Bishop Steve’s March letter

Dear Saints

I hope that the New Year has gone well for you so far.  The little bit of rest between Christmas and Lent is almost over, and I am sure you are all well under way with plans for 2017, and I pray the Kingdom of Heaven continues to grow in your part of the Diocese.

I must confess that I find the world a rather dark, depressing place at the moment.  Not only have we seen the wealthiest nation on earth elect a man with very questionable values, but we have plenty to worry us too.  The content of the State of the Nation Address was, at best, disappointing, and it seems we are again going to have to face high unemployment, a slow-growing economy, and poverty and hardship for many without much hope of any realistic solution.  The reaction to the opposition parties (and they were simply doing what opposition parties are supposed to do in a democratic system, and that is to keep the party in power accountable to the electorate) was violent and undignified, and the use of physical force was worrying, particularly when promises of managing the situation within the boundaries of the Constitution were made which were not kept.  But I must also confess that the almost physical confrontation style of some of our MP’s is also worrying.  Is there no other way, or are our politics going to have to become a negative, violent characteristic of the way we do things?

I think all most all of us were concerned about the unnecessary deaths of more than 100 of the most vulnerable people in our society in the Esidimeni affair. That is also depressing.  Are we as a nation so unable to care for “the least of these my brothers and sisters” that they die of thirst and starvation in a country that is probably one of the wealthiest on the continent? Please keep our colleague Reverend Joe Maboe and all families who lost their loved ones in your prayers. His son was one of the unfortunate 100 or more.  Their suffering and feelings of anger must be very painful for them.

However, it must be said that there has never been a perfect society, and we must do as Jesus did in his own imperfect world. We, as the disciples of Christ in this Diocese must remember that our core business together is to build the Kingdom.  Just as Jesus helped Peter back into the boat when Peter was too overwhelmed by the storms around him to walk on water, (Matthew 14: 22-33), so we need to be able to help our people when they become discouraged by so much evil around us.  And we, too, must keep our eyes on our Lord.  He promises that we can do more than ever we saw him do, so the storms of our own times are not beyond his care, and we really can walk on the waters of uncertainty when he is there to guide and hold us.

He cleansed the temple, and we too must keep our parishes and communities as little temples, pure and holy and with such a strong sense of the presence of God that we are truly the light of Christ in our very dark worlds.  Let us not be afraid to tell the truth when it is necessary, and make high standards a feature of holiness in our parishes and in our communal life.

Thank you to so many of you who are good, hardworking, committed, devoted, loving servant leaders.  I am so fortunate that so many of you work hard, pray and lead diligently, (and will have your Vestry reports and audited accounts correct and ready in time!)  Your congregations are very blessed, and you are an encouragement to me too.

So we keep our gaze on our Saviour.  In all the ugliness around us, we go into Lent, suffering with our brothers and sisters as Christ suffered with us.  But we know there is a Resurrection at the end, and we will see what Jesus promised – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  Amen to that!

+ Steve