God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

12.09.2009 First the pig, then the priest…

The headline is more or less the greeting of the host of today’s braai, who first had to attend to the braai itself before greeting me. It was a marvellous afternoon, lots of talk, discussions – and a lekker meal as you can see.. Is there anything more to say?

Durban braai

Durban braai

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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.

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10.09.2009 a first farewell and the living and the death…

In one hour the dinner for “my” pastoral community council starts and I must admit that it was a thrilling experience to work with all the members together. Great people and willing to go the extra mile to accomodate the needs of the Catholic community. But having them for dinner means also to remember all the members already called to higher services. We are, as Christians, the community of the living and the death; we believe that those gone before us only are a couple of steps in front of us, still approachable, still present, still connected, still very much alive. A great thought – and together with the “unconditional love of God to all and everybody” one of the highlights of Christian teaching. Comforting without taking away the sadness and grief when loosing a loved one, but keeping up some hope and a trust in the future of us all.
So I do solute already those who have to party apart from this world with us this eve – they are present – in our hearts and I am sure also more than that.

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30.07.2009 Packing…now and in general.. somehow…

Packing before flying home from holidays are always a nightmare. Shopping here and shopping there – and suddenly you ask yourself, how all the goodies came together in that little time…
Yes, it is time to fly back and to pick up life where it stopped – the first days are always a nightmare, all the mail and requests, waiting to be answered and worked through. It takes normally a week before normality crawls in again. Makes it seven normal working weeks until hand-over of the chaplaincy.
It is still a funny feeling to know, that my chaplains life will come to an end. After that long period it seems unimaginable not to care for this community and to be part of it. Well, it means a bitter-sweat farewell at the end. On one hand you know that nothing is eternal and every period of life comes to an end, but it is bitter when it comes in a way not expected or deserved. I am grateful for those 12, 5 years – I don’t want to miss a second.. well, maybe a couple of seconds could be missed, but generally it was such a fulfilled time.
So my packing before flying home reminds me also that the time for the big move comes soon – and it will start already next week with moving flats. My lease is coming to an end – and as I don’t want to wait under the bridge before renting again, I have to secure at least a roof over my head. Small practical things – overlooked when big decisions are at steak.

Well, let’s hope that the pilot find the way first to Singapore, then to Johannesburg and Cape Town; and that my luggage will also arrive in one piece. Going via Johannesburg means one has a reasonable chance to find less in the suitcase than packed… Cross my thumbs..

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