The Christian Church has a role in building society as a voice for what is right and not only for what is wrong. Likewise, the growing concern over the state of South Africa should prompt Christians to start praying for and proclaiming that which is good, right and of God.
Such calls for Christians to have a positive, tansformative influence on society resonated through a ‘Sacred Conversation’ entitled ‘A Prayerful Discussion on the State of the Nation’ held at the Newton Park Methodist Church, Port Elizabeth, on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The event formed part of the Holy week observances at the Newton Park Methodist Church.
The inspiration for holding the conversation came from recognising people’s frustration and concern over the state of the nation, said Rev Rowan Rogers, minister of Newton Park Methodist Church, who, with Andrew Butler, co-chaired the conversation in which they a interviewed a panel of Eastern Cape Methodist Church leaders on the general state of the nation. The panelists were Bishop Andile Mbete, Bishop of the Grahamstown District of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA); Bishop George Irvine, a retired MCSA Bishop; and Rev Kamagelo Monoametsi, resident minister of the Port Alfred Methodist Church.
The panel was selected to help attendees reflect on and evaluate their own thinking about the state of South Africa.
“It is easy for us wherever we live to get locked into our own limited understanding of the state of the nation or the political dynamics that are going on” said Rev Rogers in an interview, and this is why “it is important to listen to people whose experience of the politics of our country and the state of the nation may be different from our own”.
During the Conversation Bishops Mbete and Irvine, who were both activists during the apartheid era, and Rev Monoametsi, all emphasised the need for the Church to be praying for South Africa. Irvine encouraged the use of a prayer that was often prayed during the apartheid era: “God raise up the righteous and bring down the unrighteous”, while leaving it to God to decide who is who.
There was a strong reminder from Mbete that the Church has always been counter culture and that the power of prayer should not be underestimated. Prayer is a vital part of bringing about change and even though the panel as a whole spoke of South Africa’s future with hope, they acknowledged that the country needs help and change.
Part of the change comes through recognising that issues such as eradicating racism are an ongoing work that won’t be dealt with quickly, said Rogers in an interview. But he says that living a life that represents Jesus allows the Church to have a broader impact on society. Rev Rogers brought in a reminder during the interview that Church is more than Sunday service attendance but the way lives are lived.
The holding of such a conversation allowed for the expression of frustration and concern over the state of the nation while at the same time voicing different perspectives that brought understanding of the role the Church has to play in bringing about change in South Africa.