Dean’s Letter, Advent 3, 13th December 2015

Dear Cathedral family,
In a recent facebook post, the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++ Justin Welby, wrote:
“The renewal of prayer is my highest priority – in myself constantly and in the church – because it’s the only way we’re conformed to the likeness of God, and united with one another. If we pray together it’s harder to divide and harder to despair. A church that prays will find renewal because it finds the reality of God. The method is neither here nor there – the reality is the way in which we find the identities and identity together to which we are called.”
It may well be that two defining events for 2016 will be ongoing student protests on campuses, following on from the #feesmustfall campaign; and the war on terror, as the ISIS group extends its reach and its attacks into the UK and the USA, and as countries retaliate. The impact of these two events, here in our own country, and globally, are likely to be immense.
As a parent with two children at university next year and beyond, and as pastor and priest here in our own community, with many students, academics and admin/support staff, I am personally aware of how much is at stake for us all, and how fragile things are. My appeal, as negotiations are continuing, and as plans are being made for next academic year, is that we keep talking; that we do not allow the situation to deteriorate into destructive conflict, militant hostility, anger, hatred and fear. The terror attacks in Europe and parts of Africa are a sobering picture of what happens when talking stops and there appears to be no other way except violence. When groups try to force and impose their will on others, as is being done by Islamic militants and extreme radical groups, that is a sure way to conflict and destruction.
Where is Jesus in all this? That will be our question in the months ahead. The Gospel figure of John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord. John points us to see Jesus. His answer, in today’s Gospel reading, to the questions of the soldiers and tax collectors, gives personal responsibility to each one of us. They are to do what is right; not to abuse their authority; not to misuse their position for personal gain; not to oppress others. It is a word of encouragement: that you and I can make a difference, when we do what is right. We are a sign of Christ in our troubled world and angry, restless country. And, as Archbishop Justin says, to pray, so that we may be “conformed to the likeness of God, and united with one another.”
My love to you all

Andrew Hunter

Dean’s Letter, Advent 2 – 6th December 2015

Dear Cathedral family and friends,
At the evening Advent service last Sunday, one of the readings was a quote from Richard Rohr, about Christian hope:
“ ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ is a leap into the kind of freedom and surrender that is rightly called the virtue of hope. The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves. We are able to trust that he will come again, just as Jesus has come into our past, into our private dilemmas, and into our suffering world. Our Christian past then becomes our Christian prologue, and ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ is not a cry of desperation but an assured shout of cosmic hope.”
To live without closure, to live without resolution… these words struck me very forcefully. To wait, to live without seeing solutions, to live with imperfection, to live with questions unanswered and longings unfulfilled – to see matters stagger on unresolved and even get worse – and yet to hope, and trust, in the midst of this – this is both our lived, often daily reality and also our journey of faith in the Lord of the Journey.
The Gospel readings for today (Advent 2) and next Sunday (Advent 3) focus on the ministry of John the Baptist, and his relationship as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. John is a challenging figure in the gospels: strongly alternative, confrontational, uncompromising, coming out of the wilderness – the historic place of Israel’s encounter with God – to speak a word to power, and to call the people back to God. He lived and dressed simply – ate locusts (probably a type of fruit, not the insect) and honey. In today’s world, he would probably have been a “greenie”, deeply concerned about the environment. For us here in Grahamstown and the Eastern Cape, care and protection of the environment is not a luxury. It is what we see as the basics, the essentials: clean water, rubbish removal, adequate sewerage system; electricity. And it is protecting the Karroo against fracking; using solar energy and wind farms; standing against poaching. The drought in parts of our country and rising temperatures are hitting us all.
Advent is a time to hope. It is the season in the church’s year that gives voice to our deepest longings. We find in scripture and in the liturgy, these themes of hope and renewal, the promise of God’s love to sustain us, a way forward through the turmoil, an anchor of stability in the midst of the storms, signs of life, an invitation to watch and wait for the Spirit of God, a call to discern the signs of the times, to have eyes and hearts open. Let’s be ready, in the days ahead, to respond to the opportunities that God gives us.
My love to you all,

Andrew Hunter

People and Places, December 2015

Charton compressedCanon Nancy Charton, who died on 10 November at the age of 95, was a Sunday School teacher at this Cathedral. After her ordination as Deacon this was where she served a curacy before being appointed, unusually, as “Deacon-in-Charge” of St Bartholomew Grahamstown, because at that stage women were not ordained as priests in this province of the Anglican Communion. When the joyful day came that the Diocese and Province had passed the necessary legislation in their Synods, Nancy was the very first woman to be ordained priest, by Bishop David Russell, in September 1992. With a distinguished career as a lecturer and Associate Professor of Politics behind her, and already being 72 years of age, Nancy nevertheless went on to have a lively ministry of more than twenty years, at first at St Bart’s, and then in Graaff Reinet in the Diocese of George, where she died. Lucid to the last, having suffered a stroke she made sure that her son contacted Michael Whisson, to ask him to speak at her funeral. This Michael duly did, and the Diocese of Grahamstown was also represented by Dean Andrew Hunter. A week later Bishop Ebenezer celebrated and preached at a Requiem Mass for her in Grahamstown Cathedral, at which the DSG Junior Choir sang, and a number of women who were in the Black Sash with Nancy in the struggle days, attended wearing their sashes.

Pat Oosthuizen, a long-time member of the Cathedral congregation, died in November, and we pray for her daughter Karen. A special service of prayer for the people of Paris was held on Sunday evening, 15 November, after the shocking attack by IS. A Frenchwoman resident in Grahamstown, Carole Vicent, spoke movingly about her feelings. We pray for all those affected by terrorism, the bereaved, the maimed, in that and so many other recent attacks in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Ruth Brandt, who served successively as Diocesan Secretary in the Dioceses of Grahamstown, Khahlamba and Port Elizabeth, has recently moved into St Luke’s. Prayers are asked for her, as her state of health is not at all good.

We give thanks that Andrew Meiklejohn escaped serious injury when he was in a car accident recently.

Congratulations to Cathy Euijen and her team of Grade 6’s at Kingswood, who took part in the Sasol Forever Environmental Quiz recently. Cathy’s group came third, no mean feat considering there were 1000 teams participating.

The Community of the Resurrection Associates met on 21 November to celebrate Mother Cecile’s Day with a Communion service, a luncheon and a talk by Paul Walters on CS Lewis. It was good to see Rita Macrae and Larry Collett, former Cathedral parishioners who travelled up for the occasion, looking fit and well.

All good wishes to those Matrics and students who have completed their studies in Grahamstown, and said farewell to the Cathedral congregation. In particular our prayers go with Namso Nyamela, who has finished her Honours year. She has been a member of the choir ever since she was at VG, a server, and helped to train young servers, and more recently joined the Lay Ministers’ team. Her ministry here has been greatly appreciated, and we pray for her as she moves on to the next phase of her life.

As the school term was about to end, the full Cathedral choir with junior members sang for the last time in 2015 on 22 November, leading the worship at an evening service of Lessons and Carols with a distinctly South African flavour – plus Caribbean touches! But the church’s year, and Advent, began the following week, and the adult choir continues to sing. A-J Bethke has a series of interesting and thought-provoking services lined up for Sunday evenings in Advent: first an Advent Devotion, then a Taizé service, then a Lucernarium, and finally a Carol Service on 20 December. For an antidote to the commercial clamour which accompanies the run-up to Christmas, look no further!

“People and Places” is compiled by Maggy Clarke. Contributions can be sent to her at mjclarke@imaginet.co.za, or as comments to this blog.