LUNCHEON VISIT OF THE
Ulundi: 24th May 2001
It is a great pleasure for me to receive Your Grace on this occasion of the visitation of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church and Metropolitan to the Diocese of Zululand. On behalf of my wife and all the people present at this function, I wish to extend to Your Grace and Mrs Ndungane our heartfelt welcome. We are pleased and honoured by this visit which raises our spiritual and religious awareness. This visit offers us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the immutable themes of our religious quest as well as to consider the present status of religiosity, spirituality and morality within our beloved country.
We live during difficult, uncertain and demanding times. We are deeply aware that the times we live in show the characteristics of great moral turmoil within our society and uncertainty in the human spirit and our sense of religiosity and devotion. However, on deeper and more serene reflection, one easily discovers that the same statement was made and was indeed applicable to any time which came before ours, and will most likely be applicable to any time which will come after we have gone. At any given time, those reflecting on the condition of mankind have felt the moral, spiritual and religious uncertainty of the world in which they live. Indeed, this uncertainty characterises the human condition, our longing for God and our religious quest.
For this reason, it is particularly refreshing for all of us to receive the guidance of such an important shepherd as Archbishop Ndungane, who has come today to give pastoral care to his flock in the Diocese of Zululand. This is the third visit that I remember to our diocese from an Archbishop of the Church. The first I remember was from Archbishop Joost de Blank, who was indeed a righteous man, who left an indelible memory in our Church and in the history of our region. He was of Dutch extraction but brought up in England and rose above the limitations of his original culture and social paradigm. He bore testimony to the evangelic message of universal love and equal dignity of man before God, and rejected any notion that the law of man could differentiate on the basis of race what the law of God and the law of nature have created equal. He recognised the full human dignity of oppressed black people and, for this, he was hated and vilified by the apartheid regime. He witnessed for all to see and gave us hope during the dark days of apartheid.
The second visit from an Archbishop received by our diocese that I remember was that of Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor. His was also a very important visit which left an indelible memory and gave our diocese spiritual guidance for many years to come. Also on that occasion, we had the opportunity to reach out for the innermost core of our collective religious soul to rediscover, under the guidance of the Archbishop, who we are and the faith which inspires our actions and beliefs. It is from this central core of faith that we may begin providing both individual and collective answers to the fundamental questions confronting us as South Africans participating in our society and as human beings pondering the eternal questions of our individuality, mortality and adverse life conditions.
It is important that our people realise the importance of both questions and the answers, as one can better appreciate answers when he is aware of the questions. Within our faith, our quest for answers finds its point of departure as we discover the immortality of our souls, the ever-present and immanent love of God and the collective dimension of the human experience which overcomes the limits of our individuality. I know that today more than ever our faith is important and relevant. It is only with the strength of our faith that we may find answers to problems and challenges confronting our people in their daily lives in a rapidly changing society. South Africa is changing and the world around us is changing at a rate faster than anything ever experienced before. The lives of people in our diocese are radically changing even when their material social and economic conditions remain unaltered. Change is taking place in their hearts and minds as new horizons open before them.
New levels of expectation, ideas, knowledge and unprecedented exposure to new things is disintegrating the paradigm in which most of our people were previously confined to live. This is not only happening in urban areas but has reached into the most remote rural areas and is bound to increase exponentially as communication becomes easier, public services begin to be delivered to areas which never had any, and people begin to travel not only across the land but also across old, new and always existing social, political and cultural divides. Change is the only thing which we can expect to remain constant in the years to come. The place where change is occurring at the most rapid rate is in the hearts and minds of people.
Soon those who were used to conceiving their existence within the narrow parameters of a few square miles of rural land will realise the portentous dimensions of the consolidating global village in which anyone has instant access to mankindís wealth of information. Change is always stressful and may create discomfort. However, we must accept that change is not bad and, in any case, is unstoppable, irretrievable and irreversible. Coping with change will be one of the greatest challenges confronting our people in the years to come. Rising levels of stress will be experienced by our people as the gap between what they know and what they can have widens, as does the gap between what they expect and what they can achieve.
For this reason, it is essential that during a time of change and uncertainty our people may find the comfort of immersing themselves in the eternal truths. People must appreciate how, no matter how much the world changes around them, there are fundamental questions and answers relating to the human condition that are not liable to change. Our expectations within society may change, but we should not for that reason modify our assessment of things of value and things that matter. The quest for better social and economic conditions should not lead people to give less value to the most important things in life, some of which they may indeed already have or reach for easily. The love of our spouses and families, the integrity of our friendships, the devotion we owe and expect from our children, the joy of family and community daily life are blessings which people can achieve everyday. People should not be distracted from achieving the daily realisation of these blessings by the pursuit of other objectives or the demands of a rapidly changing society. We must send out the message that, as life becomes more complicated, our preoccupations should become simpler. As the world changes around us, we must look inwardly into our souls to discover once again that what really matters is right around us in the love of our families and friends, and in our devotion to God Almighty.
I am concerned that people may often not realise the daily commitment required to keep alive and enhance the value of the things which really matter. Like a fragile potted plant, the love for our spouses, children and family members must be watered every day if it is to survive. One cannot compensate by over-watering a plant after it has died because of a drought. Similarly, I often say that we must water our religious growth and the sanity of our soul every day. Every day we must take a little time out of our schedule to pause and reach out for the miracle of God which is always available to us to comfort and inspire our lives. Ours is a living God who is always close to us as a miracle constantly in the making which never exhausted its endless potential. It is for us to reach out for that which is indeed around us. The love of God, His presence in our lives, His constant inspiration and support are all around us, if we seek them and find the time and serenity to pause from our daily preoccupations.
This occasion is one of such moments in which we have the opportunity to receive the inspiration of God Almighty and feel His presence in our lives. Having with us the head of our Church leading us in prayer and directing our reflection on sound paths also offers the opportunity to reflect on what we can all do for our church. Each of us is responsible for the success of our church. Throughout my life, in spite of my endless commitments in government and in the service of the people, I have always been aware that the Church comes first. Even today, I am here to partake in this occasion in spite of the pressing demands of my schedule and the many affairs of state to which I should attend. I am here because here is where I belong. We all belong in the place where we gather to share the experience of God. God can be found anywhere as He is all around us and He dwells in our hearts. However, when we come together in this fashion in the name of the Lord, our faith grows and our experience of Him is strengthened.
Throughout my life, I have been honoured to have had the opportunity to participate in the work of our church. Our ordinary congregation as people of this diocese is for me as important as the mission I undertook on behalf of our diocese when, in 1963, when I went to Canada to represent our diocese at the World Anglican Congress with the Bishop, the Rt. Reverend. Thomas Savage and the Rev. Canon Philip Mbatha. On the occasion of this historic visit of the Archbishop to our diocese, I urge all our members to recommit themselves to our church and to our faith. We can make this a truly historic occasion which will be remembered for many decades to come if we make this occasion the solemn beginning of a new process in which our diocese grows into a new stage of commitment in our communities. I hope that, from this moment on, we shall raise our level of prayer, both collegially as well as individually. I hope that from this moment on people will be more involved in that which matters and will commit themselves to building better families, better friendships and better communities through the love of God.
Your Grace, I would like you to know that there are many of us within your flock in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, who admire your commitment to all Godís people and particularly our poorest of the poor. People here still speak with great enthusiasm about the visit you paid to this district and to other districts all over South Africa, talking to the poor about their plight. Your campaigns both here and abroad for the cancellation of the debt which poor countries owe such institutions as the World Bank and the IMF, will always stand as monuments of your service to the poorest amongst the people of God. In you we know that we have a real pastor and Father-in-God.
It is our responsibility to build our church, build our future and build better communities. With the help of God and His inspiration, we shall fulfil this responsibility. We thank the Archbishop and Mrs Ndungane for their visit to our diocese which I hope will be exactly the source of a spiritual renewal and a renewal of our commitment. We thank him for his visit and assure him of our continuous support for his important work. Your visit, Your Grace, is a great blessing to all of us.