Church of the Province of Central Africa
The Diocese of Harare
Christmas 2008: Message of Hope and God's Assurance
My dear sisters and brothers
It is not so easy to write an intelligent pastoral letter to you at this time when we are faced with so many problems in our church and in our nation. We have a litany of challenges that are so destructive and devastating: Cholera, hunger, HIV/AIDs, lack of health care, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, corruption, kidnappings, callousness, harassment, you name it – that is a tall order indeed.
All these challenges rob us of an opportunity to have a meaningful and purposeful life. As I write, some families are nursing their relatives who are suffering from the effects of Cholera expecting them to die any time, others stay indoors unable to come out from their houses because of the unbearable stench of sewage flowing in front of their doorsteps, while still others are burying their dead. We hear of a horrific case where one family lost 5 children in 36 hours.
Indeed this will be a Christmas with a difference never before experienced by our people. This is a very sad state of affairs indeed. Faced with such an ugly and horrendous situation, we hear the faithful in our congregations reciting the words of Ps.10 vv. 1-7:
"Why stand so far off, O Lord? Why hide yourself in time of trouble?
The wicked in their pride persecute the poor; let them be caught in
the schemes they have devised. The wicked boast of their heart's
desire; the covetous curse and revile the Lord. The wicked in their
arrogance say, 'God will not avenge it'; in all their scheming God
counts for nothing. They are stubborn in all their ways, for your
judgements are far above out of their sight; they scoff at all their
adversaries. They say in their heart, 'I shall not be shaken; no harm
shall ever happen to me.' Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit and
fraud; under their tongue lie mischief and wrong."
The mood of this psalm is one of a high level of desperation and hopelessness, of being powerless and feeling dejected. Such feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and dejection can indeed challenge our faith in God. But they can also lead us to deeper understanding of the helplessness, powerlessness, dejection and pain that Jesus had to bear on our behalf. In the middle of suffering, pain and destruction we are reminded of a God who suffers with his people saying to Moses:
"And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the
way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you
to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt… I will be
with you" (Ex 3 vv.9ff)
In Isaiah we hear the same words of comfort and assurance given to a people who were at a crossroad as far as their identity and nationhood were concerned: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (Isa 40 v.1).
It has become a common expression in Zimbabwe to hear people say: God has abandoned us. The devil is in charge. He uses instruments which disregard human rights. Disrespect of the law by those who are supposed to enforce it is rampant. But the Lord does not fail his chosen –
"Arise, o Lord God, and lift up your hand; forget not the poor. Why
should the wicked be scornful of God? Why should they say in their
hearts, 'You will not avenge it'? Surely, you behold trouble and
misery; you see it and take it into your own hand. The helpless commit
themselves to you, for you are the helper of the orphans. Break the
power of the wicked and malicious. Search out their wickedness until
you find none. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever; the nations
shall perish from his land. Lord, you hear the desire of the people.
You will incline your ear to the fullness of their heart to give
justice to the orphans and oppressed, so that people are no longer
driven in terror from the land." (Ps10 vv12-19)
Although Christmas festivities will be a non-event for many Zimbabweans, Christians in our various congregations will celebrate it with a different perspective, considering the challenges we Anglicans in this diocese are facing. We may find ourselves very close to the events surrounding the birth of Jesus where we hear the innkeeper say: There is no room for you in this inn, and Jesus was therefore born in a place where animals were normally kept – not unlike many of you celebrating the nativity of Christ in an awkward place otherwise used by vendors. But it is through this Christ-child born in a manger that our hope for a redeemer was fulfilled. There in the manger and beyond we see the Prince of Peace bringing about justice and peace to an unjust world.
Therefore in spite of all the hardships we are going through, I invite you to join the rest of the household of God throughout the world to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, the King of Peace with joy and hope.
A very Blessed Christmas to you all!
1. It is now more than a year that our cathedral and church buildings have remained closed. We ask you to remain patient and pray that this upper hand of the blasphemous beast we read about in Revelation 13-14 will be overcome. We will be there at God's own time.
2. The Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev. F. Mutamiri and Mrs. M. Machiha have been invited by our link Diocese to attend a conference in Rochester from 16th -30th January. They will convey our greetings to our partners. We are asking those parishes who would like to be linked to parishes in Rochester to submit the name of their parish.
To be linked you have to tell us more about your congregation:
- Name of the parish
- Number of members
- Number of children in Sunday School, MU, youth, guilds, Men's Fellowship etc. as well as the number of house church groups.
If you established a link with Rochester long ago and the link is still alive, do let us know with whom you are linked.
3. We ask you to pray for the following:
- our seminarians: Biggie Gwashero, Noel Magaya, Alpha John, Tindale
Kahombe, Kudakwashe Madzime, Moses Mugariri, Mahomad Edwin Selemani,
- the Acting Gaul House Principal, Rev. Fundira
- those in the Diaspora
- the displaced within our communities without shelter
- for an amicable solution to the political impasse in our nation
4. We have been devastated by the outbreak of Cholera in our city. We would like you to hold memorial services in your congregations on any day during the week to remember those who have succumbed to the pandemic and to pray for the bereaved families.
I invite you pray with me:
Lord Jesus, we thank you for your love.
You obediently accepted to come to this godless world in order to redeem us;
We thank you.
Born in a manger, you confronted us with your humility.
You experienced the power and pain caused by sin;
We adore you
Ultimately when they crucified you, you did not become a victim but a victor
We praise you.
Emmanuel – God with us -, help us to be aware of your presence even
when things are hard and when we feel powerless and defenceless like
you did in the confinement of a manger.
Lord Jesus, may we be born anew and grow with you.
Bishop Bakare's Christmas Pastoral letter
Church of the Province of Central Africa