MESSAGE OF GREETINGS TO THE SYNOD
CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD, KWAMAGWAZA : SEPTEMBER 1, 2000
Our Bishops; members of the House of the Clergy and members of the House of the Laity assembled for Synod; the Honourable the Premier of KwaZulu Natal; Mrs Mdletshe and fellow Anglicans. I was quite overawed when I was told that my Bishop had sent a message that I must convey a message of greetings to Synod this evening. This was because I know the importance of Synod, having served in this Synod for decades in the past. On this day all of us focus our eyes on the Bishop's Charge to Synod. It is not right to divert our eyes to other personalities' messages on this day. However, this should not be misunderstood to mean that I am in any way criticising the Bishop's decision to afford me this time to express fraternal greetings to my brothers and sisters in Christ assembled here to legislate for our Church in this Diocese.
As I stand here, my mind goes back many years when I first attended Synod under the Presidency of Bishop Eric Trapp and also during the Episcopate of Bishop Thomas Savage and Bishop Alphaeus Zulu. In my mind flashes the faces of so many of God's servants who have served this Diocese for so many decades. A few of these, such as Canon Peter Biyela and a few others, are still amongst what we refer to as "the quick", and many of them who have departed this life. I am thinking here of all the Bishops, Bishop William Lee, Bishop Eric Trapp, Bishop Thomas Savage, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu, and Bishop Lawrence and Bishop Peter Harker, the only two still alive of the Bishop's whom I knew. I am thinking of some outstanding members of the House of Clergy such as Canon Philip Mbatha, Canon Lymon Dhladhla, Canon Molesworth, Canon Ephraim Xaba, Canon Norman Gilmore, Canon Peter Burtwell, the Reverend William Hardwicke; the Rev Zeb Mthethwa, the Reverend Mbuko Mhlongo; the Reverend Canon Jali; Fr Donald Arden who later became Bishop of Malawi and several other very distinguished servants of the Lord too numerous to include here within the time constraints of my greetings. I am thinking of distinguished members of the House of the Laity, such as Sydney Brien, our then Registrar, Philip Ngcobo of this very parish; James Nxumalo of St. Mary's Parish, Nkonjeni; Edmund Mnguni of St. Mary's Nkonjeni Parish; Mr Lee and Mr Bannock, with whom I served in both the Diocesan Standing Committee and the Diocesan Trusts Board of this Diocese for several years, and many others.
On this occasion, it is inevitable that their faces should flash in my mind. May the Lord ever bless them for the many years in which they toiled with such faithfulness in the Lord's vineyard. They left all of us with a very outstanding and challenging track record of service to God's people.
A Bishop of the Diocese of Zululand such as our present Bishop, the Rt. Reverend Anthony Mdletshe, carries a heavier burden than most of his fellow Bishops in the House of Bishops. In many ways, his burden is probably worse than others who occupied the cathedra of St. Michaels and All Angels before him. As someone who worked for years within the inner sanctum of the Diocese as a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee and of the Diocesan Trusts Board, I know from inside how poor we are as a Diocese. In the past, I knew that there was something such as the companionship that we as a Diocese had with the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago in the United States of America. Although this did not mean large sums of money that were infused in our Diocesan coffers, but these limited sources such as subsidies from the S.P.G. did make that difference. But these sources dried up long before the Episcopate of our present Bishops. We know that although our late Bishop Alphaeus did his utmost to teach us self-reliance as a Diocese, in a way as members of his flock we know we failed him and that the situation is now much worse than before. We often stress rightly that our Bishop needs our prayers but it is not stressed sufficiently that he equally needs our rands in order that he may give that pastoral care to us without his mind being occupied most of the time about when he can hope for the next rand in order to best exercise that pastoral care to us as his flock. However, what I have done so far in reminiscing in this way is not what the Bishop asked me to do. But I know that he has already forgiven me for these digressions which I have made.
To return to what I was asked to do, I wish to say that it is a great honour for me to have the opportunity to be part of the official opening of this Synod of the Anglican Church of South Africa. I thank Bishop Mdletshe for this invitation. He has been for us a constant source of guidance and inspiration. I was asked to give greetings to this Synod and do not wish to say more than a few words to express the full measure of my appreciation to be here and to have the opportunity of greeting such an important congregation. The occasion of this Synod, as the governing body of our Church, is for all of us a very important moment of reflection, inspiration and renewed commitment to the values which support our faith and guide our actions.
This moment has a particular significance for me. It comes at a crucial time in my life and in the history of South Africa, and therefore it is for me a time in which I feel I must reflect deeply on the important role that our Church is playing in my life, in the life of our communities and in the making of South Africa’s history. In this respect, the charge that our Archbishop is offering to our Church will remain a source of great inspiration and reflection.
Since the time of Bishop John Colenso, our Church has played a role of paramount importance in building South Africa. We are all aware of how much our Church has done for South Africa and many of us have a clear feeling of the important role it must continue to play at this crucial juncture of our history. As I am giving just a few words to express my greeting, I shall not dwell on this item, which I hope will nevertheless form part of your deliberations. In fact, it is essential that our Church plays a significant role in the reconstruction of the moral and spiritual fibre of our citizens and communities. It must become an important part of our national effort to uplift our population through training, education, better conditions of life and moral and spiritual guidance.
The Church and the Government should join efforts within their respective spheres of competence and activities, to bring about a result which neither could achieve by itself, which is the long sought-after dream of freeing the majority of our people from the present abject conditions in which they live. Abject conditions are not only social and material, but also relate to the situation of the spirit, the mind and the soul. Minds must be freed from ignorance, souls from sin, and spirits from the oppression of crime, endemic violence and the many negative feelings, instincts and thoughts which characterise the many sub-cultures in which the majority of our people often dwell. We need to free them through knowledge, training, and the inspiration of a religious vision. Our present Bishop has succeeded to this Episcopate at a very crucial time in the history of our land.
I know that our Church will grow and succeed in meeting the challenges of the present. We came a long way when the situation in South Africa was much less conducive to the missionary, charitable and religious work to which our Church has been tasked by the Lord Almighty. Today, the mission of our Church is much more important than in the past because we have a greater opportunity to make a difference and the needs of our people are now much greater. The broader horizon of wants and aspirations of a new society is now opening to them. The success of South Africa will greatly depend on the capacity of our Church to re-establish a bond of solidarity amongst our communities and inspire a cultural and spiritual climate in which all our people can join hands in a common and shared effort of human upliftment, teaching of life-skills, sharing of knowledge, and helping one another.
Having been in the Church for as long as I have, I am excited by the challenges awaiting it ahead of its long path of service to the glory of the Lord. As I look back over the years and decades which have gone by, I feel a sense of nostalgia which, in a bitter-sweet fashion, merges with a sense of excitement for the challenges ahead. I remember how, back in the 50's, I was a member of this Synod and had the honour of also serving as a member of the Elective Assemblies. During the dark days of apartheid I had the privilege of being sent to the provincial Synod in Cape Town as a delegate of this Diocese. I experienced the thrill in 1960 of seeing Bishop Alphaeus Zulu being ordained as the first African Bishop in South Africa.
Throughout this experience I felt a profound sense of privilege which has always exceeded any other task I had to perform in my public life, or honour which has been bestowed on me. It is this sense of privilege which I feel now by being here, which is the unsurpassed privilege of becoming a servant of the work of the Lord on earth. It is this feeling that throughout my life has given me the strength to tolerate the enormous burden which the Lord has placed on me and the vilification to which I have been subjected in the past, both within the Church as well as outside its precincts.
In these unedifying experiences of my pilgrimage, I always find great inspiration in the knowledge that Christ died for sinners like me: And that I will be judged ultimately by Him and not by man. In the ups and downs of my pilgrimage I always derive great inspiration in the words of the Apostle St. Paul in his second book to the Corinthians, Chapter 12 verses 7 to 11:
For this reason, I have always been proud of bearing testimony that all my actions, political philosophy and personal outlook on life are firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, which I always mention in my curriculum vitae. For this reason, I have always promoted the notion that human events, even and especially at the highest levels of government, must be guided by divine inspiration. We must follow the sign which religious inspiration gives us in guiding us towards that which materialises the great plan of the architect of the world, so that we may become instruments of the vision of His creation.
For this reason, I instituted the practice of the prayer breakfast in the former KwaZulu Government to inspire the work of our Legislative Assembly at the commencement of its sessions. This practice was maintained by the subsequent Premiers of KwaZulu Natal who recognised that, at the commencement of each new endeavour, such as a new legislative session, it is essential to seek the guidance which places our activities in line and in tune with the Will of the living God. For the same reason, I have always upheld the practice of beginning all our important meetings with a prayer.
Similarly, I feel that from this Synod we can receive the inspiration that our Bishop gives to us and from here we can move forward into the communities and the world, so that we can become instruments of the work of the Lord which awaits us. We come here to receive this inspiration and become in tune with it. For this reason, I wish this Synod success in its deliberations and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide its discussions and, from this place where His presence can be felt at its strongest, accompany all of us into the many challenges which we have to overcome to the glory of our Lord God Almighty.
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