People and Places, April 2016

The Cathedral’s Annual Vestry meeting was held on 13 March. We congratulate the new Churchwardens, Ian Meiklejohn and Ronaldo Burger. They join Paul Walters, who continues as Alternate Churchwarden. Prayers are asked for them, and for the newly elected Parish Councillors: Jane Bradshaw, Rodney Bridger, Lunga Dongwana, Cathy Euijen, Wayne Jayes, Patrick Pringle and Rose Spannenberg.

Cathedral students enjoying Assegaai Trails
Cathedral students enjoying Assegaai Trails.

Shortly after the Rhodes term began, the Cathedral Student Ministry team organised a Camp at Assegaai Trails on the first weekend of March. Claire Nye Hunter reported that 25 people enjoyed a weekend of “Fun, Fellowship, Friendship and Food”. She was grateful to the Cathedral family for their loving and generous support, which included sponsoring five students (all expenses and more), and providing home-baked muffins and delicious food. Activities included swimming, volleyball, soccer, table tennis, “30 Seconds”, a gentle hike, singing and a braai. Some were up until 4am! The weekend ended with an informal outdoor Communion service.

Roger and Ros Embling are giving thanks for the arrival of their first grandchild, Benjamin David, born to their daughter Katherine and her husband Peter John Steyn on 19 February. Jenny Reynolds has a new grandson born in Australia, and on 12 March Paul and June Walters greeted another grandson, Thomas James, born to their son John and his wife Cath who live here in Grahamstown.

Peter and Ann Stockwell enjoyed a visit from their son Andrew, who is based in London.

Former Cathedral Dean Chich Hewitt, Daphne Rink and her daughter Gill at the Taj Mahal
Chich Hewitt, Daphne Rink and her daughter Gill at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India.

Not many people wait four years for a birthday present, but Daphne Rink’s 80th birthday gift from her daughter Gill and her husband Chich Hewitt was well worth the wait – the three of them went to India! Daphne was away from Grahamstown for over three months, as she went first to Johannesburg to attend her sister’s 80th birthday celebrations. Chich and Gill came over from the UK for the occasion, and Daphne flew back with them, into the throes of an exceptionally wet (although also exceptionally mild) English winter. She visited her son there, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Chich, Gill and Daphne spent the first two weeks of February in India, dividing their time between the famous “Golden Triangle” (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) and Kerala in the south of the country. They travelled by air, and in privately hired cars with knowledgeable drivers, and stayed in comfortable hotels. Among Daphne’s highlights were visiting a tea plantation in the hills of Kerala, riding on an elephant, and taking an overnight cruise on a houseboat. She leaned that 18% of the population in the south is Christian, and visited one of the oldest Christian churches in India, and an equally ancient synagogue. Her verdict on the trip: “It was wonderful!”

We ask prayers for Ros Embling, who fell and broke her wrist, and for Heather Tracey who required stitches to her arm after a minor car accident.

Ronaldo Burger’s father Ronnie died on 3 March. News has reached us of the death of George van der Merwe, who was a parish priest and Archdeacon in East London, and more recently Chaplain to Bishop Ebenezer Ntlali here in Grahamstown. June Venn is mourning the death of her brother Spencer, and attended his funeral in Harare. Siphokazi Njokweni is helping her family to cope with the murder of a relative in Tsolo. We pray for them all, and for Luthando and Lusanda Madiba on the death of Lusanda’s uncle Roy Mthwa.

The “Easter Cantata” took place in the week before Palm Sunday. This collaboration between the choirs of the Anglican schools and the Cathedral is a musical journey through the story of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, with readings on this occasion taken from the Gospel of St Luke. There were some hundred young choristers from DSG and St Andrew’s College on the stage in the Cathedral, with more from DSG Junior School and of course the Cathedral Choir as well. The event took place on two successive evenings, and the Cathedral was packed to capacity.

The New Fire ceremony on Easter morning
The New Fire ceremony on Easter morning.

On Good Friday we were led through the seven last words of Jesus from the cross by various members of the clergy and lay ministry team of the Cathedral. “Very early in the morning” on Easter Day the choir and congregation gathered on Church Square to see the Easter fire lit, while the servers were careful to ensure that the Bishop’s robes were kept well away from the flames.

Happy graduates: A-J Bethke and Marian Walwyn.
Happy graduates: A-J Bethke and Marian Walwyn.

Grad Weekend followed a week after Easter. Members of the Cathedral family graduating included Titi Morobi and Theo Duxbury (B Pharm), Namso Nyamelo (BSc Hons), Odifentse Lehasa (B Comm Hons in IT with distinction), Stacey Conroy (PGCE), and Monwabisi Peter and Marian Walwyn (B Ed Hons). Monwabisi had to hurry around and get up on the stage for a second time, as he also received his Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education. Dr Andrew-John Bethke attended all six graduation ceremonies to conduct the Chamber Choir, and added to his qualifications a Masters in Composition. Congratulations to everyone!

People and Places, March 2016

People and Places March 2016

DSC02123 DSC02124Easter is early this year, which meant that Lent began even before Valentine’s Day. On Shrove Tuesday, 9 February, the Cathedral’s traditional pancake evening took place in St George’s Hall. A team of pancake makers were kept busy on the stage, while another team of VG girls put in fillings and served the pancakes to the eager public. Amazingly, over 740 pancakes were sold, and the profit for the Bishop’s appeal was a staggering R5,700! Congratulations to everyone.

During Lent we have had the benefit of two courses, one at the Meditation Group on “The Art of Prayer”, and the other led by Claire Nye Hunter on “Jewels from John”. This was based on her PhD thesis, and sought to explore St John’s “unique and extraordinary Gospel.”

Student ministry has got off to a good start, with twelve students joining the Core Team (the student equivalent of Parish Council) working together with the Revd Claire as their chaplain. Attendance has already reached 30 students, which is an improvement on last year. They are doing a teaching series in the evenings this term, based on St Paul’s challenge to “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2). The topics are: Freedom: all things are possible but not everything is beneficial; Focus: run with a purpose; Faith that can move mountains; Finish: Never, never, never give up!

We welcome our new verger, Melikhaya Jacobs, and hope that he will be happy working at the Cathedral.

Mother Zelma has recently been to New Zealand, and Margie and Geoff Antrobus will be heading in the same direction early in March to visit their elder daughter Helen Pfister and her family.

Our prayers are asked for Joy Tandy who fell and injured her back, and for Jenny Reynolds who has not been well. Thelma Neville has suffered a cracked ankle. Jackie Shipster, Chris Mann’s sister in the UK, recently had a stroke. Julia was able to fly to her side at short notice, and Chris has thankfully been able to sort out his UK visa and follow her.

News of Gavin Staudé in Somerset West is that he had a heart attack while exercising at the gym where he works out regularly. His heart actually stopped, but due to the presence of mind and good first aid skills of some of his fellows at the gym, his life was saved and he was taken to hospital, where he had a stent fitted. He is now recovering at home. Our prayers are with him and his wife Issy.

We pray for Margaret Speckman, on the death of her mother Martha Peters, and for Canon Bill Domeris, the Chancellor of the Cathedral who is a former Warden of the College of the Transfiguration, whose wife Shona died recently. They have been living in Cove Rock, near East London, since his retirement from the College.

Congratulations to another former Rector of the College, Luke Pato, who has just been chosen as the next Bishop of Namibia.

We pray for God’s richest blessings as we approach the special season of Passiontide and Easter.

People and Places, February 2016

Luthando and Lusanda Madiba
Luthando and Lusanda Madiba

This January the Cathedral welcomes the Revd Luthando Madiba, and his wife Lusanda. Luthando has been appointed as the diocesan Media Officer and Editor of the diocesan magazine Umbuliso, to succeed Maggy Clarke who has retired, and he will be attached to the Cathedral. He trained at COTT from 2010-12, and comes to us from the Diocese of Mthatha, where he was most recently Rector of Ascension Church Ncembu, Ugie. He and Lusanda, who works at Rhodes, were married on 11 December 2015. Congratulations and every blessing on the happy pair! The Revd Claire Nye Hunter is now a full-time member of the Cathedral team, having been part-time for the past six years while lecturing part-time at COTT and completing her thesis.

Christmas brought a number of welcome visitors to family in Grahamstown. Niels and Charis Vandereyken were delighted to host both their mothers for a visit, which ended before Christmas as they wanted to be back in Belgium with their husbands for the festival. Brian Stone came up from Port Elizabeth, and AJ Bethke’s parents, Erica and Anthony, were able to attend all the Christmas services at which their son played. Among these was the second service of Lessons and Carols, on 20 December. A special moment during that service was the singing of a carol written by AJ’s grandfather, “If you listen, you’ll hear”. The congregation joined in the chorus each time, but the verses were sung by AJ with his parents. In the new year, Geoff and Margie Antrobus were thrilled to have a visit from their daughter Shirley Horan from Vancouver, Canada, together with her youngest son, 18-month old Keith.

The Cathedral Choir’s second CD, “Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Songs” was released just in time for Christmas, and copies can be obtained from AJ @ R50.

DSC02016The Christmas Eve Crib Service with “instant” Nativity tableau is always well worth attending even if you have no children. Plenty of children arrived already dressed as requested as their “favourite Nativity character”, and listened while teenage narrators told the Christmas story in child-friendly language. At appropriate moments in the narrative each character or group was directed to join the tableau while carols were sung. This year’s big surprise was the addition of a 9-piece orchestra of young people, all dressed in Father Christmas hats, and most in shorts. They had been recruited by Nicola Hunter from Grahamstown and beyond, and really made the service go with a swing.

Warm congratulations to our 2015 Matrics. All the VG Matrics passed, which included Zimkita Ngqawana, Zusiphe Nkala and Saneliswe Tyibilika, three of our servers, and Brittany Jonklass who was last year’s Head Chorister. Saneliswe received three distinctions and is now at Pretoria University beginning her B Comm Financial Studies degree. At DSG Nicola Hunter and Ruth-Anne Graham each achieved eight distinctions in the IEB exams! We wish Nicola well as she begins her medical studies at Stellenbosch, and Ruth-Anne who has gone to the UK to spend a gap year working at a private school.

Congratulations to Marian Walwyn and the Revd Monwabisi Peters, who have both successfully completed their Bachelor of Education Honours degrees. We also congratulate Monwabisi on his appointment to St Andrew’s Prep, as Chaplain and Xhosa teacher. He continues to be attached to the Cathedral.

Ann Greybe left South Africa in early January to return to a post in Scotland. It has been good having her and David here, and we wish them well. David will be following her in April. Moving in the opposite direction, we welcome Sue Skipper who has arrived back from the UK to join her husband Michael, both in Grahamstown and in the Cathedral choir.

Although we said farewell to her at the end of 2015, the good news is that Namso Nyamela is staying on in Grahamstown, having been appointed as an intern in the Geography Department at Rhodes. We look forward to seeing more of her.

Katie Appollis, Fiona Coyne and Maggy Clarke all had spells in hospital, but give thanks that they are discharged and on the mend. Colleen Rippon thanks for everyone’s prayers during her recent illness. Her recovery was slow, but it seems she is over it.

Our sympathy and prayers go out to Sivu Citwa, one of our young servers, whose sister Lunga died in an accident.

Maggy Clarke and David Foulkes represented the Cathedral choir at the annual Royal Schools of Church Music Summer School in early January, together with David’s wife Margie. Although the Foulkes both sing in the St Paul’s choir in their home town Port Alfred, David has also made the journey to Grahamstown for practices and Cathedral choir services on many occasions. This year’s Summer School took place at a German school, Hermannsburg, in the Natal Midlands, a remote and beautiful setting. The course was directed by Noël Tredinnick, from All Souls’ Langham Place in London, whose leadership was inspiring both musically and spiritually. The organist was none other than Christopher Cockburn, for many years organist at this Cathedral, who now directs the music at St John’s Pinetown. Maggy was joined by her Johannesburg daughter Beccy Stones with her three children, who all sing in the choir at St Martin-in-the-Veld.

On 24 January the Cathedral hosted Dr Sarah Hills, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, as our preacher. The Cross of Nails which can be seen in the Lady Chapel signifies our membership of the world-wide Community of the Cross of Nails.

The 2016 school year was blessed at the annual “Back to School” service on 31 January, at which the Cathedral was packed with pupils from local schools including Nombulelo, VG, VP, Graeme, St Andrew’s, Kingswood and DSG, together with teachers and parents. Different schools and the Cathedral Choir contributed musical items, and the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, gave an inspiring address. We pray that the commitment of all present, to ensure quality education for all, will bear fruit in the year ahead.

“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.

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.

Dean’s Letter, 22nd November 2015

Dear Cathedral family
We are reeling from the shocking news, just over a week ago now, of the terror attack on civilians in Paris, France, on the night of Friday 13th November. It is about eight months since the Charlie Hebdo attack, also in Paris. And elsewhere in our world, people are dying through terror, suicide bombs, shootings, assaults, and hunger and starvation. We are part of an angry, seething, hurting world. Our hearts go out to all who have lost loved ones; the injured; their families; law enforcement officials; those in authority. We pray for grieving communities, and for the church in France, for pastors and priests, as they comfort and console, and try to bind up shattered lives and angry communities, and bury the dead.

At Evening Prayer last Sunday, Carole Vicent, who is from France and currently living and working in Grahamstown, said the following: “I woke up on Saturday morning and I discovered the horror of what happened in France the night before. Seven simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris left 129 innocent people dead, 352 injured, 99 of them critically. This is the worst terrorist attack in France’s history. In the name of who? In the name of what? Nothing can justify the inhumanity of these killers. The terrorists not only wanted to kill people but once again they wanted to destroy what represents France and our culture. In January, with the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, it’s our freedom of expression which was attacked. On Friday, they attacked the French way of life. France is the country of Freedom, the country of Human Rights and nothing will take that away from us. Now, it’s time to be united. That will be our strength. But today I am not only thinking of French people, I’m thinking of Lebanon where 43 people died after two terrorist bomb attacks on Thursday. I’m thinking of Syria and the war, I’m thinking about all of the refugees who flee the horror. I’m thinking about all of the atrocities in our world and I’m worried… I’m worried for the future of humanity, I’m worried for the future of our children…”

Brother Alois, Prior of the Taizé monastic community in France, wrote the following prayer soon after the attacks in Paris and Beirut:
Eternal God, we want our thoughts and acts to be based on your presence which is the source of our hope. We entrust to you the victims of the attacks in Paris and in Beirut, and their families and friends as they mourn. With believers of all backgrounds we call upon your name and pray: may your peace come to our world.

Tonight (22nd November) is our annual Carol Service, with the ancient words of hope and love and peace. We need it now, to put everything into this bigger, eternal perspective of God’s enduring love in the midst of the darkness and savagery of our world. Our sincere thanks to our choir, with our Director of Music, Dr Andrew-John Bethke, for their hard work in preparing for this evening.
My love to you all

Andrew Hunter

Dean’s Letter, 15th November 2015

Dear Cathedral family
What would a miracle look like? The reflections below were written by Revd Dr Mary Ellen Ashcroft, mother of Steve Ashcroft, who has been on our extended prayer list for some months. She writes: “Steve’s chemo is working really well; his CEA numbers continue to drop; primary and secondary tumours are shrinking. Is this a miracle? Many can’t tolerate chemo and must choose between quality and quantity of life. Steve feels good. Is this a miracle? ‘You know, mom,’ Susannah says, ‘We should have an annual tradition of going to that little neighbourhood carnival—the one we went to that night after the diagnosis, and we were all together, watching the kids go around and around in those little cars. We were eating cheese curds and we really appreciated being together. Because we didn’t know how long we had.’ Could watching kids in pink, yellow and blue cars go round and round while eating cheese curds be a miracle? Anna sends an article on a new breakthrough: T-VEC, using a modified virus to hunt cancer cells. I bless God for those researchers, robed in their white coats as they perform miracles. Steve and I talk about family and friends who have emerged—to support, to cook, to drive to chemo, to walk the dog. Total strangers have given money, helped find jobs, sanded floors. Is this a miracle?

“What is a miracle? Would we know one if we saw it? How do we begin to think and speak about miracles? On one end are those who demand scientific rational explanations. “Miracles” can be rationally explained. On the other are those for whom miracles must be God’s direct intervention, unexplainable in any other way. Both of these—the ultra-rational and the ultra-religious—reflect a longing for clarity, for certain standards set in stone. Most know these fundamentalisms don’t account for the rainbow of life experience; we know there’s way more to our world than meets the eye—like poetry, love, music, wonder. The ultra-religious claim that miracles must be entirely other-worldly. Really! Must Mother Teresa have other-worldly miracles attested in a life that was a living miracle of this-worldly care for the poor? And the ultra-rational! I am a great believer in the liberal arts, but I see how many wonderful colleges have hurt students, as their brilliant professors have set up a straw man—of the ignorant, bigoted believer—and then knocked it down. Many young students, admiring these great minds, assume faith is a silly relic. Longing for meaning, they try random hook ups, and end up vulnerable to contrails and astral projections.

“Much theological education swallowed the ultra-rational and fed people a liberalism that needed to demythologize—removing all magic (miracles) from the gospels to make them palatable to moderns—as if we western minds have progressed up a ladder from superstition to enlightened rationality. (Two world wars and the holocaust helped to debunk this one.) A more contemporary version is one I held: Yes, of course God could heal, and does, but really, we should emphasize a holistic approach, with healing of relationships and emotional wounds, peace at the approach of death. I sit with several friends, chatting about this. My dear friend Jo brings this intellectually considered, theological approach—that ultimate healing is what happens after death; that God promises presence not miracles. She’s stating what I’ve believed about the difference between “cure” and “healing”—we can ask for healing and wholeness, even when someone is dying. Her words are familiar because I’ve said them myself. Blah, blah, blah.

“But now Steve has cancer, I’ve got skin in this game. Of course I want Steve’s spiritual wholeness–whatever the hell that is–but I also want him to be alive, his flesh and blood touching his children’s flesh and blood. I want to eat fresh bread and mussels with him. I’m sick of this theologically sophisticated version of ‘pie in the sky when you die.’ It isn’t enough. We’re sitting in the sunshine looking across at the mountains. I remember Steve saying when he was here, “This is my favourite place in the whole world.” I want him to be physically present here, smelling the newly mown hay, hearing the cowbells, feeling sun on skin. Our discussion feels like I’m covering for God, who could do something, but doesn’t seem to bother. I feel a wave of despair. And then Letha talks about hearing a distinguished Old Testament scholar say how wrong it is to privilege our western, intellectual approach to discount miracles. Why should we feel superior to those who may be less educated, less sophisticated, but who really believe? It hits me: I have allowed my perspective to be limited: my inherited scepticism about miracles isn’t necessarily true. Millions who believe God performs miracles in the world may be right. I want, I need a miracle, more real than what can be captured in theological discussions. I need to know God has skin in this game too.

“What does a miracle look like? Over the last few months, I’ve seen many—researchers in white coats, carnival cars and cheese curds, loving compassion, dropping CEA counts, people who show up with food or to walk the dog. Miracles of people realizing how much they love each other; remembering what really matters. Of people praying all over the world. But I’m dropping my sophisticated, over-educated façade. Call me primitive, foolish, or some kind of nut. I’m thanking God for all these miracles, and asking, not only for the miracle of healing, but for cure.”
Mary Ellen Ashcroft

My love to you all

Andrew Hunter

Dean’s Letter, 8th November 2015

Dear Cathedral family
Today, the Sunday nearest November 11th, is observed as Remembrance Sunday, in memory of all who have died in war. The First World War ended in 1918, at 11 a.m., on the 11th day of the 11th month. Ever since, this has been observed as a moment of quiet reflection and prayer. The military parade on Church Square taking place this morning is part of this long tradition. The scars left by war remain with us for generations afterwards.

We are involved in a battle now, a community at war within itself, with the attacks on foreigners and their families. Children have been driven out of their schools. Shops have been looted and burned. There is suspicion, fear and hatred. In a recent statement (26th October 2015), the Bishop of Grahamstown said, “Law abiding citizens of foreign birth were forced to abandon their possessions and flee. We call upon those who incite others to acts of violence against foreigners to refrain from such acts. How do you sleep at night when you know you have caused harm to your brother or sister? We call upon our community leaders to expose these people. The law must take its course. Let there be peace in the City of Saints. We cannot allow the devil to take over this dear city of ours. We commend SANCO led by Mr Singata, the Executive Mayor, Col Nel of the Police, the business community, churches and students, for taking action to assist the displaced families and to restore order.”

It has been good to hear that on the whole, universities have been able to complete the academic year and that most students are writing their final exams. We thank our Vice-Chancellors, university management, student leadership, and others, for making this possible. It is a great pity that there has been destruction of property on some campuses. Nothing is achieved by such action. And, even where no physical damage was done, the events over the last few weeks did serious damage to relationships of trust and mutual respect. When we cast aside the norms and ways of how we interact with one another, and resort to aggression, intimidation, and even violence, we do considerable damage to the entire community. Buildings can be repaired and restored. How do we repair and restore broken relationships? What can we do, as individuals, as the Cathedral, to keep talking, to keep listening, to rebuild bridges and to re-establish trust?

The stark alternative to seeking to build and to heal, is that we shall end up on opposite sides of the battle-field, with only misery and destruction ahead. Is there a better way forward? How can we keep talking, and hold together?

We as the Anglican Church fully support the call for tertiary education to be accessible for all. How can we ensure that no-one is prevented from further study for financial reasons? How best can we build on what we have, and not destroy it?
My love to you all

Andrew Hunter

Dean’s Letter, 1st November 2015

Dear Cathedral family
Today, November 1st, is All Saints Day, or All Hallows – and many of us are aware that yesterday, apart from being the Rugby World Cup final match, was Halloween – All Hallows Eve. October 31st has been a difficult day for some communities in recent years, with rumours causing chaos and terror. Given the fragile state of our community, we don’t need any encouragement to go that route. All Saints Day, and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day, which we celebrate this evening) is the gospel proclamation that in the face of evil and sin, the light of Christ shines. The love of God overcomes all hatred and death. During these difficult and fragile days, we affirm and hold on to this message of hope.
We congratulate our Sub Dean Mzinzisi Dyantyi on his appointment as Archdeacon of Grahamstown. He will be licensed by the Bishop at the next meeting of the Diocesan Chapter, on Tuesday 17th November. The office of Archdeacon of Grahamstown has been traditionally held by successive Deans, over a number of years, and I have continued with this. However, given the work and responsibilities I increasingly carry in the life of the diocese, particularly as “archdeacon to the archdeacons”, it has been agreed that I be allowed to step down from this particular office. Archdeacon Mzi continues as Sub Dean, but will now take responsibility for the oversight of parishes in Grahamstown (apart from the Cathedral – the Dean exercises archi-diaconal responsibilities in the Cathedral parish), and leadership of the archdeaconry and all that this entails. Our prayers are with him and Lilitha, and Sambe, as he takes up this load. I am very grateful for my time as Archdeacon of Grahamstown, following in the footsteps of Archdeacon (later Bishop) Merriman, ancestor to my godmother, Nola Houston, who was born and continues to live on the farm outside Stellenbosch once owned by John X Merriman, one-time prime minister of the Cape Colony, and son of Bishop Merriman. The office of archdeacon has given me direct contact with our various communities that make up Grahamstown, and the many wonderful people who live here, the scars of our history, and the issues that we all face. I thank all in the archdeaconry for their love, friendship and support.
We have given help this past week – mainly food – to those displaced by the xenophobic attacks. The situation may be clearer by the time you read this. Items can be given, and details are available on request. Let’s help as much as we can.
We continue to appeal for a smooth and trouble-free exam period, for our students and our matrics. I believe it would be very counter-productive if exams were not written, and the year’s academic work and fees wasted. We need to find a way forward that builds on what we already have in place.
My love to you all,

Andrew Hunter