Friday, January 15, 2016

hafiz: "you left a thousand women crazy"

Last Time,
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and so naked,

You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.

Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay its Ancient Love at Your feet.

Daniel Ladinsky, I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz (Sufism Reoriented: 2000), 93. Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 135-138.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


What is evil?

Is it that which we do not understand; that which makes us uncomfortable; that which we do not like?

Or is it, perhaps, more systemic like Apartheid, conflict that leads to civilian deaths (Israel/Palestinian; Ukraine; etc), economic policy that leaves 34% of youth unemployed, corrupt and nepotistic governance?

When is wrongdoing truly and intrinsically evil?

Some wisdom from Rumi, the 13 century Persian Poet:

Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field.

I'll meet you there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

my mission and vision

a renewed statement - december 2012

My mission is to assist individuals and intra-cultural communities to discover their purpose and explore their spiritual and moral potential.

My vision is a society where justice and compassion are instruments of reconciliation and hope; where people live safe and productive lives; where human dignity, equality and freedom are cherished.


My previous statements, which have sustained me since 2001, were:

My vision is a global community celebrating significant and abundant goodness, with a transforming Church instilling God’s values in the World.

My mission is to be a source of hope and inspiration to others, changing perspectives of pain and limitation into perspectives of hope and fullness of life.

the summer prayer

"Great Light, Mover of all that is moving and at rest, be my Journey and my far Destination, be my Want and my Fulfilling, be my Sowing and my Reaping, be my Song and my stark Silence. Be my Sword and  my strong Shield, be my Lantern and my dark Night, be my everlasting Strength and my piteous Weakness. Be my Greeting and my parting Prayer, be my bright Vision and my Blindness, be my Joy and my sharp Grief, be my sad Death and my sure Resurrection!

"So be it!"

Stephen Lawhead, 1989: Arthur; a Lion paperback - Oxford. pg 477

the kingdom of summer

"I have seen a land shining with goodness, where each man protects his brother's dignity as readily as his own, where war and want have ceased and all races live under the same law of love and honour.

"I have seen a land bright with truth, where a man's word is his pledge and falsehood is banished, where children sleep safe in their mother's arms and never know fear or pain.

"I have seen a land where kings extend their hands in justice rather than reach for the sword; where mercy, kindness, and compassion flow like deep water over land, and men revere virtue, revere truth, revere beauty, above comfort, pleasure or selfish gain. A land where peace reigns in the hearts of men; where faith blazes like a beacon from every hill, and love a fire from every hearth; where the True God is worshiped and his ways acclaimed by all."

Stephen Lawhead, 1989: Arthur; a Lion paperback - Oxford. pg 152/3

Thursday, December 06, 2012


"How shall I get liberation?"

"Find out who has bound you," said the Master.

The disciple returned after a week and said, "No one has bound me."

"Then why ask to be liberated?"

That was a moment of Enlightenment for the disciple, who suddenly became free.

De Mello, Anthony 1988: One Minute Wisdom; Double Day: New York

Friday, July 20, 2012

some thoughts on death

Today I buried a man I only saw once in Church - for his daughter's wedding - in seven years. We gave him a Christian funeral, in gold and white. And celebrated his resurrection with Christ. The Church was full.

Too often we judge people not by the standards of their life, but by the standards of a Church seeking to maintain itself as an institution. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31; TNIV). The Church often suggests God is against us, and we preach a Gospel that limits the love of God. Yet where does the Bible teach such things? Yes, God made a covenant with one man: Abraham. Yes, God made a covenant with one nation: Israel. Yes, in Revelation we read that only 144,000 will be saved. However, Abraham was called that a nation would serve God; a nation was called that the nations would know God. 12 is a number of Biblical perfection: 12 Patriarchs, 12 Tribes, 12 Disciples. What does perfection x perfection = ? And multiply that answer by 1000. How wide and broad is the love of God?

This man embraced life, and over 130 people came to celebrate and give thanks for a life well lived, a life that had inspired them, a life they now miss.

We limit God's love. We decide who may or may not be worthy of God's love. And who may be worthy of eternal life. We consign many to the fires of hell, largely because they do not fit our definition of holiness, and because they choose to avoid the strictures of organised religion and regular penance in the pew. We seek to maintain an institution when we should be seeking to sustain a Faith.

I visited this man in hospital last week. His body was ravaged by pancreatic Cancer, and his lungs were filling with fluid. I found a man facing his disease bravely, largely ignoring it in his stubborn desire to live. He was at peace when I saw him, able to smile and laugh. At peace with himself and with God. We prayed together.

Death took him. And God welcomes him into all the fullness that is life beyond the grave.

Cheers, Tom. Greet the Saints for us.

"... I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39; TNIV)

Rennie D
20 July 2012

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Hello, I’m a recovering racist … and a recovering sexist. My name is Mark.

In July 2012 I attended an international conference is Johannesburg hosted by the Jesuit Institute entitled Spiritual Direction in the African Context. The above comment stems from a paper presented by Prof Susan Rakoczy, IHM, Women and Spiritual Direction: The Many Dimensions of Co-Discernment in which she challenged us to recognise the formative nature of society upon us; that while we may not – or no longer – consciously hold to racial or sexist dogma, if we have grown up in a society that has formed us in these ideologies (she grew up in the USA) we, like alcoholics, are never truly free of these social diseases. Her paper focused more particularly on the struggle women directors and women seekers of spiritual direction experience, influenced by the patriarchy of church and society; and how this is often a barrier to women in growing into a true sense of self in a world where male experience and needs often define our spirituality, theology and praxis within the church and the social environment.

Racism in the South African context has devolved in our post-1994 democracy into classism and xenophobia. Whenever, we find ourselves talking about, “Those people …” or saying to someone in some way different from ourselves, “Your people …”, we are guilty of spreading these social germs. We often react with surprise when we are challenged for making what is perceived to be a racist, classist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic remark, and are sure we are not. However, if we have been exposed to these social diseases – and if we are honest, they are prevalent globally in most cultures and societies in some form – it is likely that we are in a continuous process of recovery (unless we consciously choose to promote these evil attitudes), hopefully moving to greater wholeness as individuals and societies, but recovering nonetheless. This process of recovery impacts on our spirituality, our awareness of self, of God, of community, and is often at the root of social and community breakdown. It stunts our spiritual and emotional growth as persons. An awareness and willingness to acknowledge that we are recovering – as opposed to recovered – is a first step towards relational and social health.

The Anglican Church, with our wonderfully cosmopolitan and intra-cultural diversity, offers an ideal Alcoholics Anonymous-type space to begin to deal with these negative issues and attitudes that affect our society. The question, ultimately, in our parish context is whether we are able to trust one-another sufficiently to create such a space where our antibodies to these social diseases can be strengthened? One of the Wesley brothers described the church as a microcosm of the greater world, a thought that I find helpful when we have to deal with social and relational pain within the church and Christian community. If we create this space for each other there will be times when we are hurt by fellow Christians

Is God’s power strong enough to sustain us through these actual or potential hurts that we may truly be a transformed community transforming our world? I believe it is possible.

So what are you recovering from?

Rennie D
5 July 2012

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

beyond midnight

The sperm of gods
Beats down
In rhythmic thrust upon
The heat drenched land
Beyond the darkness
Of the midnight hour

I dream of you
As rain pours down
From moon brushed
Clouds upon the
Gasping ground
Its thirst enveloping
The life-force of the Gods

I dream of you beyond
The midnight hour
And cry out in rhythmic
Expectation of your thirst
And gasp in expectation
As thunder echoes
in the clouds

I dream of you
And wake to feel
The heat of expectation
To hear the rain beat down
The coolness of a sated
Earth carried on the
Cooling breeze

I dream of you
As the gathering storm
Expends itself
The lightening shafts
Water pounding
At the earth

I dream of you
My body awakening
To the memory
Of your thirst
My passion warming
To the thunderous
Midnight storm

I dream of you

Rennie D
14 December 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

the church's mission in an ecumenical context


·         Can the Church’s mission exist in any context other than an ecumenical one?

·         What is the nature of the Church’s mission?

·         What is the nature of the Ecumenical context?

·         How does the Church’s mission apply to the Ecumenical Context?

ecumenical experience – personal

·         Alpha and Emmaus
·         Ministers’ Forums
o   White River, Nelspruit, Garsfontein
·         CUC Malelane (Anglican/Methodist)
o   Confusing Symbolic message
·         Trinity, Lynnwood (Presbyterian/Anglican)
o   Control of worship space
·         Serene Street, Garsfontein
o   Carol Service
·         Anti-Apartheid Struggle initiatives

the church’s mission

·         In its broadest sense the Church’s mission is to make God known to the Nations (Isaiah)

·         Roxburgh and Romanuk in their book The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (2006:xiii) speak of

o    “... a missional understanding of church that emphasises an incarnational, servant approach and sees church not as a once a week gathering but as a community to which one belongs that relates to the whole of life. It is a community in which each person makes an active contribution, during gathered worship as well as dispersed service. These churches emphasise hospitality ... [and] are committed to maintaining their values of community, accountability, and service ... .”

·         Nelus Niemandt, Professor of Missiology at Tukkies, commenting on a definition offered by Craig van Gelder in his book The Ministry of the Missional Church: a Community led by the Spirit (2007), says

o    “… the missional church as called (from the world), gathered (by the Spirit as the body of Christ) and sent (to the world) to participate in God’s mission. The missional church’s purpose is to equip authentic disciples as missionaries in order that the church may be the agent of God’s mission in the world.

·         Basis in Scripture: Acts 17:16-34

o   Paul’s methodology in Athens a useful model for mission in the 21st century.

an ecumenical context

·         Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director of Faith, Worship and Ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, addressing a session of the Lambeth Conference in 2008, comments

o   “If the 20th century was the great century of ecumenism, the early 21st  century provides an opportunity for churches to begin to live out the reality of their unity. After all the theological debate, the examinations of each other’s ecclesiologies, orders, and practices, there is now the possibility for real shared life and mission.”

o   There has been a clear trajectory over the past 100 years for agreements variously termed ‘intercommunion’, ‘communion’, ‘full communion’ or simply ‘agreement’

o   Three generations of agreements

§  Recognition of sufficient similarity in faith and order: declared that people could receive communion in each others churches.
§  A wave of schemes of union devised in many regions of the world
§  Proposals of “full communion”: leaving each church independent, but making commitments to work together and live into a fuller reality of shared life.

o   Emerging generation

§  Agreement to consult with one another on matters of faith and order, life and witness
·         How will churches discipline themselves to do this?
·         How will they shift their self-understanding in order to do so?

·         A definition of Communion, from The Lutheran World Federation document  Mission in Context: Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment

o   “Used ecclesiologically, the term “communion” expresses three levels of church relations:  first, the unity of the church across all times and space; second, the nature of life together in the local church; third, the relationship between local churches in a regional and global context.”

o   “The tendency to compete for mission fields in different parts of the world, in the race to expand the profile and sphere of influence of one’s own denomination or organization, should be replaced by cooperation and joint action.”

o   “The vision and practice of communion can help the church address the prevalent fragmentation and division of communities and bring healing to a world broken by greed and violence.”

·         Maintaining Communion – a move to Covenant

o   The Anglican Communion is struggling to maintain communion and is moving towards a Covenant. Professor Iain Torrance, representing the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, addressing the final plenary session of Lambeth Conference 2008, described a covenant as follows:

§  “A covenant is different [from a contract]. As all of you know, covenant in the Hebrew Scriptures begins  with the unconditional promise of God’s love. And who can come close to God and not be changed? So, a covenant is an initiative undertaken by transformed persons in response to a gift of unmerited grace. “

applying the church’s mission to an ecumenical context

·         A useful document in this regard is The Ecumenical Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 218th General Assembly in 2008.

o   “To commit to an ecumenical vision in this time and place involves a study of the changing ecumenical landscape. It is well known that a demographic shift in the global church from the north to the south has reshaped the dynamics of the ecumenical movement in a number of ways. Most importantly, the flow of influence is no longer from north to south or even west to east, but from every part of the world to every other part of the world. This has meant that ecumenical conversation partners are shaped geographically as well as denominationally.”

o   “… many Presbyterians are confused about the meaning of ecumenism and question how it relates to their own lived realities in congregations and whether it has relevance to a post-modern church and world. There has been an erosion of understanding of some traditional ecumenical activities and loyalty to them. Nonetheless, lively ecumenical activity is taking place in many forms throughout the denomination at the national, regional, and local levels. “

o   While we affirm our commitment to the unity of the Christian church, the ecumenical challenge for today moves beyond that initial vision to the healing and wholeness of the world. This broader goal of Christian ecumenism requires us to ask how we can be partners with others in building the human community that God intended from the very beginning. Where is there convergence between the Christian household and the larger household of God? 

o   The document notes nine “Contours of a New Ecumenical Reality” for the 21st century, defined as “varied and diverse nuances for Presbyterians:
§   reconciliation in Jesus Christ;
§  a spirit of generosity toward others;
§  unity and diversity in the Holy Spirit;
§  justice in the economy, and for the earth;
§  the call of God to mission and evangelism;
§  solidarity with the marginalized;
§  common memory of a people on a journey;
§  hope for the future of the world;
§  a gift of God and a task for all human beings.”

o   The document highlights ten priorities that a commitment to “the larger household of God” presents:

§  Growing the Ecumenical Vision
§  Facing Obstacles to Christian Unity
§  Bridging the gaps Between the Local and the Global, Individual Congregations and the Denomination
§  Enlarging the Table of Ecumenical Relationships
§  Covenanting for Justice and the Economy and the Earth
§  Covenanting for Peacemaking in a War-Torn World
§  Nurturing Interreligious Engagements
§  Renewing a Commitment to Disciplines of Christian Spirituality
§  Celebrating Gifts We Receive and Share
§  Revitalising Practises of Ecumenical Formation

o   Creedal Statement: the document includes “An Affirmation of Our Ecumenical Commitment”

Prepared for a Seminar on 15 June 2011 as part of the Patronal Festivities of Trinity, Lynnwood, by the Rev’d Canon Mark R D Long, Diocese of Pretoria (The Anglican Church of Southern Africa).

Thursday, March 03, 2011


God awareness

God called

established, yet
called beyond

into Life
into Relationship
into the World

to Serve
to Love
to Be

Rennie D
3 March 2011

psalmus laudis

created in the mystery of life
brought into being by desire
a moment of passion
a God-spark of creative energy
a life-time ahead
a life to be lived

nourished in the womb
nurtured and birthed
a form of hope
a touchstone in the darkness
of brokenness
relational chaos
separation and divorce

enfolded in purpose
in abandonment
by God

Rennie D
11 February 2011

Saturday, September 04, 2010

doubtful curiosity

I came across this text recently, written in my hand in the front of one of my older Bibles. It is a passage from Lazarus by Morris West (published by Heinemann in 1990; page 107):

This is why we must never be afraid to speculate - and never, never be afraid of those who urge us to contemplate the seemingly impossible, to examine ancient formulae for new meanings. Believe me, we are more readily betrayed by our certainties than by our doubts and curiosities. I believe that half the heresies and schisms would never have happened if Christians had been willing to listen to each other in patience and charity, and not tried to turn the Divine mysteries into geometric theories ..."

I still agree with West's comment.

Rennie D

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

in memory: nanna

Kathleen “Kay” Durward: Nanna

In memory (19/12/1912 - 29/5/2010)

It is a daunting task to distil a long life (97 years!) into a few short words of tribute. There are so many memories, my own and yours. I hope you recognise her in my words.

My earliest childhood memories are of “Langlea”, a home of big spaces and generous love.  Listening in the early morning for the tea to be delivered, a sign that I could climb from my bed and join Nanna and Bumpa in their room; playing on the rowing machine while Bumpa shaved and brushed his hair, parting it carefully, brush in each hand; standing beside Nanna at her dressing table, mesmerised by the treasure trove of face-cream, nail-varnish, hair-spray, and her amazing collection of morning instruments, from cuticle-trimmer to a silver-backed hairbrush that had been her mother’s; then rushing off to dress myself for breakfast at 08:00. The rhythm of life: tea at 6; breakfast at 8; tea at 10.30; gin at 12; lunch at 1; tea at 3.30; whisky at 6 and dinner at 7.

Nanna was born in 1912 and grew up in a world very different from today; a slower paced world, where a holiday trip to Port Alfred took two weeks by ox-wagon and another two weeks to get home. Nanna embraced technology and knew how to use the throttle on her bright yellow sports car, and in her 90’s ditched her trade-mark typewriter and embraced the computer and emails.

Nanna sought to control her world. She had a pioneering and reformist spirit, perhaps a product of her youth, embedded as it was in colonialism and the mines. She took on life and sought to beat the chaos out of it. She was known to intimidate Bishops and was not afraid to confront the Nationalist Government policies in her involvement with the “Black Sash”. In the 40’s and 50’s she involved herself in Sophiatown with the likes of Trevor Huddleston and she built the first crèche in the area (in memory of her mother, Ida). Her generosity extended to paying for the education of a number of black clergy children, and through her involvement in the Ekutuleni Anglican Mission touched and influenced the lives of many.

But in the midst of everything, family took centre stage. She sought to protect, to nurture and to shape. And our memories of her are bound deeply to her love and care for us. She lost her mother, Ida, at 19 and spoke in recent years of the deep sense of loss she had carried throughout her life, missing her more and more as the years passed; and so perhaps we know who met Nanna as she stood at death’s open door. As a young teenager I remember her sitting on the side of my bed in the Blue Room one night, sharing the pain of seeing Pop-pops die, and reminiscing on his importance in her life. Bumpa’s death left her bereft and hopeless, and it took Simon moving in as a young Wits student to eventually bounce her back, with YCS students toyi-toying in the Drawing Room and young, black revolutionaries at the dinner table. James’ advent into Langlea was more genteel, but both gave her reason to live. She was remarkable in adapting to the worldview of a younger generation, and without sacrificing her own principles, was able to be accepting; and meals were often a space for sharing life and a good wine. The big family gatherings were always a source of joy to Nanna, and she loved having her children and grandchildren around: the pool, the swing, the “jungle” are all part of my happy memories of uncles and cousins and aunts and relatives; and the food and the laughter. Her great-grandchildren, too, were a source of joy. I only remember her angry with me once, when Simon and I had used the hot-water bottles as trampolines in our beds, and mine had burst ... requiring the bed to be remade!

Most of all, what stands out for me about Nanna is her faith in God and her commitment to prayer. God was never far from my relationship with her, and she was the source of my earliest awareness of the spiritual world. This seems at odds with her ability to hold life-long grudges and to be almost vitriolic in her condemnation of others, and of those we love. She was not unknown to manipulate us with her wealth; and the disparate manner with which she treated sons and daughters, children and spouses was often a mystery. She wasn’t unaware of this side of herself, but it was part of the chaos of her own humanity that she never managed to beat into submission. This more difficult side of her personality showed mainly when she perceived her children to need protection, or was jealous of the time she lost to those we love, or was just afraid that she may be forgotten; or was challenged in her reformist stride; and in recent years by her loss of influence as age took its toll. Underlined in her copy of THE OBLATE RULE C.S.M.V. IN SOUTH AFRICA are the words, “Despise no one, but honour all whom you meet or serve.”

The strength of her personality that drove her involvement in Sophiatown, and allowed her to face down the church’s discrimination of women in ministry – becoming one of the first women Lay Ministers in the Province in 1974 – had to have its shadow balance.  And the shadow was further offset by her generosity to us and others; and the extensive time she gave in her attempts to reform the pastoral ministry of her local parish (I suspect, much to the vexation of a number of Rectors!); in her love for creation as seen in so many of her paintings, her garden that she loved, her cooking and her embroidery – all done to an intimidating level of perfection.

In many ways God was visible in her life, and certainly a centre of strength from which she lived. Typed out by Nanna and pasted in to the front of her A BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (inscribed as a 1958 Easter gift from ”Bob & Toodie”) is a prayer composed from Milner White’s “My God my Glory”:

In the Field of my soul / There is a treasure hidden. / Thou art there, / Thou my Lord and my God: /  More bright than light itself. / Over me like a banner, / Under me, a strong rock, / Around me as a house of defence, / Before me, a beckoning star; / But richest of all, within, / My treasure for ever, / Hidden still yet life of my life to-day, / To-morrow, my open Glory.

Nanna struggled to die, not I think because she was scared of death, but because she was scared of losing life. Burnt into her psyche was a determination to survive; and some of her final words are telling: “I can’t anymore.” It was time to pack for heaven, and she is gone. Ever the graceful lady, she wanted her shoes on to meet Jesus.

Forgive Nanna for the hurts of recent years; they were not always meant. Hold instead a memory of her indomitable spirit, and be encouraged to leave your mark upon our world.

Mark R D Long
A Grandson

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

what is a south african?

Below is my response in the form of a Letter to the Editor to Ivor Chipkins' article in The Times of 11 May 2010:

Ivor Chipkins’ comments “What is a South African?” (May 11, 2010) touches on an area of deep national significance: the present social crisis in our country. What are we celebrating sixteen years on from 1994? We should be celebrating a society driven by our Constitutional norms of tolerance, respect and equality; but we are not. This points to massive failure of political leadership, and it is not the fault of Apartheid any longer.

One of my most painful experiences after voting for the ANC in 1994 was filling in a government form that required me to define myself by race, and sixteen years later I am still required to do so. I objected to being classified this way during Apartheid, and the fact that I continue to be classified this way means that I have not yet experienced freedom in the land of my birth. I accepted in 1994 that race classification may be necessary for righting the wrongs of Apartheid, but after sixteen years I am only convinced that it has sustained racially negative perceptions and classist attitudes.

When will I be allowed to forget that I am “White” and be allowed to remember that I am South African? I may be, in Max du Preez’ words, a “pale native”, but I am a native none-the-less.

Government needs to take our Constitution seriously, and lead from the front. Our leaders, from Mr Zuma down, need to renounce the present essentialist focus on race and culture, and focus our society on the essential principles of our Constitution: tolerance, respect, equality.

It interests me that, despite the debacle in Mr Malema’s disciplinary hearing (May 14, 2010), he was pulled up for his lack of respect. Perhaps there is hope here that the ANC has not truly lost its heart, and that our confidence shown in the ANC in the 1994 elections was not in vain?

Mark R D Long, Pretoria

Saturday, April 24, 2010

transforming discontinuity

I share below a response to my sermon last week, from a friend I haven't seen in 30 years, on a far continent. An audio copy of the sermon Transforming Discontinuity is available at - please have a listen!

My friend's response:


Well. That was quite the most extraordinary experience!! I recognized your voice from 30 years ago. But I remember a shy, uncertain little fellow behind the voice. Now I hear a mature man speaking out with conviction and confidence. Are you aware of how you have changed?? Apropos your sermon. Just incredible. I would never have believed it.

The content of your sermon was also really thought provoking and inspiring. Inspiring because it made me think of discontinuous change. i.e. that change I experience today is not necessarily linked to what happened yesterday. As a psychologist I know that predictability is of key importance in our lives. And therefore your words make me wonder what affect unpredictable and discontinuous change has on us. I see this at work and your words make me aware of the needs of my colleagues. Their vulnerability and anxiousness about what tomorrow will bring.

Also, your words brought a memory back to me of a particular event I experienced while working in the UN. I was helping 3 children who had lost 4 of their siblings and their parents during the war. We had to extract these three young people because the oldest son was going to testify for the prosecution and their lives were threatened because of that. I took part in the extraction and we fetched them with one hours notice in a UN helicopter. They will never return to their home country and now have new identities living “elsewhere” as we say in the UN.

While I was in contact with them, I was notified by a UN inspector that the remains of their family had been identified in a mass grave through DNA samples. The UN DNA tested the whole of the respective nation for this purpose. Since they were not able to return home, I volunteered on their behalf to visit the mass grave, fetch their family and ensure that they received a proper burial according to the Muslim faith.

While standing in this grave with the remains of a small 4 year old boy in my arms his body wrapped in a blue UN packet, I felt so incredibly alone and bereft. So this is the “end station” of war I thought. Suddenly I was aware of a presence by my side. Saw no one. But the intense feeling that Jesus was standing at my side with me. His support for me and his care for me enabled me to do what I had come to do.

In the UN, every day is full of discontinuous change. And trauma. You mention both repeatedly in your sermon. And I can testify to the fact that the certainty that the Lord in whom I believe is with me always.

Thank you Mark!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

holy week meditations

Palm Sunday

Eternal Father, your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, fulfilled your will by taking our nature and giving his life for us: help us to follow the example of his humility by walking in the way of the cross; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 pg 174)

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week: our annual pilgrimage with Christ on the final journey to the cross. This is a journey Jesus embraced knowingly, as we will remember on Maundy Thursday. Today’s collect (above) draws the alpha towards the omega: Jesus birth at Christmas now enfolded in his death, the beginning at an end, yet not. We will celebrate another new beginning, a resurrection on Easter Sunday. But this week we walk with Jesus towards his death, we journey together as we have before in our Baptism into the death – and life – of Christ!

And we begin the journey at Jerusalem’s gate, on a donkey, with a crowd pressing in, a joyful crowd, palms waving and strewn before us on the ground, cloaks tossed down to carpet our path. A humble donkey for us, no conqueror’s war-horse, just a donkey. No army, just disciples. And a crowd. A crowd that responds to Scripture, to a knowledge, to an expectation of freedom. And we are that picture. As the rabble responds, so the authorities take note and begin to plot our downfall, our death. And we walk on towards a death this same rabble will cry out for, stirred by those who seek our demise.

But today is a day of celebration. And hope. This Jesus, a Galilean with roots in Judah, takes possession of Jerusalem, and becomes a symbol of our desire for freedom: freedom from Rome, from Greece, from Syria, from all who have oppressed us over centuries, from all that holds us back from experiencing life in abundance.

What do you celebrate today? How is Jesus a sign of hope to you, now? What freedom do you look for and see in this Saviour on a donkey, powerful enough not to need the war-horse for show? What constricts you? What hurts you?

See the sign of God: see Jesus. See that God is present and has already begun to act, has already begun the process of setting you free. And rejoice!

Make us true followers of Jesus, each day of this coming Holy Week, that as we walk the way of his cross, we may commit ourselves all over again to the fashioning of his Kingdom in Jerusalem, in our own communities and across your world. Amen

(Prayer by Maxwell Craig in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 49)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Monday in Holy Week

The Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1-7)

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. … I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:1, 6-7 TNIV).

As Jesus contemplates his death, we contemplate today his purpose: that which God is doing through him in our world, and continues to do today. The above words spoken by Isaiah centuries earlier speak directly into Jesus’ experience as we reflect on what God was doing, and continues to do today, no longer in Jesus, but now in us through Jesus, and through the Spirit of God.  Isaiah speaks of God’s delight, God’s absolute pleasure in Jesus … and in me … and also in you. We, too, have been chosen; we, too, delight the heart of God. What a thought!

Isaiah speaks of hope, and it is a hope that we as God’s people, as those who have discovered new life through Jesus Christ, are called to live out. Can you imagine being blind, maybe from birth, and suddenly being able to see? Or a prisoner, and suddenly free?  Jesus death and subsequent resurrection is this covenant of which Isaiah speaks, a covenant that resources us to make this image, this vision, real in practical ways: to bring others into relationship with this God who gives sight, who brings light into the deepest darkness, who brings hope into situations seemingly lost and beyond control. The chaos of our lives, of our society is not beyond the ability of God, and not beyond the ability of us who draw on the resource of God’s love.

How is your life an image of hope to others: to family, friends, colleagues, even strangers? When last did your smile rekindle light in someone else’s eyes?

O God, our maker, open our eyes to new possibilities and perspectives, organisations and projects, structures and outlooks …

Help us to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem:

to break down the barriers in ourselves that prevent us from reaching out to neighbours and making peace; to rebuild communities based on understanding and justice, illuminated with the true light of Christ. Amen

(Prayer by Neil Paynter in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 62)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Tuesday in Holy Week

The second Servant Song (Isaiah 49:1-6)

“Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.” … [God said] “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:1b, 6 TNIV).

Predestination is one of those “Biblical concepts” that leaves us a little lost on occasion. The above passage is one that the Church has long understood to refer to Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, who would step in and be God’s answer to the need of his people. To be called by God is not to “boxed” by God, but rather set free to fulfil our purpose as human beings and as children of God. God has not predestined our every action, or even the manner in which we will live our lives, but we will be used towards his greater purpose if we are willing to make ourselves available. There is a bigger plan, a bigger purpose that God calls us to. If we seek to serve God we will often find that our decisions made out of our own free will lead us towards this greater purpose. We find we are steered by the Spirit of God, never coerced.

Leadership often places us beyond the boundaries where we feel comfortable and competent (“It is too smaller thing …”) but never beyond God’s grace. As God’s children we are all called to leadership, particularly in living lives that are good on a moral and ethical level. This is part of our calling as Christians. Additionally, we give leadership as parents, as members of our peer group, as interactors in our society. Leadership does not always have to be recognised to be real: it is about setting an example and allowing our beliefs to inform our actions.

You are called. You have purpose. Start living it, and you will discover it!

Jesus, help us to create churches with your passion and light planted at the heart; Churches where we are prepared to address injustice and where “in a gesture a thousand words are spoken”; challenging, prophetic churches possessing a generous, rich fund of warmth and love and welcome and real celebration.

Christ, light and life of the world, bless your Church with the grace and power to flourish and bear fruit; the courage and faith to grow rooted in your gospel and in the grassroots of community. Amen

(Prayer by Neil Paynter in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 68)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Wednesday in Holy Week

The third Servant Song (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

“The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. … It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me.
Who will condemn me?”  (Isaiah 50:4, 9a TNIV)

There is purpose in God’s instruction: Isaiah says that it is to sustain the weary. Living life is not easy, living life well – morally, ethically – is hard. Being loving, compassionate, caring in a sustained manner is almost impossible (just ask your spouse, child or a good friend, if you think I’m wrong!). Life is tough – in many and varied ways. My wife, Dawn, says life would be much easier if we were informed of this at birth, then when life is truly good and abundant we would celebrate, and when it is tough (which it is most of the time) we would accept this as normal and get on with it, and live it well. Scripture is a very powerful reminder: God’s word does sustain us, encourage us, give us the strength to stand up and walk again, journey again.

What sort of time do you give God to speak to you: does he wake you morning by morning? Whose is the instructed tongue that sustains you – Isaiah, the Psalmist, a Gospel writer? We know that in our physical lives we need food and liquid; the same is true of our spiritual lives – they are less tangible, but there none-the-less. What feeds you spiritually? – because if it is not Scripture then it will be something else: perhaps the media, and what kind of ethics does Hollywood purvey? In interacting with young people I often point out that what “Soapies” and “Movies” say about relationships is have sex, and if the sex is good begin a friendship; Scripture says, build a friendship, and if the friendship is good get married and celebrate the joy of your friendship sexually. Quite a difference? What feeds your soul?

Pray for the grace to take risks, … to trust God’s promise. Pray for the humility to know that one person’s extravagance may be another’s sacrificial gift, another’s wisdom. Pray for the grace to believe that security lies not in stocks and bonds and bank balances, but in the God who responds to a generous spirit. Amen

(Prayer by Anna Briggs in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 71)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Maundy Thursday

The ministry given by the Spirit of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-9)

“They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:3b-6a TNIV).

As God’s children we are all gifted by God for ministry. Isaiah reminds us that an important part of our ministry is to rebuild and to restore that which has been devastated. It is a call to serve a broken and hurting society. Serving is not something most of us find easy – mostly we prefer to be served, especially if we are South African and male. But ministry is a call to serve, to humble ourselves and see to the needs of others before we see to our own. This does not require us to be door-mats, and to ignore our own needs; it is rather a call to compassionate and caring living.

To truly be able to serve we need be confident – confident in our calling, in our identity; we need to know where we have come from; we need to know where we are going. We need to have vision, we need to be clear about our mission, we need to know who we are, we need to understand our context. What gives Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, the ability to put aside the powerful call of his humanity to run from the suffering that lies ahead, and submit to the call of the Father on his life? At this point he is clear on the call that lies burdensomely on his shoulders, he knows who is, he knows where he has come from and where he is going, and he has the strength to say to the Father, “Your will be done!”

Do you have a vision for your life? Do you know God’s purpose for you? And are you journeying in relationship with God through the Scriptures? Are you in relationship with others on this same journey, or do you journey alone?

Jesus, our brother, once you knelt sleepless in the darkness of a garden, alone, and wept and prayed, sweating, bleeding, with the pain of powerlessness, with the strain of waiting. An angel offered you strength – but it was a bitter cup.

We pray for all who wake tonight, waiting, agonising, anxious and afraid, while others sleep: for those who sweat and bleed, and weep alone. If it is not possible for their cup to be taken away – then may they know your presence kneeling at their side. Amen

(Prayer by Jan Sutch Pickard in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 81)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Good Friday

The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13 TNIV).

The above verse from Isaiah is in many senses “Glorious”. Who would not want to be wise, to be acknowledged and exalted by others? Many of us long for this kind of recognition. However, as we read on into Isaiah 53 we understand fast that there is another meaning, another sort of “lifting up” meant here. Jesus’ wisdom has led him, on a civil level, into conflict with the Jewish authorities of his day, and on a spiritual level into conflict with all that stands against goodness and holiness. At our Baptism we reject spiritual, material and personal evil – it is evil in this multiple form that raises Jesus up, lifts him high on the cross of pain, suffering and death.

For the disciples there is a hopelessness to this picture, and last night they have run, fearing for their lives, their hopes and dreams battered and almost broken. As some creep back today, join the crowd at Pilate’s Palace, quietly follow at a distance as Jesus, with help, carries a part of the cross to Golgotha, and watch Jesus – already scourged – nailed painfully to the cross and “lifted up”, their hopes and dreams are shattered. Where is the goodness of Good Friday in this image?

Today we journey with Jesus through his final suffering, through the political expedience of his trial and condemnation. We experience – together with his mother Mary, some of the women who followed him, and John – the pain of watching him suffer the final agony of suffocation. As he breathes his last and dies, we are crushed and overcome with grief: for his death and for our broken dreams. But we are also struck, as we reflect, that he held no bitterness, no need for revenge; that he thought of others, of his mother whom he gave into John’s care, of his executioners and asked the Father to forgive them. This is different. What have we seen? What have we experienced? What does it mean for our lives?

God who knows my frailties, forgive my self-doubt and uncertainty when I am content from a distance to watch others’ pain. God who calls my name, even when I am reluctant, forgive my resistance and my fear of being overwhelmed by the task you compel me to take on. God who offers me the cross, a burden too great for me to carry, help me be a willing participant on a journey I can neither understand nor change. God who believes in me, help me to go on believing that you take the little I have offered and use it to make a difference. God who knows me and calls me, who burdens me and believes in me, help me to hear your voice of thanks, and be ready to serve again. Amen

(Prayer by Tom Gordon in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 93)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Holy Saturday

The Easter Proclamation (An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 pg 204-206)

“Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!” (APB pg 205)

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting and preparation. Traditionally, our worship space is cleaned and scrubbed, flowers are arranged, the altar is draped in glorious gold, new candles are brought out and an Easter Fire is prepared. We are waiting and preparing for resurrection. Sometime between sunset tonight and sunrise tomorrow this great event will take place, and we will be called to rejoice, sing, and exalt.

At the time of Jesus death, Holy Saturday was a day of grief and loss and separation, and Easter Sunday a day of chaos and uncertainty, all focused around the Sabbath: a day that calls for rest, for recreation, for reflection. And so today is an opportunity in the midst of our preparations to reflect. How has this Lent been for you? What have you experienced? How have you grown? What have you heard God saying? What is God calling you to? What dreams have been crushed? What hopes have been renewed?

Do you see Jesus differently now that you have walked this journey? Do you see yourself differently; the people around you differently? And if so, why? And if not, why? What resurrection in the breadth of your life and your relationships will you celebrate tomorrow?

Yesterday, our hopes and dreams were shattered; tomorrow they will be renewed!  Let us rest today, and prepare …

God of all creation – who cannot be contained by our boundaries or our definitions – light from beyond galaxies, sea without a farther shore; you are present in every distinct place, in every moment in history. You are here and now. Help us to understand that those from whom we are separated in life by distance, by sea and land; those from whom we are separated by difference, by prejudice, by language, by lack of communication; and those from whom we are separated in death. By its long silence, its aching absence – are each of them in your presence; that beyond our horizons, beyond our boundaries, beyond our understanding, they are in your embrace. Amen.

(Prayer by Jan Sutch Pickard in “Lent & Easter Readings from IONA” pg 104)
Canon Mark Long
Lent 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

a lent course

A Lent Course

of the Diocese of Pretoria
Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Equipping and Strengthening Families

Turning Houses into Homes

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:26 TNIV

Prepared by the Rev'd Canon Mark R D Long
February 2010
based on the Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria
and on ideas presented at a workshop on Family Life in the
Archdeaconries of Hennop's River and Tshwane-Bokone

Week One – Introduction

Opening Prayer:


Read:    "Life is no longer about family values but money and material gains. All what we do is more about self. We have adopted the "Western" attitude and culture of individualism and materialism. It is my wish that we change this mind set and think broadly about family – its importance and value. … In the context of African tradition and culture, family is the whole community where each person is not only responsible for his/her family but [for] any other member of the community [as well]. Adults are parents of every child whose upbringing is everyone's responsibility." – Bishop Jo Seoka: The Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria.


  1. In "Buzz Groups" of two's or three's share your response to the above statement.
  2. In the large group share one thought out of each "Buzz Group".
  3. Try and sum up the group discussion in one sentence.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' (Deut 6:5). This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Lev 19:18). All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." – Matthew 22:36-40 TNIV

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:10-12 TNIV


  1. 1 John 4:16 says: God is love. What is "Love" in the context of the above two Scripture quotes? Try and provide a working definition.
  2. Compare your working definition to what the media, especially movies and "TV Soapies", represents love as. Do you see a difference?
  3. The reading from 1 John, above, refers to sacrifice. What does "sacrifice" mean to you?
  4. The reading from Matthew defines relationship as focused love, on God and others. How does love impact your relationship with God, with family, with others? Share specific examples.
  5. Where do you experience love? And where do you share love?
Closing Prayer:

Week Two – The Blessing of Family

Opening Prayer:


Read:    "Family time of prayer is today a rare commodity. In fact there is hardly time and space for family togetherness. Very few of us spend quality time with each other as family, eat together, share memories and plan for the future. We have become such busy bees that family values have gone out of the window leaving our children confused and spiritually empty" – Bishop Jo Seoka: The Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria.

  1. What "Blessings" have you experienced personally by being a part of your family?
  2. Do you agree/disagree with the above quote? Why?
  3. Transformation is never instantaneous: what one "Blessing" is missing from your experience that you can make a priority to build in? Share this with the group.
  4. Bishop Jo speaks above of our children being left "confused and spiritually empty" – this is one of the "Woes" of family life today. How can the Church family help us in this regard?

"Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her." But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. – Ruth 1:15-18 TNIV

  1. Remembering that Naomi's husband and two sons have died (Ruth is Naomi's daughter-in-law), what "Family" does Ruth commit herself to?
  2. Why is Ruth so determined to stay with Naomi? What "Blessings" do you think Ruth was expecting?
  3. Naomi tries hard to send Ruth back to her own family of origin. Reflect on the emotions Naomi must have experienced at Ruth's refusal.
  4. Do you think Naomi felt affirmed by Ruth's response? Why, or why not?
  5. Who in your family circle needs to be affirmed? Plan to write them a note this week to thank them for being a 'Blessing" to you.
Closing Prayer:

Week Three – Belonging to Family

Opening Prayer:


Read:    "Individuals are held within the life of a family from birth to death. Anglicans affirm the place and goal of family life for all, in terms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Families are part of the family of God as well as part of a larger community" – Lambeth Conference 2008.

"The gospel is all about inclusion, otherwise Jesus would not have asked his followers, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Here we learn about a new kind of family … Jesus turned the family structure into the wider community – connecting the family unit into a network of relations. … It is such relationships that will build the Church instituted by Christ to which all of God's people belong. Families are a given and are not something one chooses, … Each person belongs and is connected to the family … we are part of family at all times and in all places of our lives" – Bishop Jo Seoka: The Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria.


  1. What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be family?
  2. What is it that draws you to the Anglican Church? What is it about this community that helps you feel you belong? Do you feel excluded in any way? Why?
  3. In today's world how can our families be more meaningfully part of the "larger community"? Who/what is our "wider community"?

So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27 TNIV

Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative's house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbour nearby than a relative far away. – Proverbs 27:10 TNIV


  1. What does it mean to be "created in God's image"?
  2. How do you respond to the fact that you are made in God's image? And that so are others?
  3. How do you celebrate this "image of God" in your family life?
  4. Are you able to ask others (family, friends, and colleagues) for help? Share a situation where you did, and why the other person or group's response was helpful/unhelpful?
  5. Which relationships in your life need to be strengthened to help you feel more included?
Closing Prayer:

Week Four – Believing in Family

Opening Prayer:


Read:     "I am … putting a challenge before you to seek God's guidance … as to how we can be involved in 'Equipping and Strengthening Families: Turning Houses into Homes'. … we can make a profound contribution as a faith community in rebuilding and transforming family life and responsible citizenship. … Our homes must be turned to worship spaces, meals into Eucharistic experiences and conversation to means of bonding and renewal of family love and nurturing" – Bishop Jo Seoka: The Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria.


  1. Describe your picture of a "Home". What makes it different from a "House"?
  2. Belief has to do with principles, those things we believe to be true. What principles are important for family life?
  3. A house is a place without principle or relationship. How can we implement these principles to help our own houses become homes?
  4. Choose a principle that you believe is missing from your family life: share how you plan to implement it? Who will you need to negotiate with? What will you need to change?

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, [The Greek for Woman does not denote any disrespect] here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:25-27 TNIV


  1. Share your response to the above reading from the Gospel of John.
  2. What does Jesus believe about family? Why?
  3. Share what you value about your own family and experience of family life.
  4. How do we share this with others? Our own family? Fellow Church members? Society?
Closing Prayer:

Week Five – Family Behaviour

Opening Prayer:


Read:     "The need today is much more than ever 'for families to have a rule of life that focuses the family on the centrality of Jesus Christ, with respect for each other as children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus' (Bishop's Charge 2005, pg 5)" – Bishop Jo Seoka: The Bishop's Charge, Synod 2008, Diocese of Pretoria.


  1. A "Rule of Life" is a covenant that guides the behaviour of a community, and helps individuals know how to behave in relationship to others in the community. It is more than a set of rules; it is a way of living. What two principles (above) are key to a rule for Family Life?
  2. Are these two principles evident in your family? If so, how do they impact on the behaviour of family members?
  3. "What would Jesus do?" Is this a question your family asks? If not, how do you think it would change family and individual behaviour if you begin asking it?
  4. We are all created in God's image: how does this (or could this) impact on family behaviour?

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21 TNIV


  1. Paul (above) shares the principles he believes should be core to family and community relationships in this wonderful prayer for the Ephesians. Share your response.
  2. Often we wait for others before we are willing to transform our own behaviour. Commit yourself to a specific positive behaviour change in your family life that you will implement and continue to live out even if no-one else in the family responds. If you have the courage, share this with the group.
  3. Share what has been valuable to you over the last five weeks in this course.
Closing Prayer:     Pray Paul's prayer for the Ephesians (above) together for your own family, for your local Church family, and for your community.