God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Thoughts before a trip…

The evening before my first major trip this year – and as always going through the program I am tempted to anticipate how things will work out – and questions popping up like “whom will you meet on this journey?” and “will there be that kind of connection needed to really encounter each other?”.

The first part will bring me hopefully without delay from Cape Town via Munich and Frankfurt to Bremen, a city I have never visited before. Last year march a delegation from the Federal State of Bremen visited South Africa and Cape Town. Having been able to introduce most of the more than 70 wo-men strong delegation to Blikkiesdorp and HOPE Cape Town I am now invited to learn about this Federal State. Meetings with politicians, clergy, students, refugees, press and social worker / activists are part of the program. I am indeed looking forward not only to meet those introduced to me in Cape Town but also lots of new faces for an exchange on different topics ranging from politics to economics, from trauma to HIV counseling and all in between. Not to forget a bit of culture to understand the great history of this important city.

Via Frankfurt I will then continue my travel to Dallas where I not only hope to meet with some Directors of HOPE Cape Town USA but also able to engage with the impressive Cathedral of Hope, a congregation which has so much to offer and is also willing to engage with the South African HOPE Cape Town organization. Brian’s House, our second partner is definitely on the lists of visits as other organizations. Not to forget the participation in the Dallas South Aids Walk and the baptism of the youngest member of the HOPE family – the son of Stacie and Josh. It will be a real honor to christian the young man. The stay would not be complete without meeting Rev Ted coming all the way from New Mexico – lots of good advice is on the way.

A drive to Houston will complement impressions I gather every time I visit Texas learning more of the spirit of the people living here.  Then flying off to Puerto de Vallarta, where my duties as the chaplain to see for the MS Amadea during the last days of lent and the Holy week commences. Jamaica, Panama, Mexico are some of the stop-overs and finally end April going in Miami from board to catch a flight from Fort Lauderdale via Washington, Frankfurt and Johannesburg back to Cape Town.

What will I bring home from all this travel? Lots to tell I guess, tons of new experiences and certainly more people to feel connected with. Hopefully also some more people interested to join the HOPE family. Whatever it will be – there is always a change, a growth connected to travel – there is always a broader view on the world and its possibilities and challenges achieved. All these can be a blessing and a curse when you come home where life is so limited to a certain frame of customs, experience and expectations. Traveling the world can make a person sometimes very lonely but traveling the world with a mission will always counter this and make sure that the balance is right.

And there is more: Traveling and meeting at first complete strangers shows also how much more talking is needed to understand the realities behind the words used to communicate with each other. Using the same language does not mean to understand each other, describing situations does not mean to get the point across – upbringing, culture, politics and socialization determine the use of language and one quick realizes that the “global village” needs quite some push to become reality in the madness of the world today.

Filed under: chaplain, chaplain to sea, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

12.09.2009 Saturday in Durban

Flying to Durban was and is always a pleasure for me as it gives me the opportunity to break my normal life circles and experience a totally different crowd of people. After the flight and check in I went to Mariannhill to deliver a talk on lay piety versus theology. A good discussion followed, centered around the question whether the definition of laity as the opposite to clergy is a) the right definition if we follow the biblical witness and the first Christian communities and b) whether there is a possibility to define laity in a positive way.

Lets face it: In the beginning it was the highest position in our church to be part of “the people of God”. Belonging to Jesus versus being a non Christian.  All were belonging to laity. Gratian and his collection of laws starts the trouble, creating the impression that laity is the opposite of clergy. Since today, there seems to be no real appreciation of the laity and a positive definition. The “sensus fidelium” of all people of God is so important, without this sensus, even the pope cannot speak “ex cathedra” or infallible as the I. Vatican Council degrees.

So I try to make clear to the people attending the talk how important they are, even if we cannot sense this appreciation in the daily dealing of the clergy with the laity. I encourage them to take their role positive and active – at the end we have to admit: Not the clergy, not the words of a pope, no word of a bishop but the daily religious routine of a mother or a father or a teacher brings a child to experience faith, to learn about faith. And seeing how people struggle to do that besides their work, how mothers do that besides all their tasks is much more praiseworthy than those, who are comfortably be paid to do it professionally. I really believe that we as the clergy, including bishops and popes, have more to learn to be of service to the “people of God” instead of trying to rule them.  Not power play but humility is what is missing in a lot of ranks within our church. We are used to rule and manage and decide, the higher we climb the latter of the hierarchy, the more we get used that we have it all. As adviser to church VIP’s also tend to say only what they think their “boss” will hear, it is sometimes getting virulent.

Thinking of the pope, the only title I really like is servant of the servants of God. this is indeed his major role and he can only perform when he also listens to the “sensus fidelium” as a very important criteria of finding the church’s way through the times.

Well, it was a great eve with deep thoughts and meaningful contributions.

This morning another touching ceremony: The baptism of a child and an adult and two confirmations: mother and son. My sermon is rather spontaneous as I meet the people the first time and I have first to touch ground with them to be able to connect well. But they are good prepared and the ceremony is one of joy and participation – one can feel the spirit of God present…

The afternoon is on a lighter note, I will go for a braai to meet members of the community bidding farewell to me, later I will meet with a friend from Kwazulu Natal to spend the eve out and relax a bit before Sunday duties are calling.

To encourage people to live their faith in their own way, to follow their intimate relationship with god, which indeed is a unique relationship seems me so important. People often forget that they are called to the freedom of the children of God and not being a sheep just running behind the pastor. We all have part in God’s good spirit – let us it together to bring the church forward in these difficult times.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
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Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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