Advent T I D I N G S
December 1999
St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter


Contents

Foreword
Our Rector Writes
Farewell to the Breytenbachs
The ministry of listening
The Christ-Child
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas message
Earthenware
A prayer from the heart
Footsteps
It is difficult to get good help nowadays
Things we could learn from a dog


Foreword

It seems too early to be putting out the Advent edition of Tidings, but as usual the Festive Season has crept (or should that be ‘leapt’?) up on us unawares. In this instance, a number of events have arrived simultaneously: the end of the year, the century and the millennium (as if we needed reminding: have you stockpiled enough champagne - I mean sparkling wine - yet?). It seems right (as Martin puts it) to also be marking the departure of the Breytenbachs at this time: several of the pieces are devoted to recalling what we have enjoyed but also looking forward to a bright future.

There has been an unprecedented amount of material submitted to this Tidings edition, so please forgive me for keeping some of it for next year. And a very sincere and heartfelt thanks to all this year’s contributors and particularly to the behind-the-scenes production team (see below), including Martin who has been the ‘anchor’ of this publication for many years.

Ed.

Editor: Mark Napier. Email: mnapier@csir.co.za   Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy Macnamara St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church, 373 Milner Street, Waterkloof, 0181 Tel. 012-346 1106/7, Fax: 346 4226. Rector: Ven. Martin Breytenbach


Our Rector Writes...

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Farewell"

What a difficult thing to say after 13 happy, fulfilling years at St Francis! Yet, there is a rightness about it - I feel ready for a new challenge (not that one can ever be ready for the calling to be a bishop), and I believe that the parish is ready for a change as well.

I came to St Francis as an enthusiastic young priest, full of zeal for the Lord, ideals and vision for the church. And it is to your great credit that I leave having lost none of that excitement about serving the Lord and his church. Indeed, it has been nurtured and has grown as the family and I have lived and ministered among you. If I make a good bishop it will be largely because of all that I have learned and experienced as part of this remarkable community.

You have given us another wonderful gift: providing a happy, stable environment for us to grow as a family. Can you believe that Katy turned four, and Tasha turned two just after we arrived. Jeremy was born a year later (there was a leaders’ meeting that evening - I have never experienced such a good attendance before or since. Everyone wanted to find out about the new baby, and share in our joy!). You have also encouraged and supported us as Sarah and I both completed Honours degrees in Psychology and Theology respectively. Thank you!

The Same Yet Different

Several things have remained the same, and others have changed during our time here. When we arrived, we found a community that gave generously in all sorts of ways, and really wanted to hear and do God’s will. Sarah, the children and I have been set free to be ourselves - to develop our gifts, and be the people that God made us to be. Being free to make music with some of you has been a special joy to me.

Our first few years here were difficult times in South Africa. The Anglican church was under siege and many people were leaving because of our stand against Apartheid. In 1989, when we had a major outreach mission to the community, the Rectory was shot at twice and we had death threats (directed at Robin Briggs and leaders of the National Initiative for Reconciliation). But the people of St Francis remained faithful to the Lord and the Church. Little did we know how suddenly or wonderfully things would change in South Africa.

When I came to St Francis, there was a flourishing "Building Bridges" group, that worked hard on building the link between ourselves and St Francis, Mamelodi West. For various reasons (mainly to do with problems in our Link Parish) this faded to almost nothing. Therefore it has been a great joy to me to see this link being revived this year. The two parishes need to get to know each other as two communities, both of whom have a lot to give and a lot to receive.

There has always been a strong sense of community at St Francis, with many people meeting for fellowship and fun. From beginning to end we have also been amazed at the number of people who are involved in various ministries, formal and informal, within the church and in the wider community. A very important value at St Francis, which I hope you will never let go, is that we can be a spiritual home to very different people, with varied preferences in worship, different views on many things and a wide range of cultural and educational backgrounds. All that we need in common is our devotion to God through faith in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, expressed in our membership of St Francis and the Anglican church.

Throughout our time here, I have been confident that the people of St Francis would be willing to go wherever God wanted to lead us. You have been ready to try new things, and to take risks. Our worship has grown in variety and participation by all, and the services are fuller than was the case ten years ago. The Parish Council (including the clergy) have great vision for the future. I pray that you will continue to seek God together and move into that future with a sense of faith and adventure.

The House Churches have grown in number and commitment while we have been here. They are crucial for:

But in the last few years we have become aware of another need, that cannot be met by the House Churches - the need for concerted, systematic training and education in Christian discipleship. It started with Alpha: that wonderful course that introduces participants to the basics of the Christian faith and, more importantly, into a personal experiential relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This has led to the vision of a "School of Discipleship" where a variety of courses will be offered. There has been a good start this last term with Alpha and SWord running concurrently on Wednesday evenings. The plan is for the school to expand further next year.

While St Francis has always made an important contribution to the mission and ministry it the wider church, there has been a deeper commitment to mission in recent years. This has included sending Sarah and me, together with a team from St Francis and Pietersburg, on a SOMA mission to Tennessee in the USA. Our decision to appoint a Children’s Pastor next year is also an important mission and ministry initiative.

It has been very exciting to me to see how the vision of the parish and its leaders has expanded over the years. In my early years as Rector, the vision was very much mine, with the Council and other leaders giving support. In the last few years, I have been delighted to see how the vision has been "owned" and taken over by Parish leaders. The two Parish Council weekends, last year and a few weeks ago, have been very significant and will, I believe, bear fruit for many years to come. God has raised up a wonderful team of leaders, lay and ordained, at St Francis, and I encourage all of you to pray for them, support them, and work with them is seeking and doing God’s will.

The character of Waterkloof and the surrounding suburbs has changed greatly as well. The area has grown a lot "younger" as many older residents have sold their houses and gone to live elsewhere. Not only that, but the majority of properties have been sub-divided - so that the population has increased greatly. And, with the abolition of the Group Areas Act (praise the Lord!) we are beginning to live in a multi-cultural and non-racial environment. This provides the church with many opportunities and challenges, which we have been doing our best to address.

Great Things

So, as Sarah, Katy, Tasha, Jeremy and I leave to follow the Lord’s calling, we believe that God has done great things at St Francis, and has even greater plans for the future. Continue to trust in him, to believe in Jesus and to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and he will do "much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of. To God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, for ever and ever! Amen. " (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Martin


Farewell to the Breytenbachs

by Rob Lewis - Church Warden

Martin and Sarah, together with their family arrived at St. Francis in 1987 from Pretoria North. For Bishop Richard this was a bold appointment for there were a number of clergy, more senior to Martin at the time, who would have liked to have come to this Parish.

Both Martin and Sarah have served us with humility, and graciousness and both have grown enormously in their ministries during their stay with us.

Martin had only been ordained for five years when he joined the Parish, and although I was not here at the time, I think Bishop Robin Briggs was a hard act to follow! One of Martin’s first contributions to this parish was the seven goals that we as a community should be striving to achieve - worshipping, giving, praying, caring, witnessing, discipling, and reconciling. These seven goals have been the skeleton around which the Parish Council has worked for the past 12 years, and at the Parish Council weekend away last year it was unanimously agreed that they were still relevant!

Another major contribution to St. Francis is Martin’s development of the worship here. His musical gifts will be sorely missed. But not only that, as, behind the scenes, Martin, together with Gail whilst she was here, has sought out and found, or, if inspired, even written, the wonderful new music which is continuously being introduced to our worship, keeping it fresh and alive. The parish survey conducted in 1998 found that worship was the area that came out tops.

It was Martin’s love of music that gave birth to the musical group which is now known as "New Creation". As one of the founder members of this group I remember with great fondness the coffee bar evenings we had once a month. This was a great attraction for the youth and the oldies (the twentysomethings), as it gave them a place to "hang out" and have fellowship on a Sunday evenings. We all remember the sixties evening a few years back when we all let our hair down to the great vibes of "New Creation" and we often chuckle about the time when the group was invited to Nelspruit to play at a youth outreach. We arrived in Nelspruit to find a huge banner across the school fence advertising "The Venerable Martin Breytenbach and his band"!! - the great teenage drawcard!!!!

Meanwhile Sarah was also hard at work with liturgical dance and running groups for mothers which today still continues as the "Morning Glories". As a mother with small children she introduced the STEP course - not a course for mothers who have remarried, and who wish to be better step-parents, but "Steps to Effective Parenting"! It was during one of these sessions that the Lewis and Breytenbach children met and discovered their common interest in art. Gareth, Tasha and Mary-Anne Gilbert together made a fine mural on the marble surface of the altar - which they found to be at just the right height! This also provided a fine practical example for effective parents to discuss!!!

As a member of "The Morning Glories" Sarah always had a willing ear and a shoulder to cry on for mums who were struggling with those first years of motherhood, or women who were wrestling with the many issues facing women today. Her leadership of the prayer team, meeting each Sunday in the Lady Chapel, has borne much fruit as they have waited faithfully on the Lord to reveal His message for the day.

During their stay with us, both Martin and Sarah have continued their academic studies with Martin completing his Honours degree in Theology and Sarah her Honours degree in Psychology, all of which has been put to good practical use in the Parish. The Sword (Study the Word) program has been written and presented a number of times, and will become a regular feature in the School of Discipleship, whilst Sarah has used her gift of counselling not only extensively in the Parish and in the Lady chapel, but also at Lifeline over the past few years.

During his tenure at St. Francis Martin has become deeply involved in Diocesan affairs, greatly assisting both Bishops in managing the complex affairs of the Diocese. Martin was especially close to Bishop Richard Kraft during Richard’s last few years of office. Martin served, with distinction, I may add, as a Diocesan Trustee for the best part of eight years, as well as Archdeacon of the East. It was during this time that his journalistic skills came to the fore when he was appointed editor of the Diocesan newsletter "The Kingdom". He has, more recently, been spearheading the millennium campaign throughout the Diocese – the theme being "The Christ Centred Church". It is a pity that he will not see this campaign through to its culmination during Pentecost 2000.

As for the girls, Katie and Tasha, they have both given of themselves in the Oasis youth group, as well as to Manic, the youth orchestra. And of course who can forget the changed personality of Tasha as she took to the stage as Charity Church Mouse during the performances of Kids Praise!!! Jeremy is also coming into his own as a very astute sound engineer - a talent which is being quietly developed during the evening services.

As the author of this article, I would like to take this opportunity to add a personal note. I have come to know Martin well during his stay here, both as we have worked together on the music and worship, and more especially as we have wrestled with some tricky issues at Parish Executive level. I have enjoyed working with him, and his energy and creativity has rubbed off on many people, including me. I have been very appreciative of his constant support of my ministries, as well as during those tough times. I remember once asking him if I might have three months off to recover from a particularly difficult incident. He readily agreed, without hesitation, and then, some twelve months later, gently asked if I thought my three months was up!!.

A great sign of Martin’s ministry has been his willingness to trust parishioners to get on and exercise their own ministries. The marriage preparation course, and allowing Manic to lead some of the Sunday services are just two examples which spring to mind. The great eye opener for everyone was the Ministry Fair run during 1999. One outside clergy person was heard to comment to Martin "How do you control all these things?!" Martin’s reply was simple - "I don’t - it just happens!".

There is a lot I have not dealt with - the Meyers Briggs courses, his oversight of the Mamelodi Parish during their interregnum, his involvement in the Anglican Renewal Ministries, and S.O.M.A. which took Martin and Sarah to Tennessee in 1997.

I know I speak for the whole Parish, and every parishioner, when I say that Martin, Sarah, Katie, Tasha and Jeremy will be sorely missed. But as Sarah read from Ecclesiates 3 on Sunday 14 November 1999, sharing a message that the prayer team had had from the Lord, there comes a time for leaving. They have been called to move on to other ministries, which we have had the privilege of preparing them for, and we must consciously release them to be free to obey that calling.

I, along with the other Church Wardens, am convinced that God has a special plan for those of us left behind, and in His time He will reveal who the next incumbent will be. If you thought that Robin Briggs was a hard act to follow - watch this space....!!!


The ministry of listening by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to his Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that he not only gives us his Word but also lends us his ear. So it is his work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him.

Christians, particularly ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.

Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share.

 

From Ed Smith


The Christ-Child

An excerpt from "The Christmas Mystery" by Jostein Gaarder

A band of people and angels have journeyed through time to be at the birth of Jesus. Elisabet is a young girl who was the first to start the journey, and is the observer from our time.

It’s the middle of the world between Europe, Asia and Africa. It’s in the middle of history at the beginning of our era. Soon it will be the middle of the night as well.

A silent crowd is stealing upwards between the houses in Bethlehem. The weak glow of oil lamps is streaming from the windows in a few of the simple houses, but most people in the old town have gone to bed for the night.

One of the wise men points up at the sky where the stars are burning in the darkness. They are like sparks from a beacon far away. One star is shining more brightly than all the other stars in the sky. It looks as if it’s hanging a little lower in the sky as well.

"O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by," murmurs Elisabet softly, remembering an old carol.

The angel Impuriel turns towards the others, puts a finger to his lips, and whispers, whispers, "Hush...Hush..."

The procession of pilgrims gathers in front of one of the inns of the town. In a moment or two the innkeeper appears at the window. When he sees the group outside he nods firmly and points to a cave in the wall of rock.

The angel Ephiriel whispers something; it sounds like the words of a nursery rhyme.

"’And while they were there, the time came for her child to be born, and she gave birth to her son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’"

They creep across the yard and stop in front of the cave. The smell from it tells them that it is a stable.

Suddenly the silence is broken by the cry of a child.

It is happening now. It is happening in a stable in Bethlehem.

Over the stable a star is twinkling. Inside the stable the new-born child is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

This is a meeting of heaven and earth. For the child in the manger is also a spark from the great beacon behind those weak lanterns in the sky.

This is the wonder. It is a wonder every time a new child comes into the world. This is how it is when the world is created anew under heaven.

A woman is breathing deeply and weeping. Not out of sadness. Mary is weeping quietly, deeply and happily. But the child’s cries drown out Mary. The Christ-child is born. He has been born in a stable in Bethlehem. He has come to our miserable world.

The angel Ephiriel turns solemnly towards the other pilgrims and says, "’Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.’"

Elisabet looked up at the starry sky. She had to tilt her head far back to see the big star which was shining so brightly. Again she heard the cry of a child from inside the cave.

So she went into the stable.


The Archbishop of Canterbury's

Christmas message to the Anglican Communion

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed" (Matthew 2:10)

The joy of the Wise Men is understandable. The Gift of Christ to our world is beyond our comprehension. Christmas is always a joyful time for Christians, a time to reflect, with thankfulness to God, upon the full richness of his gift to the world of the Word made Flesh. How profoundly blessed we have been over the past two thousand years by the faith and the hope we have been given in Jesus Christ, that in him the world in all its pain and suffering as well as in its goodness and glory, might be saved.

But this year is special. Across the world, Christians and non-Christians will be united in marking the dawn of a new millennium. There will be global celebrations which acknowledge in a symbolic way the indelible mark which Jesus has made on history, and I hope there will be much rejoicing!

On 31 December, I will be joining many leading figures from Britain, including the Queen, the Prime Minster and a wide range of religious and civic leaders, for a national celebration in the Millennium Dome. I will have the great privilege and joy of leading the nation in prayer and thanksgiving. At that moment, with half the world having already entered the year 2000, and the other half just about to, I shall be very conscious of being at one with you all as we thank God for his goodness and ask him to bless our future together as part of his one creation.

Of course, being at the Millennium Dome, which has deliberately been developed on the Greenwich Meridian, I am sharply reminded that, for several centuries, we have looked at the world in a very euro-centric way. For a long time, maps have been centred around Europe, often exaggerating its size in comparison with other parts. Much of the language which we use to describe the world - the Far East, the Antipodes, the West Indies - assume that everyone sees the globe from a London perspective.

Well, the Anglican Communion demonstrates so well how those perspectives have changed as we enter the new Millennium. We are truly a world-wide Communion, and we are called to value, respect and care for one another. There continue to be so many places and so many people who are weighed down by the burden of human suffering. We are at one in that suffering as we are at one in the joy of faith. Indeed, it is by growing in that sense of oneness that our pain is transfigured as we each seek to express God's love in our own lives.

It is in that spirit that many people have become very involved in the campaign to lift the burden of unpayable debt from the poorest countries of the world. This campaign, led by the Jubilee 2000 Coalition, has been very successful in drawing attention to the moral dimensions of the problem, and we must ensure that the momentum is maintained, and developed into a challenge to ensure that the UN targets on poverty reduction by 2015 are achieved.

Let me then end this Christmas message by recalling that the 'euro-centricity' of our modern world is a recent phenomenon. Many of the medieval maps which exist - we have a wonderful example in Hereford Cathedral - place Jerusalem at the centre. As we remember with joy God's presence with us, and dedicate ourselves afresh in his service as we begin the new Millennium, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, spiritual home for millions of people, Christian, Muslim and Jew. May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and our lives this Christmas, and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, invade this world, bringing joy and hope in our believing.

Your brother in Christ,

George Carey


EARTHENWARE

Taken from "This England". From Christine

Boasting of our wealth and virtues rare,

What are we but bits of earthenware?

Fashioned by the one Great Master’s hand,

All marked with the same great Maker’s brand.

Some of us are fashioned tall and fair,

Vases for the mansion – Dresdenware:

Some of us as ornaments are prized;

Some of us are useful, and despised;

Some of us are big pots lined with gold;

Some of us are mugs, and bought and sold;

Some of us are "broke" – ah! that’s a fact;

Some of us are not broke, but cracked;

Some of us are fashioned fine and true,

Every ray of sunshine gleaming through;

Some of us are coarse and chipped and stained,

But fragrant with the balm of love contained.

Earthenware, just earthenware,

Vessels of clay; just earthenware.

All of us made by the one great Potter,

Some as white as porcelain,

Some as brown as terra-cotta;

Earthenware, just earthenware,

That the Master will repair

When we go to the clay

That we came from, someday;

Broken earthenware …


A prayer from the heart

From Gesine Buiten

When minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of The Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We confess that:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbour’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honoured values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the centre of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen."

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In six short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Reverend Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.

The church is now receiving international requests for copies of the prayer from India, Africa and Korea.

Commentator Paul Harvey aired the prayer on "The Rest of the Story" on the radio and received a larger response to this programme than any other he has ever aired.

With the Lord’s help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called one nation under God.


Footsteps

As we, the family of Jesus at St Francis Church, wait for the dawn of the new millennium and contemplate what Y2K will bring, let us remember the well known words of "Footsteps in the Sand".

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along a beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him, and the other belonging to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest time in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life there is one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I most needed you, you would leave me. The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and would not leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you only see one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

Sent in by Maud Charles.


It is difficult to get good help nowadays

From Ed Smith

We do not have a happy report to give. We’ve not been able to find a suitable candidate for this church, though we have one promising prospect still. We do appreciate all the suggestions from the church members, and we’ve followed up each one with interviews or calling at least three references. The following is our confidential report on the present candidates.

Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoys nude walking in the woods.

Noah: Former pastorate of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic building projects.

Abraham: Though the references reported wife-swapping, the facts seem to show he never slept with another man’s wife, but did offer to share his own wife with another man.

Joseph: A big thinker, but a braggart, believes in dream interpreting, and has a prison record.

Moses: A modest and meek man, but poor communicator, even stuttering at times. Sometimes blows his stack and acts rashly. Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.

David: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor’s wife.

Solomon: Great preacher but our parsonage would never hold all those wives.

Elijah: Prone to depression - collapses under pressure.

Elisha: Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.

Hosea: A tender and loving pastor but our people could never handle his wife’s occupation.

Deborah: Female.

Jeremiah: Emotionally unstable, alarmist, negative, always lamenting things, and reported to have taken a long trip to bury his underwear on the bank of a river.

Isaiah: On the fringe? Claims to have seen angels in church. Has trouble with his language.

Jonah: Refused God’s call into ministry until he was forced to obey by getting swallowed up by a great fish. He told us the fish later spat him out on the shore near here. We hung up.

Amos: Too backward and unpolished. With some seminary training he might have promise, but has a hang-up against wealthy people - might fit in better in a poor congregation.

John: Says he is a Baptist, but definitely doesn’t dress like one. Has slept in the outdoors for months on end, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.

Peter: Too blue collar. Has a bad temper - even has been known to curse. Had a big run-in with Paul in Antioch. Aggressive, but a loose cannon.

Paul: Powerful CEO type leader and fascinating preacher. However, short on tact, unforgiving with younger ministers, harsh and has been known to preach all night.

Timothy: Too young.

Jesus: Has had popular times, but once when his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all and this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he’s single.

Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this Sunday. Possibilities here.


Things we could learn from a dog

From South African Guide Dogs Association for the Blind

From Heather Napier


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