St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter
A forensic reconstruction based on first century skulls
of what Christ might have looked like:
for a BBC programme, "The Son of Man"
Editor: Mark Napier. Email:
email@example.com Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy
Extracts from an essay by C.S. Lewis
One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, 'freed' from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least, the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity.
The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated and eternal came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.
The story of the Incarnation is a story of a descent and a resurrection. When I say 'resurrection' here, I am not referring simply to the first few hours, or the first few weeks of the resurrection. I am talking of this whole, huge pattern of descent, down, down, then up again. What we ordinarily call the resurrection being, so to speak, the point at which it turns. Think what that descent is.
One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders. Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm, and sunlit water, into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, and then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe.
Now as soon as you have thought of this, this pattern of the huge dive down to the bottom, into the depths of the universe and coming up again into the light, everyone will see at once how that is imitated and echoed by the principles of the natural world; the descent of the seed into the soil, and its rising again in the plants.
That is why I think this grand miracle is the missing chapter in this novel, the chapter on which the whole plot turns; that is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise. St Peter for a few seconds walked on the water; and the day will come when there will be a re-made universe, infinitely obedient to the will of glorified and of obedient men, when we can do all things, when we shall be those gods that we are described as being in Scripture. To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, "The resurrection happened two thousand years ago" in the same spirit in which he says "I saw a crocus yesterday". Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is, of course, this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those 'high midsummer pomps' in which our Leader, the Son of Man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
From "God in the Dock: Essays on theology".
25 MARCH 2001
Looking back on the last year I think we can all relate to the psalmist, in the Psalm set for this morning Psalm 34.
We will always thank the Lord
Yes we do indeed praise and thank you Lord.
You may remember, that at the beginning of last year, the churchwardens and council said the interregnum was not going to be a holding action, but a period of continuing growth, and that it most certainly has been.
All the services and ministry have continued and in many cases grown. Our finances took quite a serious dip, but after the Generosity Giving campaign and much prayer, we were able to pay for the extensive repairs and refurbishing, of not only the Rectory, but also the hall and office complex. What a joy it is to work and worship at St Francis.
The new Prayer and Listening rooms are truly a blessing to many of us. Thank you to all the talented people who gave so freely of their gifts, expertise and time to accomplish this. We were also able to pay off our loan to the Diocese within three or four months.
Our 50th anniversary dinner and thanksgiving service were truly memorable. The usual pancake evenings and other parties seemed to happen so effortlessly. To Heatherlynn and her happy band of helpers Bravo and Encore!
The vision Martin and others had, of many things happening on a Wednesday night has come to pass, with Alpha and Alpha follow-up courses happening simultaneously, and on the same evenings we have had newcomers' suppers and at present the Catch the Fire series. All this begins with a shared meal for all who can get there in time. Thank you all you talented people who ensure these exciting things happen.
Confirmation and Baptism preparation continue unabated, as do Youth Group and Childrens Church. Once again, just too many people to thank by name.
Not many people realise how much planning, hymn choosing and practice go into our services, but the fruit speaks for itself. As people remark, the worship at St Francis just gets better and better.
Colins sudden departure as Chaplain to DSG in the middle of January left us aghast, but as always the ranks closed and business continues as usual. Colin, Louise, Timothy and Marion we still miss you and I really dont know how we would have coped without your cheerful and tireless devotion during the year 2000. We wish you well.
Finally the biggest thank you ever to our unbelievably talented, visionary and hardworking churchwardens, parish secretary and fellow clergy. There are dozens of other people that need thanking: sacristans, worship leaders, teachers, musicians, sides-people, prayers and intercessors, cleaners and maintenance people and others whom I may have forgotten. Please know that each and everyone of you is appreciated. Thank you for your tolerance, appreciation and support.
As to the future, we look forward with great joy and anticipation to the arrival of our new rector and his family on the first of May (Workers Day!). We will continue to encourage every member ministry and to praise the Lords greatness.
This report reflects in many ways the end of an era, whilst at the same time heralding a new beginning. It is the end of my three year tenure as churchwarden, and the end of the interregnum with Tim Lowes taking up his position as Rector on 1 May 2001. It is this interregnum I would like to cover in this report rather than simply the period since the last vestry meeting.
Martin and Sarah left us officially on 1 January 2000 and since then a lot of water has flown under the bridge. St. Francis is still the same parish as it was, but in other ways it is very different.
The questions often raised are: "Have we moved out of Martins shadow, and are we ready to embrace a new Rector?" and "Are we still trying to do things the way Martin did them?"
I recall the first Sunday after Martin had left. Martin used to sing the responses, and on that Sunday June was on duty, and tried to do the same. I think that was the last time any of us tried to do things the way Martin did!
The Bishop's charge to Synod last year was that we should be a mission church rather than a maintenance church. That is what we have tried to do during this interregnum - to allow people to develop their ministries as God leads them. And as we did this I cannot think of a moment during a Council meeting or any other discussion when it was felt that we had to do something in a particular way simply because Martin did it that way. I think that as a Parish we have matured and are ready to receive a new Rector.
Highlights of the interregnum.
We began the interregnum knowing that we had lost Martin, but at least we had five ordained clergy to help carry us through. However Archie Archibald, who was a solid, committed, ordained Deacon passed away suddenly leaving a gaping hole in our ministry team. It was a real shock to us all.
Having rearranged who was going to do what, we needed to re-rearrange it again and that put a lot of pressure on a team that was already feeling its way into unknown territory.
Finding a new rector is no easy task. One doesnt advertise in the Sunday Times, phone the Professional Assignments Group and wait for the applications to roll in. Applications dont roll in. You have to go and find people - and thats also not easy - firstly to find suitable candidates, and then to find suitable candidates who want to move to St. Francis. I remember the first CV we got. It was brilliant. This was the perfect candidate - this was easy. But that was not the right one.
The second highlight was the council meeting we had to decide on the short list of candidates. We had seven on the list at that time and we needed to give the Bishop a list of three. I was expecting a VERY long meeting. Within forty minutes we had a list of three who came out head and shoulders above the other four. God was truly at work.
Then there were the renovations of the hall and the rectory. Anyone who knows me wonders why I was given the portfolio of property maintenance. I battle to change a light globe at home!!
But fortunately God gave us Collette Donkin and Noble Dalziel who DO know a little about redecorating and maintenance. The way these two transformed the hall and rectory is known to us all. But the highlight was the day the glass window was installed into the dry wall of the prayer room. There had been much debate about whether a window should have been put in there at all, and there was also much discussion about a central focus point in the room. The moment the glass was installed a number of us were standing in the middle of the hall. One of us looked at the newly installed glass window and noticed the reflection of the most beautiful stained glass window - the one at the back of the hall. We had our focal point and then knew why we needed to install a window!! God was truly at work.
Another highlight was the interview with Tim and Nina - the final deciding moment on our new Rector. Another long night was expected. After a frank interview and open discussion it was settled. There were no illusions as to their strengths and weaknesses, and in the final analysis Tim and Nina fulfilled the Personal Profile that one was heard to say that only Christ could fill!! In a letter written to the Council to give us an idea of who he was, Tim described himself as a pastor, a peoples person and a shepherd, words that kept being used to describe the type of person we were looking for. Much prayer and fasting and seeking Gods will has gone into this decision, and we now move forward in faith because God is still truly at work.
There were also times of total frustration and anger - but I could not describe these moments as highlights!!
You the parishioners carried me through these times with your prayers and encouragement - and for that I thank you.
Christine too has been a pillar of strength in the way she has supported me and handled many of the administrative functions that come with the job. The renovation of the property was also a very trying time for her, and for seeing us through all of that, thank you.
The clergy have carried an enormous load, and if losing Martin and Archie were not enough, we also lost Colin to DSG in January this year. Colin was fantastic in the way he attended to so many of the day to day matters around the parish, and poured oil on troubled water. I now know why the clergy always carry those little vials of oil around - and Colins was always needing to be re-filled! A special thanks must go to him for the special role he played during the interregnum. And to June, Ed and Martzi, a big thank you for your service to us all.
There are six more people I need to single out. Robin Heath, Stuart Waetzel, Eckart Brock, Dave Kirby and I formed the executive during the interregnum. We worked extremely well together and they absorbed a lot of my frustration and anger mentioned earlier. Telkom made a lot of money off the phone calls and e-mails that flew around between us! To them I say a very big thank you for their support, advice, and encouragement. Many have said that we made a formidable team - and we did - because we worked so closely together, consulted on most things, very seldom acting alone, and we were of one mind on most issues.
To Heather, my wife, anything I say will be inadequate to thank her for all the time she allowed me to have to fulfil this task and for her unwavering support, without which I could not have managed. Her calming influence and sensible way of looking at things were such a great help, not to mention the times when she stepped in and took things off my already laden plate to make way for church duties. Thank you.
And finally I thank God for calling me and equipping me for this task. It has been a humbling experience which I have embraced fully and given my all. There were times when ideas came to mind that were so spot on for the circumstances that I could only ascribe it to the work of the Spirit. To Him must go the ultimate thanks for seeing us all through a fruitful interregnum, sending His man to be our Rector and bringing us to the beginning of a new era.
Review of Finances for the year 2000.
The good news is that our finances are alive and well. We have substantial funds in the bank and the our auditors have found our books to be fair and under control. Thank you Lord.
During the first half of 2000 our finances went into decline but thanks to our generosity giving campaign and many answered prayers the situation turned around in the second half of the year. Our net income for the year was 25% up on the 1999 figure. Thank you Lord.
Our expenses focus on the following areas:
- the upkeep of 2 large properties
- administration and communication
- ministry and mission activities
- contributions to the Diocese
Most of our expenses in 2000 were in line with previous trends and our budget. The notable exception was, as most of you will know, the refurbishment and improvement project for our properties. This included the church, the church hall, the rectory, the gardens, and the staff accommodation quarters. The substantial amount spent needs to put into perspective: we spent very little on maintenance in the preceding 10 years. If spread over 10 years perhaps the amount sounds more acceptable.
As a direct result of the refurbishment project, total expenditure exceeded income. The car fund was used as bridging finance for this deficit. Please note that we are already busy topping up the car fund again in time for when we have to replace the existing parish car. Thank you Lord.
Our thanks also go to:
- Christine for her effective day to day cost control and bookkeeping.
- Robin for counting and banking the money every Monday.
- KPMG for doing our audits free of charge.
- All of you who contribute so generously and regularly.
God bless you all.
Report by Jill Daugherty
A Womens Conference on the theme Listen to what the women say was held on 24 March 2001 at St Albans Cathedral to address issues of concern on a Diocesan/Parish/Community level.
There were 274 delegates from nearly every parish in the diocese, including the Lowveld and from as far as Malelane. St Francis was represented by June de Klerk, Martzi Eidelberg, Ida Tlailane, Liz Horne and Jill Daugherty, while Rosalie Finlayson was one of the facilitators. The sky was heavily overcast, but the day was made bright by the friendly faces and the enthusiastic singing of choruses.
Bishop Jo Seoka, who came straight from the airport after a visit to Germany, opened the conference. He expressed his vision of every parish being a one-stop outlet for all our needs, spiritual, intellectual and physical. Explaining the purpose of the conference, Dr Timeya Seoka called on us to find one another across class, racial and cultural divides and to empower ourselves through knowledge and then to share it. She reminded us that Mary and Martha on Easter morning wondered who would roll away the stone, but this did not stop them from going to Jesus tomb. We should therefore not be deterred by 'stones' such as unemployment and moral decay.
The delegates were divided into 16 groups and everyone was asked to express one concern about the diocese, one about her parish and one about her community. These were noted down by all members of the group. We then divided into 16 other groups to report to each other about the concerns raised in the first groups. It soon became apparent that many of the concerns were common to a lot of parishes: shortage of priests/rectors, ignorance of the structures and communication channels of the diocese, financial problems, lack of commitment of parishioners particularly the youth, lack of spiritual growth, problems of caring for those in need such as the poor, the unemployed, the aged, street children, Aids sufferers, victims of abuse.
In a final session, we returned to our original groups and tried to find solutions for communication problems in the diocese, parish and community. In my group we decided that it was best to approach the bishop through the parish council and then the archdeacon, but we wondered how one could ensure that the information or request was being forwarded. (An information sheet of useful contacts, which was handed to every delegation at the end of the conference, should be helpful here.) On a parish level, we decided that training in listening was desirable for churchwardens, councillors and lay ministers. House church groups were also suggested as a first port of call for those in need of help. For the community, we felt that it was first necessary to identify needs and that other denominations should be invited to participate in projects.
In summing up and pointing the way forward, Dr Hlope Bam asked us all to share the information we had gained with other women in our parishes and with members of any other groups we belonged to outside the parish regarding concerns about the community. She also suggested that a mini-conference on the same lines be organised in every parish. More such meetings on a diocesan level were being planned, but in venues other than Pretoria. Any projects initiated by Anglican women or any information about women should be sent to the Bishops office labelled Listen to what the women say. Every delegation designated a contact person from among their number who will liaise with the Bishops office. Our delegation chose Ida Tlailane.
An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.
An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who orders three Beers. Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I dont mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you order three beers?"
"Tis odd, isnt it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brother, and one went to America, and the other Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."
The bartender, and the whole town, was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.
Then one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening: he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers. The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to your for the death of your brother. You know the two beers and all ."
The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "Youll be happy to hear that my two brother are alive and well. Its just that I, meself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."
Read by Robin at Pancake evening!
Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientist, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until theyve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, youll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you cant grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Dont worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Dont be reckless with other peoples hearts. Dont put up with people who are reckless with yours. Dont waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes youre ahead, sometimes youre behind. The race is long, in the end, its only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Dont feel guilty if you dont know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know did not know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still dont. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. Youll miss them when theyre gone. Maybe youll marry, maybe you wont. Maybe youll have children, maybe you wont. Maybe youll divorce at 40, maybe youll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, dont congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody elses.
Enjoy your body. Dont be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. Its the greatest instrument youll ever own. Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in your living room. Read the directions, even if you dont follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when theyll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. Theyre your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, youll fantasise that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Dont expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe youll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Dont mess too much with your hair, by the time youre 40 it will look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is from a nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than its worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
Kurt Vonnegut MIT
Hebrews 10:19-25Matthew 7:21-27
Martin writes: Here, if you like, is something that the people of St Francis may find of interest for Tidings. It is my latest report to our Diocesan Standing Committee - giving an idea of what I am doing in my ministry here at the moment, and how I believe God is leading this Diocese forward.
1. Our Vision
At our first DSC meeting of the year, let us remind ourselves of the vision that God has given to the Diocese:
To see vibrant, self-sufficient Congregations established and linked to each other for the purpose of sharing in
- Ministry and service;
- Outreach and evangelism.
In August last year I identified some of the key elements that are present in such vibrant, self-sufficient congregations. Here they are again (organised slightly differently):
1. Empowering Leadership Rectors, working closely with Community Clergy and Lay Leaders, provide overall leadership and vision, co-ordinate the ministries, and give training and encouragement.
2. Gift-Oriented Ministry every member has an opportunity to discover, exercise and grow in his or her spiritual gifts.
3. Passionate spirituality people are led to a personal relationship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and grow in that relationship of faith and love.
4. Functional Structures people give generously so that the vision can be fulfilled, and the church is organised in such a way that ministry and mission can take place most effectively.
5. Inspiring Worship worship is well prepared, glorifying to God, relevant to peoples lives, and empowers them to continue to serve God in their daily lives.
6. Holistic Small Groups people meet regularly in their homes for Bible study, ministry, fellowship and prayer together.
7. Need-Oriented Evangelism the Good News of Jesus is presented in a way that is relevant to the felt needs of people in the wider community, through proclamation and service.
8. Loving Relationships the members know and care for one another in practical ways, and have learned to accept and forgive one another, bringing reconciliation to the world as well.
That is what we are aiming to see in our Congregations and Parishes, and in everything I do as Bishop, my goal is to help and encourage the church in this Diocese to live up to this vision. In this report I would like to highlight some of my most important priorities for this year as we seek to fulfil it together.
2. Priorities for 2001
One of the most important achievements of last year was establishing four new Archdeaconries, with new (3 of them anyway!) Archdeacons, and a new vision for their role in the life of the Diocese. This year we need to work hard to see that the four Archdeaconries become effective units teams of ordained and lay leaders who work together, support, encourage and help one another in fulfilling our vision. A special challenge will be stewardship and giving, and the budget process for 2002, which needs to begin quite soon! I am delighted that Training for Ministries, Delta, Transformation and the Bishops Assistant are working together (Training Formations Co-ordinating Committee) to provide training at Archdeaconry Council meetings.
Last year a lot of work was done to clarify our expectations of those preparing for Ordination and Licensed Lay Ministries in the Diocese. This year I intend to work closely with our Diocesan Trainer to develop clear guidelines for those who believe God is calling them to various ministries, and to support him in his challenging task of overseeing training.
A great deal of training takes place at Parish and Archdeaconry level. For example, Archdeaconry meetings this year include the training of Churchwardens, Parish and Chapelry Councils. In Parishes, Training Committees need to be set up as a matter of priority.
This week we held a Clergy School (with Lay Ministers invited on Wednesday) on "Church Growth and Renewal" in which we were able to focus on some key aspects of the characteristics of growing churches. Later this year (4th to 6th August), at our Diocesan Conference, we will look at our relationship with the world as we explore the theme: "The African Renaissance and the Kingdom of God".
To achieve our vision, we need a leadership team including Rector, Community Priests and Deacons, Lay Ministers and Leaders in every parish. I am delighted with the work being done by the seven Church Supported Rectors in their Parishes but it is a matter of priority for me to find and appoint suitable Rectors for the other four. I have already held discussions with leaders in the Parishes of St Andrews (with St Michaels United Church), Zoutpansberg and Sekhukhuneland, and hope to meet the leaders of Tlhatlaganya soon, and plans are beginning to fall into place. The goal in each case is to move towards becoming the "Church of Disciples" and "Communion of Communities" that we heard about at Clergy School on Wednesday.
2.4 Important Issues
There are two other areas to which I intend to give special attention this year:
Synod and DSC have already identified HIV/AIDS as a priority. Although I have not yet managed to set up our new Diocesan AIDS Sub-Committee, I have begun to hold discussions with key people and will soon invite a group to meet with me and establish the Diocesan AIDS Desk. I hope that we will be able to access funding to equip our people and parishes to work with others in:
- Providing home based care for AIDS patients and their families;
- Educating the community in Christian attitudes towards lifestyle and sexuality.
2.4.2 Youth Ministries
Last year we established a new Diocesan Youth Council (DYC) to serve as an umbrella body for all our Youth Ministries. After a year of experience we need to write and approve a new constitution for DYC. I have also been concerned at the quality of some of the events and training organised by DYC and some of its affiliates, and have appointed a Training Advisory Team to work with them and guide them in this work.
3. Action and Obedience
If we really want to please God as we commit ourselves to these things, then we need to remember:
- Nothing we do is of any value unless we are in a growing relationship of love and prayer with God through Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 7:21-23).
- Our words and commitments are empty unless they lead to obedient action in response to Gods word to us (Matthew 7:24-27).
- None of us (not even the bishop!) can do this on our own we need to meet regularly for prayer, worship, Bible study, training fellowship and prayer so that we share in this ministry and mission with God and one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
God bless you!