Monthly Archives: May 2017
Reformation is ‘GPS’ for next 500 years, says S. African Anglican leader in Luther’s town
May 29, 2017
The Reformation was a defining moment 500 years ago but can also serve as an inspiration for the next five centuries, South African Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has told tens of thousands of people at the German Protestant Kirchentag, or church festival.
“It is impossible to overstate the contribution of Martin Luther to that part of the world influenced by Europe and its thought,” said Makgoba, in a sermon at a 28 May service at Wittenberg, the town celebrated worldwide as the place where Luther’s Reformation began, when in 1517 he denounced church abuses in his 95 Theses.
Luther’s questioning of authority “mobilized millions, in an unstoppable movement, to embrace the right to participate,” said Archbishop Makgoba at the open-air service that concluded the 24-28 May Kirchentag and inaugurated a “Reformation summer” of activities in Wittenberg.
Organized every two years, the Kirchentag this year coincided with the Reformation anniversary and brought more than 100,000 people to Berlin, many making the 90-kilometre journey to the Reformation service on the banks of the river Elbe, just outside Wittenberg.
Interpreted in today’s context, the Reformation “can become our guide, our inspirational GPS, our global positioning system for the next 500 years,” continued Makgoba, who became archbishop of Cape Town in 2007.
Behind the stage where Makgoba was preaching could be seen the tower of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, where Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses on 31 October 1517, setting in train the events that would lead to the emergence of Protestant churches.
People had started to gather on the banks of the river Elbe the previous evening, where they joined in prayer with the ecumenical Taizé community in a “night of lights” of candles lit as the sun went down.
Makgoba challenged young people in particular “to hear the cries of others and of the planet as God would,” and to take action, “for love’s sake, dignity’s sake, for freedom’s sake, for Christ’s sake.”
He described how Germany in the Nazi era and South Africa under apartheid had “histories of unspeakable cruelty but they are also histories of God’s unfailing faithfulness.”
Worshippers included German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Protestant who is a past member of the Kirchentag’s presidium. Addressing participants, he recalled how the Reformation had reinforced faith but the divisions between Christian traditions it entailed had also led to suffering and misery, hatred and violence.
However, he continued, “the fellowship we now experience between Christian traditions would have been difficult to imagine even half a century ago.”
After 500 years of division between Protestants and Roman Catholics, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), said in a closing message, “we now want to share with each other the whole richness of our traditions.”
Founded in 1949 by Protestant lay people in Germany to strengthen democratic culture after the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War, the Kirchentag has gained European and global reach in recent decades.
Many of the 2,000 events during the Kirchentag involved representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its member churches from several continents.
“In this year marking the 500th anniversary of the events of the Reformation, the Kirchentag is one of the milestones of our pilgrimage of justice and peace that motivates us to discover in these past events resources that help transform the world,” commented WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “This discovery is both the true meaning of grace and the true meaning of faith.” – WCC
“Obama and Makgoba to visit Germany for 500th Reformation anniversary.”
That is how the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and its annual “Kirchentag” festival headlined their announcement that they had invited Archbishop Thabo to preach at the culmination of this year’s celebrations in Wittenberg, the university town in which Martin Luther sparked the Reformation 500 years ago.
The organisers say they expect 100,000 people at the festive service, which will be held on Sunday May 28 in a meadow the size of 50 football fields on the banks of the River Elbe outside Wittenberg.
Ahead of the service, on Ascension Day, former president Barack Obama will join Chancellor Angela Merkel, an observant Christian, for a discussion on “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally”. It will be held at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Announcing the participation of President Obama and Archbishop Thabo, the EKD and the festival noted that the United States was “strongly marked by the Reformation and its historical impact.”
The president of the Kirchentag, Professor Christina Aus der Au, added: “Protestantism has not remained a European affair – it has shaped societies and nations all over the world. We are thrilled that Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has agreed to preach at the Festive Service, coming as he does from a country that has a very intensive history of Protestantism.”
The chair of the EKD’s council, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, added: “Thabo Makgoba has become an example for many people, not only in Africa. This due to the passion with which he so authentically and visibly lives out his Christian faith in a country that is rich and yet deeply divided. We can really look forward to his sermon.”
In another honour for African Christians recently, a Nigerian Lutheran bishop, Archbishop Dr. Musa Panti Filibus, was elected as the 13th president of Lutheran World Federation. The global communion of Lutheran churches held its assembly in Namibia earlier this month.
By Samantha Carolus
Spiritfest runs throughout the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July, celebrating the Arts in the context of the Christian faith with an array of new items along with the familiar favourite performances and events. Spiritfest continues to grow, with more Christian denominations involved this year than before.
New this year are a multi-media service ‘Under African Skies’, which will feature choral music and hymns from South Africa and beyond our borders, accompanied by lively, evocative images of the African landscape projected on a large screen.
The two Sundays of the Festival will see special Festival services in a variety of churches: A Unity Mass at which the congregations of four local Catholic churches will come together to worship; a Jazz Mass at the Cathedral, a Festival service at the Every Nation Church, and on the last Sunday of the Festival Bishop Andile Mbete of the Grahamstown Methodist District will lead a Procession of Witness down the High Street with choir and musicians, culminating in a Festival Service in Commemoration Church.
Spiritfest favourites which return this year include the Lucernarium, a service of candlelight and plainsong, St Michael’s Marimbas, 40 Stones in the Wall Group Exhibition- with book reading of ‘The Bear Who Stepped Up’ by Hilary Murdoch, Winter School, Guided Meditation and Prayer as well as an Open Mic session for poetry lovers.
Music this year will bring the likes of the Grahamstown Circuit Choir conducted by Siyabulela Lali and Reuben Maselwa, and a Stephen Holder Organ Recital titled: ‘Mystery, Modes and Grace’. Singer song-writers and capella musicians are invited to perform Acoustic and Unplugged at two Open Mic evenings.
The Spiritfest Winter School, ‘Faith and Resistance’, will feature lectures, discussions and book launches with the theme ‘#must fall’, looking at aspects of the struggle for freedom and justice from the perspective of Christian faith. Father Anthony Egan SJ will lecture on ‘The Ethics of Protest’, while Zuko Blauw and Sister Aloysia Zellman will lecture on ‘Sister Aidan lives on’.
The Revd Dr Barney Pityana will speak about Steve Biko’s faith, and Lindsay Kelland will be talking about ‘Recovering from Rape Together’. Book launches of ‘The Road to Emmaus’ by Chris Mann and ‘The Book of Joy’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama will take place, and a panel discussion, ‘Faith and #must fall’ will be led by Christian students and student leaders. Fitting into the same theme will be a dramatic reading: ‘Bonhoeffer’, about the German pastor who was executed for his part in a plot to kill Hitler.
Archbishop of Canterbury’s Call to Prayer
The ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative, is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call to prayer for the entire Anglican Communion, starting on Thursday, Ascension Day (25 May), and running until Pentecost (4 June).
We hope that as many church and individuals as possible will participate in this important time of prayer. Please note that there are numerous resources available on the Thy Kingdom Come website: www.thykingdomcome.global. The resources are categorized for churches/cathedrals, individuals, and families and young people.
If you decide to participate in this initiative, please do not forget to pledge your commitment and let your ‘light shine’ on the global map of prayer at www.thykingdomcome.global/#Pledge2PrayCounter
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Applications are invited for educational grants for children of clergy from the Robert Selby Taylor Will Trust.
The deadline for this year’s applications is July 31, 2017. However, applications for other assistance from the Trust can be made throughout the year.
Applications have to be submitted to Bishopscourt, endorsed by the Bishop of the Diocese in which the clergy applying for a grant are licensed.
The grants do not cover the costs of clergy studies or pre-school and preparatory education.
The Robert Selby Taylor Will Trust Fund should be regarded as ‘last resort’ rather than first port of call for funding.
To download full details and an application form, click on the links below: