Surrounded by so Great a Cloud of WitnessesNovember 5, 2012
"...since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1)
Thafamasi Congregational Church hosted thousands of amaDodona (Sons) members for its annual provincial conference from 28-30 September 2012. Though very small, poor and rural, the congregation knew the gospel story of the widow who gave all that she had, one coin. Though Thafamasi has no hotels, B&Bs or guest houses, the community remembered the story of nard on Jesus' feet and opened its schools and homes to offer extravagant hospitality to all who came to fellowship and worship. Yes, water, electricity, and food had to be imported, but the congregation knew the biblical story of the loaves and fishes. Yes, the church members worried about shortages, but they remembered the story of Jesus turning water into wine. The conference was unique, for it honored two ancestors in faith, the Reverends Samuel Marsh (1817-1853) and Thomas Hawes (1829-1897). One White from North America and one Black from southern Africa; both served Thafamasi faithfully. A lecture was heard on the histories of both evangelists and thereafter all reflected upon the possibility of better grafting African spirituality to 'orthodox' Christianity. Following the lecture, all marched to the cemetery where clergy unveiled Marsh and Hawes' tombstones that the wider church painstakingly restored. The Reverend Dr Bonganjalo Goba, who before retirement, served both the North American and the southern African churches, preached passionately about our faith ancestors who sacrificed their lives to carry our God's work and will. By reflecting on his life struggles, Goba inspired all to overcome their unique obstacles that had thus far prohibited them from living to their greatest God-given potential. Following the unveilings, all the amaDodona dispersed throughout the countryside to preach, sing and pray in the community's homes. Indeed, 'the hills were alive with the sound of music' that afternoon! In gathering, learning, and worshipping we are inspired to go out into the world to serve.
Gracious God, this All Saints Day, inspire us by the examples of those who have gone before. May we remember that we benefit from an inheritance, often received after terrible sacrifice. Thank you for our ancestors in faith. May the 'cloud of witnesses' rest in peace, knowing that those who follow continue the divine work. Amen.
Love always in Christ,
Scott Couper serves with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) as a Development Manager of the Inanda Seminary. Susan serves with Inanda Seminary, Durban, South Africa as the chaplain.
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