is characterised by good leadership, a servant posture, faithful stewardship, serious impact and is one of the best ministries in my sphere of knowledge.”
The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill
Rector, St. George’s, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
“Leaders of St. George’s Church, Nashville, Tennessee have been tremendously blessed by a developing friendship with The Warehouse over the past several years. Our visits to Cape Town and The Warehouse have been profoundly impactful in witnessing ministry at the frontier where love of neighbor confronts massive poverty and where the possibility of reconciliation meets historic injustice. God is powerfully at work through the relationships The Warehouse establishes, and we are inspired by these ministries in our calling of love and reconciliation to neighbours in our own city. I cannot commend The Warehouse or its leadership highly enough.”
Social Worker by trade, activist by heart, Graphic Designer, Jackson Tennessee
“The first time I engaged with The Warehouse, I realized I had found a group of women and men of all stripes and all brands who were seeking first the kingdom of God. I felt like I had something to offer, but I also realized I had so much to learn. The Warehouse and its staff have changed my world, and my mindset, and my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and seek first the kingdom of God.”
Support, volunteer and friend
“The Warehouse to me is all about relationships. I personally give to this organization for I know that I am supporting real people who are loving their communities. The Warehouse has a genuine ability to come alongside and bring encouragement, training, and hope to those that are seeking to see their communities transformed.”
Management Consultant, Satori Consulting, New York
“I cannot recommend The Warehouse more highly. Having worked in community transformation in Cape Town for five years, I know firsthand what a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavor it is. The Warehouse’s relationship-based approach, engagement of diverse local stakeholders, and commitment to sustainable long-term impact are all marks of a highly thoughtful and effective organization.”
CPA -Raleigh NC
“In the two years my wife and I worked as volunteers at The Warehouse we had a front row seat in seeing God’s work through lives of the poor being transformed and communities being uplifted through The Warehouse’s community development initiatives.”
Professor of Social Work, Union University - TN
“I consider the Warehouse to be a bright light and sanctuary for those in Western Cape, and our world, who are most vulnerable. The Warehouse, a faith-based agency excellently serves individuals, groups and communities with with respect, dignity and the love of Christ. Please consider partnering with my friends at the warehouse with your time and/or resources!”
If you would like to give to the work we do in South Africa, especially as part of your Year-End Giving, please click here.
On a trip through the USA earlier this year I was asked whether The Warehouse is able to receive donations that qualify for tax deductions within the USA. In partnership with the National Christian Foundation we are able to do so and we’d like to make sure that you know this is possible as you consider your year-end giving.
Twenty years prior to the end of apartheid we could scarcely conceive of a different South Africa, but in 1994 we experienced the miracle of apartheid falling away and the birth of the rainbow nation. The role of the church and God’s intervention in this is well documented, however, twenty years later we are living both with the disappointment of the failed potential of our nation and the apparent lack of capacity within the church to truly impact society over this time. The law of apartheid died in 1994 yet its spirit is still well and truly alive.
It doesn’t have to be this way! The Warehouse believes that the next twenty years could see a new, more sustainable miracle happen as the church lives up to its calling from Jesus to transform society as part of declaring the good news of His Kingdom.
Please would you consider investing in this for your year end giving. Your gift goes a long way in South Africa as the exchange rate is very favourable at the moment. Over 70% of our funding is locally sourced which ensures that we can use gifts from the USA for catalyse new programs and initiatives. Just to give you an idea of what it costs to do some of our work:
- $30 a month helps us accompany a church leader who is leading their church in being a transformative presence.
- $300 covers the cost of a customized workshop or training event for a church leadership team helping them discern and plan how to be a transforming presence in their community
- $3000 funds a 3 day retreat and capacity building conference for 20 church leaders
If you are from the United States and would like to donate as part of your Year-end Giving, please do so through our NCF partnership here:
During mid November we facilitated a series of encounters on Sanitation Health Information and Theology (yes, we know what it spells:) with the tagline of Redeeming the Narrative. The times have ranged from the heartbreaking to the hilarious, from meals to deeply provoking talks and from the beauty of art and creativity to the awful reality of sanitation for our neighbours.
We’ve engaged with information, theology, scripture, art, music, humour, prophetic action and perhaps most importantly, with each other. I am very grateful to everyone who offered of their time and risked something in speaking regardless of the form.
There is lots of talk about economic inequality in CT, SA and around the world and this is absolutely correct. We need to remember though that this is not an academic or intellectual conversation for those impacted by it. Sanitation, and its related issues, is a visceral expression of this inequality.
We will be engaging around these issues more in the coming year and will keep you posted.
Our latest newsletter ...
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thank you all for being at the second Anglicans Ablaze conference, and more particularly thank you, Bishop Martin and Revd Trevor and your teams, for organizing this conference so well again and for bringing to it people from both within and outside our Province. This second conference is all the more special because we are also joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Welby and their team. We will welcome them officially tomorrow. But Lungi and I will send your greetings to them tonight and say that you are looking forward to welcome them with great excitement tomorrow.
Thank you for inviting me to speak once again, and this year I am joined not only by Lungi but by a number of bishops and their spouses, whom I wish to thank and acknowledge for attending. Many thanks too to my office staff and the Gauteng-based organising team who have prepared for the Archbishop’s visitation. I am so proud of you all and want to thank God for your hard work and generosity in organising all the details of his time with us.
It really brings joy to me to deliver, not a speech but as the program says, a Charge for you, on the theme, “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul”. In 2012, you will recall, I spoke on “Anchored in the Love of Christ”, Anglicans Ablaze having adopted the ACSA vision, Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.
In 2012, we established the obvious but the fundamental of our faith, that God loves us; that whatever we do, we do it because we are rooted and grounded in love; that we understand that God sent his Son into the world for the business of loving and judging but not condemning (John 3:17), and that we can be conduits of this love because God first loved us. “Whoever does not love, does not know God” (1 John 4:7-8). “We affirmed and committed that we will love not only in words or speech but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:16-17)
This year we are exploring, if you like, what commitment to God’s mission looks like in our Province, or put differently, how can we as ACSA live out the Communion-wide five marks of mission? These are:
• To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom,
• To teach, baptise and nurture new believers,
• To respond to human need by loving service,
• To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation, and
• To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
I feel like I have been given a “ blank cheque” on this theme, but looking at your overall program, I suspect , I am to look at missional theology through “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul” within the bigger theme of “Hope is Rising”. The biblical verse from which we get this theme is Hebrews 11:1, where we read that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Let’s read this against the background of another passage in Hebrews 6:19 wherein:
“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This is the task I have been given: to unpack this text wearing missional lenses. Let me attempt to paint the context of this passage and also to explain terms or words that will help us understand the theme better, and then to look at tangible things we can do as ACSA.
Hebrews is a faith statement or sermon to people who were suffering persecution (10:32) and needed to understand Christ’s centrality in their lives and have their hope rekindled (6:19) lest they became hopeless and denounced the faith. Hebrews is then a letter of exhortation for them and for us (13:23) at times when we need an anchor.
What is the Christian hope? Chapter 6, v19 says we have in this hope a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. What is the anchor? What is the soul? Let me start with the word, “Hope” and hopefully all the other questions will fall into place. We pray at confirmation, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth.” In Romans 5:5, we read that “hope does not disappoint us”; in our Anglican Prayer Book, on page 443, we read that Christian hope is “to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”
We recite this regularly in our Creed, that “for us and our salvation he came down”... that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”... and that “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Our Prayer Book on page 444 then asks what then is our assurance as Christians? “Our assurance as Christians,” it says, “is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As in this passage and in Romans 5:5, to hope is to expect with confidence; hope for us as Christians is a faith statement. It is an unconditional belief – dare I be brave enough to say that it is God’s recklessness which gives us the chance to participate in his mission in the world. Hope is the belief that we are so called or invited, and we are ready to respond to the love of God declared in Jesus Christ.
The opposite of hope is despair and hopelessness.
Our Archbishop Emeritus defines hope as being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness; Madiba says that “Hope is a powerful weapon, and [one that] no one power on earth can deprive you of.” Jurgen Moltman says that “to live without hope is to cease to live,” and Martin Luther King Junior says “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”
I asked Professor John Suggit to help me reflect more deeply and theologically on hope, and he explained to me that in English, and especially in Latin and Greek, the verb “hope” often means “trust”, “expect”, or even “think”. The Hebrew words associate it with the meaning of “confidence”, “trust”, “safety”, “rock”, and he cites examples from the Psalms and Job to illustrate the point: Ps 12.6: “I put my hope in you”; Ps 70.5: “The Lord is my hope from my youth”; Ps 90.9: ”You, Lord, are my hope (elpis); and Job 8.13: “The hope (elpis) of the godless man will perish”).
He says in some notes he prepared for me that the true meaning of “hope” is given poetically in Hebrew, Greek and English in Psalms 42.2 and 63.1, where the phrase “My soul thirsts for God” is a vivid expression of hope yearning to be realised.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we read, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Professor Suggit says that in the thought of Paul, these three “theological virtues” must be considered together. Because Paul was assured of the living presence of Christ, he was equally certain that as Christ had risen from the dead, so the future was filled with hope - a hope based on what God had done.
Professor Suggit also notes that of the three, hope has often, but wrongly, been called the Cinderella. He reflects that we are talking not simply about a personal hope, but also the hope that there is a purpose in the universe (Rom 8.21) which will be fully realised when “God shall be all in all” (1 Cor 15.28). He adds: “This is continually expressed throughout the New Testament, so that we have the paradoxical statement in Romans 8.24, “It was by hope that we were saved” (as the Good News Bible rightly renders it), where the following sentence makes it clear that though our being justified (being put right with God) was a past act (resulting from our response in faith to the grace of God), the hope which it engendered is so strong that it is seen as already realised while still in the future.”
Let me turn to another of our theologians that I often converse with, Professor Ackermann, and drink from her well.
Denise Ackermann says that hope is a lived reality in the life of faith, here and now; that hope is never to surrender our power to imagine a better world when faced with the present unjust arrangement. Hope is not a false sense of fulfillment that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Hope is not magic; it confronts wrong and the abuse of power. She continues that hope is risky and requires patience and endurance.
In sum, hope is the lifeblood of all there is, the air we breathe. It is the radical reorientation and conviction that ultimately a situation will change for the better. It’s not escapism but a facing of reality, and as Christians we live in hope, knowing that victory has already been attained through the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
It seems clear enough that hope is a human instinct which people strive to keep alive often in apparently hopeless situations. This instinct is an essential part of our human nature. Hope is the recognition that even in impossible situations one must strive to do what befits human beings.
Aristotle started his Nicomachean Ethics with: “Every action and purpose aims at some good, so that ‘the good’ is rightly described as the aim of everything”, and throughout the Ethics those who aim in hope for “the good” are considered to have found happiness.
For Christians hope is the assurance (so far as hope can ever be sure) that there is always a future to be realised for those who recognise that they are “in Christ”, resulting in their understanding that in spite of all the signs to the contrary there is a meaning and purpose in their life. The final object of hope is usually described as “life eternal” where the order of words suggests that “life” is more important than “eternal”.
As living members of the Body (person) of Christ each person finds hope only in unity with others, so that the Church as a whole is constantly called to express its hope in its liturgical worship.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we are not simply remembering a past occasion, but are rather re-entering the presence of the risen Lord “until he should come” (1 Cor 11.26).
As we re-present (make present) the death and resurrection of Christ, his anamnēsis, “the individual worshipper is caught up into the total reconciling activity of God and realizes sacramentally what he will one day realize fully in the eternal Kingdom of God”.2 In brief, we might say, every Eucharist is the occasion when past and future meet in the present, symbolized by the acclamation “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again”.
Let me end this exploration of hope with a poem cited in Ackermann by the American poet Emily Dickinson on “Living Hope”:
Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all
If we accept some these definitions of what hope is and what it is not, how are we who are anchored in His love to be? As I said previously when I explored at length our roots, our anchor is the love of Jesus. We need to keep asking ourselves as those baptised in his name: Who is God in Jesus Christ for us today? What does it mean to be the body of Christ in our time? What is his message of judgment and redemptive hope to us as we meet? What are we called to be in such a time as ours? Hebrews 6:19 locates Jesus as linked to the order of Melchizedek, king of Salem. These roots remind us of our vocation as people of righteousness, for this is what Melchizedek means. That Melchizedek is king of Salem reminds us of vocation to be peacemakers, for Salem is shalom and and Melchidezek is the king of peace.
We know of course that the vocation for righteousness and peace were at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry. We know, as Ackermann says in her book, “Surprised By The Man On The Borrowed Donkey,” that what occupied Jesus – or Jesus’ mission, which should be our mission – were the following: the poor, the hungry, the children, the miserable, the oppressed and the marginal, lepers, cripples, the blind, the sick and those possessed, social outcasts, tax collectors, disreputable people.
What are the mission challenges for us? Let me locate examples within the marks of mission:
1. We must witness to Christ’s saving, forgiving and reconciling love for all people. We cannot do this without being concerned at the yawning wealth gap in our society – one of the highest in the world – between rich and poor; between an increasingly non-racial – albeit white majority – elite and the masses of black poor. This is what is behind the crisis exemplified by Marikana – a point I shall return to in a moment. Nor can we witness to Christ’s love without being passionately concerned that people living in informal housing at Lwandle in the Western Cape can be callously thrown out of their homes during the cold and rain of a Cape winter – just as happened at the hands of the apartheid government at Crossroads in the 1970s.
2. We must build welcoming, transforming communities. In confirmation classes, in educating our people, we must – both clergy and lay people – nurture and prepare our parishioners to be witnesses who make a difference, who live out the radical values of peace and righteousness in more loving, outward-looking communities. At the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea last year, we were charged and challenged to utilise our God-given gifts in transforming actions that will bring healing and compassion to communities, planting seeds of justice so that God’s peace grows and abounds in creation.
3. We must stand in solidarity with the poor and needy. During a time in South Africa where some among our political leadership and civil service believe that it is acceptable to use your access to state resources and power to gather resources to yourself over and above your monthly salary – such as at Nkandla – we need to stand for a society in which the primary focus of those in public service is to meet everyone’s basic needs. We also need ourselves to live lives of service to those in need – such as the ecumenical community did recently in response to the evictions at Lwandle.
4. We must challenge violence, injustice and oppression, deploying prayer, theological tools and action to engage, not with ulterior ideological motives but because we are sent. And we must do this ecumenically. I have in recent months been involved with other church leaders in intensive and continuing discussions with the CEOs of the platinum industry, with leaders of AMCU, with academics and labour mediation experts, and the message that comes through is stark: at the heart of the Marikana crisis is not just a wage dispute in one industry, and killings by forces of the State: No, Marikana is just one of many potential flashpoints in our society, where people live in appalling conditions – still largely unchanged at Marikana, nearly two years on – with a huge gap between the wages of workers and the salaries of bosses. In a notable comment in a recent paper on the lessons of the Venezuelan experience for South Africa, the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg puts it this way: “As a nation we have to dedicate ourselves to the notion that inequality and grinding poverty for large segments of our society are not only a blight on our nation, they are unsustainable and unconscionable and have to be addressed as a matter of national priority.”
5. We must care for the planet, taking and supporting initiatives from parish to international level to protect our eco-systems. At parish level we can take action, from organising – again on an ecumenical basis – local clean-ups to lobbying local government. In what we are calling an “eco-bishops’ conference,” I have invited 20 bishops from around the Communion to join a process of discussion and discernment of the Communion’s witness and mission in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. And we need to support efforts to ensure that the next meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 2015, takes more effective steps than it has so far to protect what God has bequeathed us.
All of this must of course be rooted in prayer and worship. A worshipping community keeps up a daily rhythm of prayer, studying and wrestling with the Word, formal worship and pastoral care. The daily reading of the Bible and the Offices, the frequent celebration of the Mass and engaging the despairing and the dying are what nurture me; they help to create the space in which I can reflect on what hope might mean in the face of the abuse of power and the lack of accountability and transparency we experience in both church and society. And I find that I am always assured by the conviction that God is my hope and strength in everything, and want to take this assurance out and share it with others.
I have argued in a graduation address to the students at COTT, the College of the Transfiguration, and elsewhere that the theological education of all our parishioners is of key importance to our intervention in the challenges we face today. In the Brenthurst Foundation discussion paper I have referred to, the authors say the overriding lesson to be drawn from Venezuela for South Africa is the importance of education. They say that the impact of improved education in Latin America has, and I quote, “proved to be the single most powerful dynamic driving economic growth and the improvement of circumstances that cause inequality and poverty. It is the absolute priority ‘must do’ for South Africa.” This brings into sharper focus for me as archbishop my call at COTT, which I want to repeat: It is my firm belief that theological education equips us to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation. Through being equipped and discipled this way, not only through academic theological formation, which of course I love, but through programmes in the parishes and through conferences such as these, we are also able to feed and empower God’s people for faithful witness and service.
If we educate the nation, we give people the tools to hope realistically; the tools to enable them to unlock their God-given talents and skills, talents and skills that are too often going untapped. And by giving them this power, you are boosting their levels of trust in themselves. There is, as I said at the end of the Walk of Witness to Parliament in Cape Town, a withering, pervasive weight of distrust taking over in South Africa. In that instance, I was referring to the lack of transparency in Government – also a feature of the Nkandla scandal. Before asking a series of questions of President Zuma around that, I said that the cost of the lack of trust we are experiencing is incalculable.
When you disarm the people of our communities of their trust in our leaders,” I added, “you not only offend them, but more seriously, you show our communities that you distrust them…. You are afraid of their ability to make informed, values-based decisions, or you distrust our constitutional values. You are afraid of their opinion or do not trust them to exercise their choices responsibly.”
That was an appeal to Government, but we too as Church need to act to bring about what I have called a renaissance of trust and responsibility in South Africa. As faith and church communities, we are still rated as trusted institutions. But this trust cannot be taken for granted. It must be nurtured and we must be disciples, following Jesus in ways that show integrity, that we are acting out God’s love and nothing else. We can be trustworthy communities only through mediating God’s love for the world to the world. William of St Thierry writes that to experience God, we must become one with God and for that to happen we must learn to love. (Brian P. Gaybba, in “God is a Community”)
The modalities of how we go about putting all this into practice will inevitably vary because of our differing contexts, but we should all be formed and sent to proclaim the love of God, feeding on God’s love and sharing it with others. In our innermost being, each of us is longing in this pilgrimage to have a confirmation that what is hoped for us is true; with the Psalmist we cry, “why are you disquieted within me?” and our souls long for the love of Jesus in our lives, just “as a deer longs for flowing streams.” (Psalm 42)
As I end I want to reiterate that nothing is impossible with God. With just the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains, we hear in Matthew 17 (v. 20). We need each one of you to rekindle hope by testifying to what God is up to in each of your lives. To borrow a metaphor from Richard Stearns, in his book “The Hole in Our Gospel,” we each need to pick up our shovel and get to work, and together we can mobilise, as he puts it “the power of a mountain of mustard seeds” in working for a hope-filled world in which all flourish.
The world will ask: Where is this hope? Where is the evidence? Why is it held hostage by the powerful who pursue ideological ends, leaving the powerless to despair? My responding call is: Scatter seeds of hope without fear or favour in all the corners of the earth. God in Jesus Christ is the sure hope, and in the action you take in response to God’s love will be found the evidence.
Hope as an anchor for the soul can’t end with the big social ideas only. What it boils down to is actually very simple: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Don’t wait for the grand plan: Become the mustard seed in your parish and community, and combine with others to change your environment and the world.
May God set you ablaze to worship him, serve him and to be anchored in hope through faith in Jesus Christ, our living hope.
Join us from 14 - 16 October 2014 to explore how you can lead your church to transforming your community.
“A church full of life and love, working for the good of the community in which God has placed it, is the proper end of mission. Transformational development that does not work towards such a church is neither sustainable nor Christian… It is impossible to
imagine a without a transforming church in its midst.”
- BRYANT MEYERS
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town convened a group called the Electoral Code of Conduct Commission (ECOCC) during the recent South African elections held on May 7 2014. I was privileged to join ECOCC on the day, joining a diverse group of religious leaders from around the Western Cape to observe the election as independent observers.
It was a unique opportunity to see the election from a perspective beyond that of a participant. As part of a team of 5 I visited 9 polling stations on the day beginning as the day started at the IEC headquarters and finishing up that evening many hundreds of kilometres later.
In reflecting on the day I found myself reflecting on a few things:
* The salt and light presence that we can play in ensuring fairness and integrity in the democratic process. We take these freedoms for granted very easily and yet the nature of sin in this world is that they will be eroded unless we actively sustain them.
* The exuberance, enthusiasm and committed participation on the ground by South Africans. In every polling station I visited I was struck by the good humour and collective desire to participate of those who were there.
* The stark contrast between democratic participation and economic participation by so many in our society and the recognition that the differences in these two marks of a society do not represent God’s shalom justice and isn’t the society we yearn for.
As believers we should be seeking ways of growing the participation of all people both economically and democratically.
By Craig Stewart