South Africa is sitting ‘on a powder keg’ – Bishop of Johannesburg

The Bishop of Johannesburg, the Right Revd Dr Steve Moreo, has warned that the high levels of poverty in South Africa pose a great danger to the country.

“This country is sitting on a powder keg of hopelessness,” he said, citing the figures recently released by Stats SA that showed that the number of poverty stricken people in South Africa had increased by 53.2% between 2011 and 2015.

Bishop Moreo made these comments when he highlighted a number of critical issues that required the attention of Church and Society as he addressed the opening session of the Synod of the Diocese of Johannesburg this evening.

He noted that one needed to look no further than outside the doors of St Mary’s Cathedral, or on the streets of Johannesburg, to see how dire the situation was. He wondered aloud how long it would be before the situation exploded.

“The authorities seem unable to cope with this,” he said. The Church was called to respond to alleviate the situation as much as it could.

Unemployment was another issue highlighted by the Bishop who expressed disquiet at the high numbers of young men in particular, who were unemployed. Special initiatives were required to mentor young men, who made up most of those who had no work.

Actions were needed by parishes, schools and other organisations to reach out to young people so that the energy of young men could be channelled into fighting evil rather than perpetrating it, noting that there were far more males than women in prison.

Bishop Moreo also singled out state capture as an issue that required the urgent attention of Christians.

“State capture is a wicked, omnipresent manifestation of greed, graft and corruption that has its roots in the highest official in this country, the president.”

He praised those of his parishes that had responded to his call earlier this year to highlight the evil of state capture but said every church needed “to confront this insidious exploitation of our people”.

The issue of discrimination against many marginalised groups, including women, the physically and mentally handicapped, and LGBTIQ groups, also drew comment from the bishop.

Referring specifically to the issue of LGBTIQ people, Bishop Moreo said that the Church still had much to answer for.

“To put it bluntly, there is still division about the rights of marginalised groups, but the question about what Jesus would have done is one that should exercise everyone’s mind here honestly. Jesus accepted us all as we are and we as a Diocese accept everyone.”

The Diocesan Synod continues until Sunday.

Vendetta against women a blot on South Africa

The abuse of women In South Africa, sometimes at the highest levels, was also highlighted by Bishop Moreo in his Charge.

Bishop Moreo said such abuse was a daily occurrence with over 28 000 sexual offences against adult females, nearly 56 000 cases of serious assault against adult females, and 83 000 cases of common assault against adult females in South Africa reported by SAPS in the financial year 2015/16.

He added: “Astonishingly, in the very month of women, our Church’s month of compassion, a deputy minister of state had to resign for striking a woman, but another woman defended this deputy minister for doing this violence. Yet another woman, the wife of the Zimbabwean President, ran from her responsibility, back to her country after striking one of our women citizens.”

He described the situation as too terrible for words, saying that the vendetta against women in this country is a blot on our land.

Turning to the need for care of children and young people in the context of the family, Dr Moreo said there should be investment in family ministry since family life was itself under threat in society.

“We live in a patriarchal society in which women get beaten up, earn low wages, and in which 52% of the unemployed aged between 15 and 64 years old are women. Yet one third (33.4%), or nearly 1.6 million households are headed by a woman. What this does to family life can only be imagined,” he said.

“As a Church that promotes family life, we need to recognise that families are in crisis.”

He added: “In modern times the family structure has collapsed. If we take into account the increase in divorce, and absenteeism from the family unit of one or more parents, young people and children are inevitably affected by this situation as they try to deal with their own crises.”

It was important that each parish, organisation and school supported and equipped parents and families to cope with the demands of modern living.

“I am sure you will agree that all parents try their best and most children rise up and call them ‘blessed’, but there are those children who go wrong, and the Church needs to be there to assure them that their particular prodigals are in God’s hands, and that no one is blaming them. They do not need our condemnation and being blamed for everything that happens in the lives of their children.”

Turning to the prevalence of human trafficking, the bishop said this was nothing more than modern-day slavery.

“Many of us sit back and think the age of human slavery, at least in South Africa, has gone. Not so. Human trafficking is not just sexual assault. Human trafficking is luring girls and boys of a tender age into situations which they are openly tempted to part with precious money and leave their homes on the promise of work being available. On arrival at the “promised land”, they find nothing of substance – and the result is frequently a descent into performing sexual favours, forced marriages or working for a pittance or nothing, or even forced out of their country, as they find themselves alone, bereft and without the support of family.”

Bishop calls for end to racism

Bishop Moreo also called for a renewed commitment to eradicate “the naked sin of racism”.

He confronted an incident which had rocked St John’s College in Houghton, Johannesburg, at the end of July, and noted that something like this could happen “anywhere, anytime, in any of our schools, organisations and parishes”.

He said the St John’s incident had “paraded this naked sin for all to see. We were left wanting as a Diocese and as Christians.”

Reminding delegates to the synod of the process of reconciliation that Nelson Mandela had initiated as president of South Africa, Bishop Moreo said that he had been a true Christian in this respect. Mandela had shown many acts of reconciliation during which he had embraced people who practised racism. Dr Moreo noted that racism was absent in Mandela’s actions.

But now, he added, “I doubt whether any of us could truly say that racism does not exist”.

He said the Church sat back after 1994 and trusted everyone else to keep an eye on good governance. In similar manner, “we as the Church have allowed the dark shadow of the demon of racism to fall over the light of Christian harmony, goodwill, and love”.

Bishop Moreo told delegates that some might doubt the possibility of racism occurring in the various institutions of the Anglican Church in the Diocese. He warned, however, that as parishes became more integrated with different races and people of various nationalities represented, the chances increased of racism occurring.

In this respect he noted that racism had a bedfellow that simmered just below the surface – xenophobia.

“All too easily do the tentacles of the secular, and especially the political world, grip the soul of our parishes, yet point at us as a Church when we fail. In all our institutions therefore we must create initiatives to ensure we reflect the inclusiveness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

There was a need for intentional discipleship in the world, more than ever.

“My specific charge to each of you is to commit a new, and to work without ceasing to eradicate this naked sin of racism which has actively reared its demonic head.”

The Diocese of Johannesburg is part of The Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The Diocese has 76 parishes (churches) which are organised into ten regions, each of which is headed by an Archdeacon. The Diocese was formed in 1922 from the southern part of the Diocese of Pretoria, and at that time included the whole of the then southern Transvaal. Today it comprises the central part of Gauteng province.

The Cathedral of the Diocese of Johannesburg is the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. The headquarters of the Diocese and the Bishop’s office are at St Joseph’s Diocesan Centre in Sophiatown, Johannesburg.



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‘A struggle heroine… who lived the values of the Gospel’

The text of the sermon preached by the Revd N Barney Pityana at the funeral of Emma Mashinini:

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him

in Hebrew ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”

John 20: 16

Today we are gathered at this Cathedral Church of St Alban, the Martyr, Pretoria to mourn the loss of a dear soul, a mother to countless younger people and women in our country over a very long time, a mentor to many, and an exemplar of an extraordinary and gifted life. That she was popularly known to all and sundry as “Mama Emma” was no misnomer or an empty attribution of respect. It was deeply meant to all who felt so moved to name her, and it came out their experience and love of her.

But the inevitable has happened. Mama Emma is no more. Her children mourn, we mourn. This nation mourns, flags fly at half-mast as a sign of respect. Our hearts are troubled. And so it should be. She was one of a kind, so generous in her readiness to share her maternal instinct, so giving materially to any who were in need, so fulfilled in her love and readiness to love; and just as colourful and elegant in her dress sense, and so particular about how she presented herself. She was always an elegant lady – a revolutionary in stilettoes! She was a loving mother to her family, a community activist and among friends she was a faithful friend and neighbor. To her intimate friends she was simply, “Tiny!”

Mama Mashinini was surely all of that and more. We need to bear in mind that we dare not categorise her in a linear fashion. She is perhaps better known as a feisty trade unionist, a formidable activist for social justice. In our church she was a struggle heroine, one who lived the values of the gospel, and in whose life prayer she was an anchor that held together one’s diverse characters, and in worship she found her being as a child of God.

For us as the human family, death and dying produces a flood of emotions and ambiguity. There is the loving embrace of our mother and all that she represented, her teachings, her smile, and favourite food, and her loving ways, and moments of anger and dispute, of suffering and of triumph, in sickness and in health. It is about the good life in its totality. For that we remember her, and we thank God for her.

That is the life we celebrate. And yet, or because of it, there is also a profound sense of loss and bereavement. The inevitable has happened, and what we would, if we could have delayed as long as possible, comes into full cycle. We mourn, and all manner of emotions become hard to ward off and keep away. Forgetting is not an option, embracing in love, and the attraction of that which we might not have wished becomes our comforter. The one who is no more is forever present; our loss is our gain, because the one who is no more continues to live in us. Her memory is what comforts us. We desire to know that which we are conscious of as unknowable. We push the boundaries of knowledge, and we ask questions that are unanswerable.

Wits University social scientist, Achille Mbembe, puts this very well in a recent book, A CRITIQUE OF BLACK REASON, when he says, talking about race and which I translate into the experience of mourning and bereavement, that the experience of separation, of putting away, of loss is hardly that which we wish, but one that is to be expected as inevitable. It is not just forgetting or locking up our consciousness into an iron cage. It feels us with a profound and physiological pain and suffering, a bitter-sweet memory and remembering. We wish we could have done more, we cannot avoid at times the feelings of regret, and we wonder about the possibility of the impossible. This loss is an obscure feeling and that which we do not acknowledge. It is obscure and shadowy, expressed in mourning and melancholia – and, in his words, it is a desire for the obscure and unreachable desire, a nostalgia for that which is doomed to disappear.

In reality it is that sense of loss that produces the spirit of rebellion, of outrage, of freedom, and of the contemplation and overcoming of that which might have been, but is no more. It is the imagination that makes many of the questions we harbor ultimately meaningless, and we embrace the limitations of thought and understanding, an imagination “that it escapes the limitations of the concrete, of what is sensed, of the finite…” It is in the power of the imagination that we hold the possibility of memory or of reunion with that elusive past.

In the gospel reading from John’s Gospel, the first thing that we note so powerfully, is that the passage begins with “But…” The New Testament does that to signify a turning point, a change in the narrative – the unexpected, if you like, against the flow of the story. There is a turning point in the texture of the narrative, in meanings and imaginings. Having been thus prepared to expect the unexpected, we are swiftly drawn to the mind of the characters: Mary Magdelene, the disciples, the angelic figures – and the absent Jesus who becomes present, but no longer entombed. We are aware especially, of the persistent the human questions, the frustration of not knowing, that preoccupy the mind of Mary Magdelene: they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him. No answers are forthcoming. These are questions without answers, or that are unanswerable.

Mary Magdelene was at the tomb early to perform the burial rituals associated with the ones one loved dearly. She got there early “while it was still dark.” She saw that the stone had been removed. She then runs to report this strange happening to the elders: was it suspicious? Was it supernatural? It was sufficiently worrying and disturbing for her to notice as to raising it with everyone she came across. She then makes this remarkable observation: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have placed him” (20:2). They (the apostles/disciples) then accompany her back to the burial place, and their “seeing” is a little bit more that that which Mary herself had seen first time round, and from which she had come to the conclusion that “they had taken away our Lord”. They ‘saw’ the linen wrappings. “They saw and believed”. Strange that is. Instead of producing or confirming what must have been their lingering doubts, instead it confirmed their faith. What that faith was, the writer does not tell us.

But for Mary that was not the end. She stood there, helpless, weeping, flooding in her own thoughts and imaginings. Looking into the tomb, she could now “see” more than they had previously seen: two angels in white were occupying the place where Jesus had been. In response to their enquiry about her distress, she repeats her previous observation and puzzlement: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” For Mary there is this puzzling “they”. There is a cognitive distance between those who belonged to Jesus and who were mourning his death, and “the others” who are not part of their community, and they could do such a dastardly deed. All she wanted was to know where the body might be so that she could do the rituals that were a duty of care and of love. She is deeply puzzled, but does not have any answers.

In her state of utter confusion she then turns around and she “sees” Jesus standing there. She recognized him without the certainty of knowing who he was. She reckoned that he was the:”gardener”. She supposes that he is the caretaker of the cemetery, she sweeps aside the direct question that is asked, and she shoots back with her own questions: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” This is a bold response, and one that could have got her into trouble because this Jesus had been convicted of treason. It is a moment of identification with a felon, a moment of commitment. She put her cards on the table. She thus laid her own soul bare.

At that moment, Jesus says to her “Mary” and she replied, “Rabbouni!”(I can imagine that this was instinctively). She did not have to think, and she might have even surprised herself. She replied “Rabbouni!” that is to say, “Teacher!” That was his identity. That is how he was known. That was his self-disclosure. One can imagine a moment, or a split second of mutual identification. For her, it could have been both relief, and fear, and shock. But it was also a time of joy, of recognition, of overcoming. This was “the Rabbouni!” the Teacher. There is the confidence, and joy of knowing. That is all. What she had been enquiring about was right there in front of her eyes. What had been was no more. None of the earthly deeds and rituals of love and respect were necessary any more. Jesus had defied the inevitable. The tomb could not contain him. He had transgressed the bondage of human nature. He had transcended the power of confinement.

I imagine that Mary could not believe her eyes. The immediate, human response was to touch, hold, embrace, but Jesus held back, “I have not ascended to the Father…” For him, his moment of Glory was not yet. It was a case of “already” but “not yet”! A difficult state and condition for Mary surely to take in. She had to live with this incomplete knowing because she could not exercise all her senses as she had wished. Instead she was sent to the disciples with the message: “I am ascending to the Father, to my God and your God” (20:17). She saw with her own eyes, heard his voice, but could not touch him. How then could she confirm that indeed he had risen? The hardest thing at times for human nature is to accept that which we do not know, and we dare to know that which is unknowable.

As we all know, out of this Biblical episode, has been built a whole theology of the Resurrection. It states that the Jesus of the flesh, of history, had become the Christ of faith; that the evil of the world could not triumph. That would not have been possible without a profound sense of the imagination. It is the imagination that takes one out of one’s body, out of one’s skin. It is the imagination that stretches the capacity to envision that which had hitherto not been possible, and to dare or confront the possible with the unknowing. In some ways that is what makes human believing such an exciting thing.

I am suggesting that the generation of the likes of Emma Mashinini. a Johannesburg girl born into the obscure life of apartheid South Africa; a worker at a very young age, whose future might have been confined by the rigidity of the race laws, oppressed by the limitations apartheid dished out to her, hemmed in on all sides by cultures and customs of patriarchy. In many respects apartheid was a tomb – there to be forgotten and finished only to be at the mercy of one’s loved ones for whom rituals of life and passage have meaning, and make us human. There would have been a moment, I am sure, when it dawned on her that she was not to live her life in totality in the sphere of the garment worker, or as a mere chattel of men and circumstance. She was a liberated woman. She became the Mary Magdelene who knocked on doors, asked the uncomfortable questions, sought unpleasant answers, pushed the boundaries between life and death. She it was who brought the men-elders to “see” for themselves what she had seen. She it was who confronted the angels, and to the man who greeted her “Mary!” she made the connection between life and death. She knew who he was. “Teacher!” she cried.

Emma Mashinini was always looking beyond, challenging the present to produce outcomes of hope and of human nurturing. She represents for me that movement some of us associate with, of Christian socialists who believe that the sharing equitably the resources of God’s world will produce more holistic and more flourishing human communities. And so she did not shy away from the calling to struggle against all forms of injustice, to have a hand in building a workers movement in our country, and to the church to bring to bear the good news of justice and peace. That life was from beginning to end a life of struggle. I am struck by the fact that she embraced, in all the episodes of her life: as a mother and a worker, in the trade union work, in the women’s movement, and as a church worker, her time at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and at the Commission for the Restitution of Land Rights where she ended her working life – she brought a vibrancy, vitality and a challenge that made the purveyors of lies, and bullies to shake in their boots. And so, she led workers into strikes for a just wage and more humane working conditions, and in the church she was among those who campaigned for the ordination of women. In this Cathedral Parish I remember that she persistently persuaded the then Dean to open a branch of the Mothers’ Union! As was the case in the Christian socialist movement, and the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement it was never possible to separate the various phases of one’s life. They held together like the Trinity – indivisible and integral to the art of being human. Her world was shaped by the struggle for justice, and by life and faith.

Now, we all know that the country that Emma Mashinini lived and would have died for is in deep pain. It is pain that has been inflicted by some of her comrades. It is pain and hurt caused by selfishness and greed, and blatant violations of all that is sacred in the struggles of the working class. Day by day, with each passing day, service delivery protests by community activists even to the point of death by Andries Tatane confronting the might of a police state, the workers at Marikana are killed by police bullets while protesting against the injustice of slave wages, with each day that women and girl-children are found dead, raped or sexually molested in our communities and at our university campuses; with each day that the poor go hungry at night, and homeless, to name only a few of the atrocities that have become part of the daily grind of our lives in South Africa today, Emma Mashinini would be there as a reminder that it should not be like that. Her association with Corruption Watch and CASAC, and Save South Africa speak to her ongoing commitment to find a better world. In our church she stood out and spoke against any form of injustice.

Any society without any moral order, and for whom moral agency was a threat and not an opportunity, is a society bereft of any real sense of right and wrong. In fact, I would go further and say that such a society ideologises that which is evil and seeks to present evils ways as justifiable and necessary. Such a moral order produces a less caring society where we no longer serve as our brother or sister’s keeper, but where selfishness becomes a credo of life. Moral agency ensures consistency in the application of standards, and that at the end, make sure that no one is left behind, makes it possible to have reasonable expectation in life and ensure accountability. That is the world that Mama Emma wished to leave behind in South Africa. Much has been done to undermine that dream, but the question is what are we doing to confront the evil that confines us to the margins, as if we do not matter. That “Mary” moment, that moment of reckoning must come to us too.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” and she turned and said to him in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” May the spirit of Emma Mashinini bind us together; may truth and justice prevail.


N Barney Pityana GCOB

Cathedral Church of St Alban, the Martyr

Pretoria, 15 July 2017.


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Loraine Tulleken

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An Anglican Tribute to the ‘Tiny Giant’, Emma Mashinini

The Archbishop admits ‘Tiny’ Mashinini into the Order of Simon of Cyrene.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa admitted Emma Mashinini to the Order of Simon of Cyrene at Provincial Synod last September. After her death this week, the citation is an eloquent tribute which helps us to celebrate her life:

If anyone meets the criteria set out by the House of Bishops for the award of the Order of Simon of Cyrene to a Lay member of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Mrs Emma Thandi Mashinini is one such and thus truly worthy of receiving this award.  Indeed, on reflection the award is long overdue.

All Christians by virtue of their baptism are admitted into a community of believers who are called, after the example of Jesus Christ, to servanthood.  The Order of Simon of Cyrene takes its inspiration from the one who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus and we are all called to “bear one another’s burdens”.

Emma Thandi Mashinini, or the “Tiny Giant” as she is fondly referred to, was born in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, in 1929 and attended the Bantu Secondary School in Sophiatown. At the age of 14, she was forced to drop out of school and go to work due to domestic circumstances. In Soweto she was a member of the Parish of Holy Cross in Orlando West where she was also a member of the choir. Mama Emma regards the church as her stronghold.

In 1956, she took on a full-time job working in the Henochsberg’s clothing factory and there joined the Garment Workers’ Union (GWU). Later, when it was rendered difficult for blacks and whites to belong to the same trade unions (although not unlawful!), she became active in the National Union of Clothing Workers whose General Secretary and leading light was Mrs Lucy Mvubelo. That meant that this union of predominantly black women became a satellite union of GWU. She was elected shop steward by her co-workers in 1970 and was later appointed floor supervisor by management. In this capacity, she fought to improve the working conditions of the employees. In standing up to a labour system that disadvantaged black women in particular, she achieved one of her greatest victories – the breaking of job reservation at Henochsberg’s. Her union was able to negotiate better working hours, wage increases and the right of workers to have unemployment insurance. She was elected to the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Clothing Workers (NUCW).

In 1975, Mrs Mashinini resigned from Henochsberg’s and took up a position as president of a new union that she had helped to establish, the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA). Despite a slow start, the union had 1 000 members by 1977 and, within five years, had opened offices in Durban and Cape Town. By this time, CCAWUSA was the second largest union in the country behind the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). She is very proud that during her time as President of CCAWUSA her union was among the founding affiliates of COSATU in 1985.

In 1986, under the influence of then Bishop Desmond Tutu, who was Bishop of Johannesburg, but previously General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Emma Mashinini took up a position as Head of the CPSA’s Department of Justice and Reconciliation, in which role she worked alongside the likes of Sheena Duncan, and the SACCs Dependant’s Conference. She valued the opportunity given to her by the church to serve in this capacity, and it added to her own role as an active member of the Mothers’ Union in her parish. In this role she dealt closely with the families of detainees who had been incarcerated during the state of emergency.

From 1993 to 1995, she served as deputy chairperson of the National Manpower Commission, a state body under the Department of Labour at that time. She was appointed Commissioner for the Restitution of Land Rights, with responsibility for the Province of Gauteng. Emma Mashinini is a patron of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) and is also a founder member of both United Cerebral Palsy and of the women’s stokvel “Be United”.

Mama Mashinini has been widely recognised at home and abroad for her sterling contribution to justice and equality, and for her support of the struggles of the people. Perhaps the most prestigious of these is the Order of Luthuli (bronze) awarded by the President of the Republic of South Africa in the National Honours Awards 2007. In 2012 the University of South Africa conferred on her the D Litt et D Phil honoris causa.

Mama Emma has been a lifelong, dedicated, faithful and active member of the Anglican Church. As a Christian she has given sterling public service to the benefit of others – as a trade unionist, a community worker and as a member of the Mothers Union. Mrs Mashinini has been a fighter for justice not just for the workers, but also for gender equality, and land rights. It is therefore, as a courageous campaigner for justice, and as a faithful Christian that the Anglican Church acknowledges her contribution in the most fitting manner available to the church.

Wife, mother, factory worker, trade unionist, leader and role model; fearless and unrelenting fighter for equal rights in the workplace, a social justice campaigner, as much as a human and gender rights activist. The indomitable Ma Emma, the “Tiny Giant”, now in her eighties, continues to uplift many a person in the new environment of South Africa, giving hope to many and a role model to younger generations.


Archbishop Thabo’s ministry to Madiba

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is to publish a memoir in October, recalling his upbringing and early ministry – and ending with an account of his prayer ministry with Nelson Mandela for the last five years of the stateman’s life.

The memoir – entitled “Faith and Courage: Praying with Mandela” – will be published by Tafelberg.

He discussed the book with Anglican World, the magazine published by the Anglican Communion Office in London, in its latest edition.

Further details of the book will be posted on this site when available from Tafelberg. Anglican World is available here.




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Reformation is ‘GPS’ for next 500 years

Reformation is ‘GPS’ for next 500 years, says S. African Anglican leader in Luther’s town

A report from the World Council of Churches

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


Archbishop preaches at 500th anniversary of Reformation

“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.


Celebrating the Arts in the Context of the Christian Faith

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.


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