St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter
Editor: Mark Napier. Email:
email@example.com Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy
This is the first edition of The Franciscan for this year. Usually the first edition coincides with Lent and Vestry meeting. However this year the Vestry Reports were distributed on the day of the meeting. These reports will be placed on the Church website shortly anyone wishes to access them again. Please feel free to use the website and tell friends, near and far, about it if they want to keep in touch. I am also happy to place material on the website if you email it to me. Many thanks for all the contributions to the Easter edition. If you have submitted material and have not seen it published, please do contact me and I'll try and track it down.
My dear Parishioners
Perhaps one of the most perplexing things in life is the realization that when our world's come to a halt, the rest of the world does not seem to notice. We want the world to stop, but it doesn't. People continue their lives as usual. The world may have ended for us, not for them. Buses still run, people hurry to work and shoppers still gaze into store windows.
Our grief or confusion cries to the world to stop, to bow its head, to order silence, but time runs on heedlessly . W H Auden captures this strange dislocation in "Musee des Beaux Arts".
I have no doubt that for the followers of Jesus, this must have seemed the case on Good Friday as they gazed into the inconsolable loss of death. Devastated by the fact that Christ, having earlier revealed His glory upon a mountain, now hung, stripped naked upon Calvary, they fled in shame and terror. Huddled together in the Upper Room and cut off from the outside world, they desperately tried to make sense of it all. All seemed lost. Their world had come to an end.
But had it?
The truth is that whilst on the night of Christ's burial, many who loved him were overwhelmed by grief and despair, yet never had there been a night in the whole of history of mankind so pregnant with the secret of the unending life and joy that within three days was to break upon the world with the dawn.
Christ's story did not end on Good Friday. The "failure" was turned into a triumphant victory on Easter morning - a sign that God is fully in control and the true source of Ongoing Life.
And that wonderful truth is as pertinent for us TODAY as it was for those early disciples.
"It is one of the greatest principles of Christianity", said Pascal, "that that which happened in Jesus Christ may happen in the soul of every Christian"; and if the Christian faith has affinities with Calvary today, it also has a kinship with the RESURRECTION. And the resurrection means that the worst has been met and has been conquered. The resurrection says that no matter how life may seem to go to pieces around you, nevertheless, the last word is love. And that in the here and now if it had it been a spiritual resurrection only, it would have meant that the victory is beyond matter, not in the midst of it.
The Resurrection says that here and now we can meet and conquer life's tragedies. Through the life and death and resurrection of our Blessed Lord, we find the assurance that we are not sailing a rudderless craft, that the heart of the universe is sound. The message of Easter is that history is in God's hands.
The disciples were not primarily men of ideas said Dr Scott. They did not have a concept of immortality and then think up a resurrection experience to sustain it. They experienced the resurrection.
My prayer for you all, is that each of you will experience the resurrection in your own lives. That the Spirit of the Risen Christ, which already works in you, will continue to do so. That you will understand fully that you have risen out of the darkness of doubt and are already experiencing the brightness and the sunshine of God's eternal light. That you can rise above fear and above self.
The resurrection in all it's heavenliness and unearthly elevation has begun within our souls - may we take this glorious truth into a world so desperately looking for meaning and hope.
Have a blessed Easter and know that you are a special group of people.
By Colette Donkin
At Christmas time my nephew passed the comment, during a lively discussion that we were having, "Why doesn't God just come down to earth and perform some miracles so that everyone can see them and believe? The Bible tells us of all the ones performed in Jesus' time but what about now? No-one ever hears about any!" Those words of his stuck with me and I would like to share with you a miracle that took place right here in Gauteng and which touched the lives of many of us.
It started with the Wednesday morning group, the Morning Glories, undertaking the "Experiencing God" course which focuses on how to see where God is working around you and join Him in His work. Some of our ladies decided to start a soup kitchen and they were sent out to find where God was at work in our area. They discovered a missionary called Jan, who is working with street children in Pretoria and who desperately needed help in feeding the children. So the soup kitchen came about and during a visit to the street children's shelter in Salvokop, I became shockingly aware how, although clean, the environment for these eighteen boys or so was so starkly lacking in colour. There was not a splash of colour anywhere, something which most of us take for granted. Two of us in the Wednesday group are interior decorators and we undertook to spearhead a project to colour their world by way of paint and colourful blinds for their very bare rooms. Many of you at St. Francis came on board with us and donated both money and sewing skills but we decided to approach a large paint company in the hope of being given a few litres of paint.
Jacqueline, my fellow decorator, made the appointment and off we went to the Head Office, armed with our drawings and covered in lots of prayer. Our meeting was amazing. That very morning our contact had been instructed to get rid of a large quantity of tester pots which hadn't been a success for their company. Within a very short time we were promised a wonderful quantity of paint in colours somewhat similar to our designs. When I asked her what we could do to thank her via media coverage etc. , she said "Please don't worry. We get up to ten calls a day asking for donations and I just get those calls blocked as I can't help them." I looked at her and just burst out, "Well then, what are we doing here?" She looked totally puzzled and said, "I don't know. You were so persistent" (looking at Jacqueline). I said, "Then that's God at work!" She looked a bit startled. We left on cloud nine with a promise of 3,000 tester pots and our hearts full of praise for God's incredible timing.
The tester pots began arriving in dribs and drabs, and then nothing at all. We became concerned as weeks passed. There was a problem at the factory with what was reflected on stats and what was actually in stock. I asked our house group to pray and I admit I began asking God what was going on as I had shared the miracle with so many people. "Please Lord, you have to make this happen." He did have it all in hand, of course, and a couple of weeks passed when we had all the paint delivered, not in hundreds of little tester pots which were of course a nightmare to decant etc. , but in 5 litre cans of paint, 40 cans in total in very usable colours. The company had made a commitment to us and honoured it by way of a much more satisfactory situation for ourselves.
God had been in control all along. I realised that if the tester pot distribution need hadn't been there, we probably would have been donated a little bit of paint and would have left gratefully. However the incredible timing coinciding with their need to get rid of the tester posts could only have been arranged from above. Having made their promise to supply us, they felt beholden to honour their commitment despite the fact that they found that they had overestimated the amount of paint available in tester pots. How many companies today would do that?
The boys have started painting their home and slowly but surely the transformation is taking place and for many of us involved the lesson has been learnt that when God wants something done, He truly brings it about and we must just be available for Him to work through. He is an awesome God and still brings about so many miracles, even pots of paint for eighteen young boys.
by Edwina Thomas
SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) is an Anglican based mission agency' which seeks to help equip the church world-wide to fulfil the Great Commission of Jesus Christ: to proclaim the Good News to all the world. Carefully selected and prepared teams go at the invitation of the Bishop of the diocese, or an equivalent person in authority, who is responsible for looking after team members during the visit.
These small teams of men and women, ordained and lay, travel at their own expense to a country - often in the developing world - for about 2 or 3 weeks. They expect the Lord to use them through the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit. SOMA representatives are to be found in Australia, Canada, Europe, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, The USA, and even Southern Africa.
A message on forgiveness was written by Edwina Thomas, Director of SOMA USA. How relevant this message is for the world!
THE WAY OF THE SAVIOUR
Those of you who have followed SOMA USA over the years will remember that we have ministered in adverse circumstances. We responded to the invitation to Rwanda in 1996 to love and minister to the Church after the genocide. At God's bidding, we visited southern Sunday, even enduring with fellow Christians the bombing of the Episcopal Cathedral compound in Maridi. These are only two of the place in the world that we have visited where terror reigns.
What have we said to folks where unjust and horrific things happen? In essence, we only have one message, the same truth Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Recently, I overheard a conversation where a friend lamented that he feared many people would be forever "stuck" in the September Eleventh terrorist tragedy. As I ponder this comment, I realise that since 9/11 we need to continually remind ourselves, and one another of the truth that we proclaim. The way of our Saviour is our hope, our future, and our destiny.
To move forward, we must, like all victims of injustice, choose the costly way of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about whether the terrorist organisations 'deserve' or ask forgiveness. It is not about whether we feel like forgiving. Forgiveness does not absolve the perpetrators from the consequences of their action. FORGIVENESS IS AN ACT OF THE WILL THAT SETS US FREE.
Can we spiritually release those who planned and carried out the despicable attacks in the USA? Can we check our feelings when they spill over from justice to retaliation, or from righteous anger to seething rage? I believe someone looked with pain and anger upon Saul's persecution of Stephen and other Christians, and yet prayed him into the best that God could give - transformation. Will you pray with me for transformed terrorists? First enter into the process of forgiving. Then pray for today's 'Sauls' throughout the world to become tomorrow's 'Pauls'.
From Martin Breytenbach, by Dennis Bailey
"Only in Africa," the South African Airways pilot exhaled at no one in particular, smirking cynically at the ecclesiastical embarrassment at the head of the disorderly check-in queue. At Kigali Airport, even off-duty crew-members join the queue.
A pregnant nun is about as contradictory as the Immaculate Conception. I was flying back to South Africa to celebrate last Christmas but there she was, large as life, causing everyone to stare and speculate. Predictably, the computers were down at Kigali Airport, prolonging formalities and making chaos of the seating arrangements aboard the weekly direct flight from Rwanda to Johannesburg. Normally this would provoke me to panic but, having been informed that the plane was half-empty, I had no need to join the scramble for seats once we were called to board SA 613.
I had upgraded to business class in an attempt to use my frequent flyer miles before they expired at year-end, so I kept my nose in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace and lubricated my throat with what remained of the beverage that the upgrade provided. I had been awake since 3am and was so dog-tired that I hoped a whisky would knock me out for the duration of the flight back to Johannesburg. I needed to sleep enough of the next four hours to be enthusiastic when my family, who were already holidaying in he Cape, met me off the midnight flight to the mother city.
However, by the time I sauntered merrily up across the blistering tarmac to the airbus, all but one seat was taken in business class. As luck would have it, or God would design, I had little choice. I could sit in any number of seats and suffer the limited leg-room of pleb-class from which I had been upgraded, or enjoy a hot flannel and a wider seat to sleep in beside a pregnant nun whose company everyone else had avoided. Having stowed my laptop, I slumped into the seat beside her. She smiled and greeted me in Kinyarwanda. I had learned enough of the local lingo to satisfy convention, then settled back to my novel, convinced that the absence of a common tongue would limit any further exchange. I was wrong.
"Going home for Christmas?" I nodded and felt constrained to enquire, "You?" She shook her head. "Rwanda's my home."
It was also obvious from her intense study of the in-flight information card and her rapt attention to the flight attendant's take-off instructions, that the nun was a novice at flying. When take-off confirmed the bumpy reputation of Central African skies, I located the complimentary paper bag, in anticipation of the inevitable, but didn't need it. The only sign of nervousness was a neat ring of condensation on the window, near her petite nose. I guessed she was no older than 30, although she had the complexion of a child. Despite the roller-coaster climb through the clouds, she remained a glowing picture of contentment and health but this was the least of her attributes that intrigued me.
Inevitably, she asked what I was doing in Rwanda. "We're in the same business, sort of, you and I." "We are?" She replied. Hiding a slight tease in her tone, she asked, "And what sort of business might that be?"
"I'm a priest," I began, then observing her scepticism, qualified it. "Sort of." Her eyes widened and she gave me the once-over again. "And what sort of priest might you be, Father?"
The sort that is intrigued to be sitting beside a knocked-up nun, was the response I had in mind, but said: "I'm not paid by the church but I'm ordained."
"I didn't ask who paid you," she responded, but then softened the reprimand with a practiced smile. "I meant, of which church are you a priest?"
In her condition, it seemed like an affront. What kind of nun was she, after all? "I'm a consultant doing some work for the BBC in Kigali and I write a bit, but I was ordained by the Anglican Church, although I'm more comfortable in the company of sinners than saints these days."
"Jack of all trades." Her smile widened. "And master of none. And you?" Her eyebrows lifted. "Isn't that obvious?"
My silence spoke for itself and she smiled at my embarrassment. She was so at ease with herself that there had to be an easier explanation than divine interference. I presumed she was a member of a lay order that wore the garb without taking all the vows of vocation.
"Nuns are women too, Father," she said, watching me fidget with my wedding ring. "Hardly usual though." "No," she conceded. She eyeballed me sideways. "Not usual. Not usual at all. And, yes, since you asked, I am pregnant."
Thus she began her story, told quite matter-of-factly, perfectly camouflaging the agony and sparing me most of the gruesome details. Although rape is endemic in Africa, it is the last thing one expects a nun to have had to endure. Caught up in the backlash and hatred of Rwanda's epic genocide, even religious figures have become victims of a political history of officially engineered hatred.
"So you're going to have the baby in South Africa?" "Discreetly, in a private clinic in Johannesburg," she said enthusiastically, leaving the pain of the past for the excitement of the present. "I'm here until after Easter and will care for the child for as long as I'm able." I assumed "able" to mean allowed. "And then?" "Only God knows. But the child will be cared for," she assured me confidently. I had no doubt that the church would do its duty by this special child but I couldn't help wondering how her order would cope with the practicalities of an infant suckling a nun's breast.
"You seem to have come to terms with it all very well." "I'm not sure rape is something anyone comes to terms with, Father," she said, putting me firmly in my place. "But I'm grateful to God for the privilege of motherhood."
Before my cynicism could cast dark shadows on her positive spirit, I asked, "You believe there's something quite special about this child don't you, Sister?" "Doesn't every mother?"
She was right, of course, and I could not help but marvel at the miracle of birth and rebirth sitting in the seat beside me. Having worked alongside the lingering ache of Rwanda's genocide for a year, her resilience and resolute spirit inspired me. Never had I come across such human violation being transformed into a living and inspirational symbol of hope. I tried to imagine what the product of her womb would become to a community torn apart by hatred and violence. If God was to become one of us again, then I guess a possible route was sitting in the seat beside me.
Having cleared immigration at Johannesburg Airport, we dallied through Nothing to Declare, relishing the priceless stares of customs' officials who couldn't bring themselves to check what illicit cargo a pregnant nun and her boyfriend had hidden beneath her habit. We paused in front of the automatic doors that spewed passengers into the arrival's lounge long enough to say our final farewell.
"You never told me your name, Sister," I said, handing her a card with my contact details. "You never asked, Father." She took my card, then grinned mischievously. In the short time we'd been together, she'd learned enough about me to know I would enjoy the irony of her name. "Immaculate," she said, tentatively at first. Then repeated: "Sister Immaculate."
I was gob-smacked initially, then guffawed. That the conception of Jesus had to be "immaculate" to be Bible-worthy is one thing, to be faced with a nun called Immaculate who was pregnant was beyond belief.
"I know," she said, titling her head apologetically, still holding my hand. "Your story is too much." "I'm sorry," she chuckled, "but you've been an appreciative listener." "Would you mind me telling it again?" The request didn't register at first. "I would like to write your story." She threw her head back and laughed. Eventually she asked: "And what would be the title of such a story, Father?" It hardly needed a second thought. "Immaculate's Conception".
For life and spirit to come out of such gross violation, is at least holy, if not a miracle. But I wanted to tell her story, so pushed. "Sister, have you any idea what an inspiration hearing your story has been?"
She became coy suddenly. "You don't have the monopoly on cynicism, Father, but let me think on it some more and I'll let you know."
It was the closest she had allowed me to her pain. She turned to push her trolley out into a clutch of similarly clad nuns excitedly waiting to greet her. I watched long enough to catch her glance back over her shoulder and call back: "You decide the title, Father. I'll look forward to the reading of it."
Sister Immaculate gave birth to a baby boy on Valentine's Day, 2001, and has since returned to Rwanda where she is raising her child in a Catholic orphanage. Sister Immaculate's son is called Emmanuel.
Dear St Francis Family
Over the past while our family has suffered the loss of both its parents. During this time of sorrow our burden has been made lighter by the love and empathy given to us by our friends in Pretoria. Even though we have been strangers for many years you welcomed us into your hearts and homes. For this we thank you. It was amazing to us to see how well our parents were remembered and loved, and have that love encompass us. We miss our parents greatly but find some solace in the ties they left behind. You as a community are part of the thread that ties our parents to us. We remember our parent's lives with joy.
Grant to us all,
Give us grace
Into your hands, O Lord,
Eye halve a spelling chequer
Eye strike a key and type a word
Eye have run this poem threw it
By Gareth Lewis Gr. 11. Oasis Youth
During bad times
Maker of raindrops and rose
Maker of sand-dunes and snowflakes
Maker of piglets and puppies
Sent in by Tom McNeill
By Anne Marie Smith
One of the Easter traditions that seems to have fallen into disuse, is the painting of Easter eggs. Some Christians maintain that eggs and bunnies have got nothing to do with Easter, but if we take into account that a hard-boiled egg is part of the Jewish Seder ceremony, then I do not think we should feel we are doing something wrong. As long as we keep in mind that Jesus' death and resurrection is the focal point of Easter, there is no harm in painting a few eggs. The whole activity in itself is a great way to do something together as a family, and it is lots of fun for the kids.
Make sure the work surface is covered with a layer of newspaper or a plastic tablecloth.
The first step is to boil the eggs for 10 minutes and then cool them off under cold running water (that is if you still want to eat them afterwards and do not want the yolk to turn blue at the edges). Alternatively, eggs can be pricked at both ends with a needle and blown out, but this is less suitable if kids are to paint the eggs.
Here are egg-colouring kits for sale, e.g. at Walter's Feinkost in Glenfair centre, and Pick 'n' Pay Hyper has been selling trays of white eggs with a little paint kit enclosed, just before Easter the last few years. Follow instructions for use.
There are however other techniques available that only require a few simple things.
Most kids have crayons and these can be used to draw picture and letters on the eggs. Then a bit of food colouring can be wiped over that with a cotton bud. Where there is wax crayon on the eggshell, the colouring will not stick and there will be a contrast between the 2 colouring materials.
Alternatively the egg can be coloured with koki-pens. If you still want to eat the eggs, make sure that the koki pens are non-toxic.
Another way to decorate an egg is to stick little stickers on. These are for sale in lots of shops. One can also decorate the egg as the body of a beetle or a bee and then stick on wings cut our of paper and decorated with coloured pens or crayons.
If you paint a face, you can put a little paper hat on it by drawing a circle, clipping half the diameter and gluing the paper together at the cut, overlapping the edges.
The packaged Easter egg dyes require dipping an egg into the solution. The more you dip, the deeper the colour becomes. One can dip half the egg in one colour and the other half into another colour, lengthways, sideways - use your imagination! When all eggs are done, take a bit of oil and rub this on the eggs, then polish with a cloth. It makes them shiny. And then you can still have an Easter egg hunt in the house or in the garden. Just remember where you hid them!
from Eckart Brock
Johnny (4) seemed especially intent when his mother read him a story from the children's bible about how Eve was created out of one of Adams ribs. The following day his mom saw him lying down and thinking he was ill asked: " Johnny what's the matter?" "I have a pain in my side," the boy replied. "I think I'm going to have a wife."
Jack (3) was watching his mom breastfeeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: "Mom, why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?"
Off to church, a mother asked her children: "Why is it necessary to be quiet in church?" Answered a daughter: " Because people are sleeping."
Brittany (4) had earache and wanted a painkiller. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her mom explained it was a childproof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: "How does it know it's me?"
One day, a diver was enjoying the aquatic world 20 feet below sea level. He noticed a guy at the same depth, but with no scuba gear whatsoever. The diver went below another 20 feet, and the guy joined him a few minutes later. The diver went below 25 feet, and minutes later, the same guy joined him. This confused the diver, so he took out a waterproof chalkboard set and wrote, "How the heck are you able to stay under this deep without equipment?"
The guy took the board and chalk, erased what the diver had written, and wrote, "I'm drowning, you moron!"
Sent in by Robin Heath
There lived within a country town
On Sunday she would haste away
When she was taken ill one day
But oh; you look quite well again
Then sickness fell on Betty's cow
The pastor knew not what to do
He thought the cow was almost dead
You poor old beast you do look bad
The cow got well and the dear old dame
Next day the pastor caught a chill
Now when poor Betty heard the news
The servants all began to grin
Well, let her in, was his reply
I can't pray much, I don't know how
You poor old beast you do look bad
The pastor laughed enough to choke,
And then he told his gentle wife,