Church leaders from all denominations and groups have been invited to an emergency meeting at the Johannesburg headquarters of the South African Council of Churches today to pray together and plan how to bury Nelson Mandela with dignity as international leaders and celebrities prepare to visit South Africa to attend the state funeral.
Meanwhile according to media reports elaborate plans for a 12-day state memorial and funeral were set in motion last night just hours after the death of South Africa’s first democratically elected president. President Jacob Zuma ordered the nation’s flags to be flown at half-mast beginning today and to remain that way until after Mandela’s funeral, which is expected to be held next Saturday.
Church leaders who are not able to attend today’s emergency prayer and planning meeting at Khotso House at 2pm are requested to send representatives, says Bishop Jo Seoka, the President of the SACC, in a letter to churches.
In a press statement the SACC expresses sorrow at Mandela’s “sad departure from his illustrious earthly life” and “extends a special pastoral embrace to the Mandela family at this time”.
The SACC also calls on South Africans to pray for the soul of the nation’s first democratically elected president, his family and the nation.
“We call on the churches and all people of faith, to focus their worship services and prayers this weekend not only to mourn Mandela but also to celebrate his achievements and thank God for his life and example. The Mandelas are members of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and therefore we appeal to all denomination to support the leadership of the Methodist Church in all ministrations,” says the statement.
Paying tribute to Mandela’s achievement’s the SACC statement says: “We are very much saddened by the news of the death of our Nation’s first President: A man of vision, courage and zeal for the liberation of humankind. He has lived a selfless life so that we may all enjoy freedom and the fullness of life, just as our Lord had purposed. Today we are a respected nation because of his tireless fighting spirit to free us from oppression, exploitation and sexism, and for this we thank God.
“In his words Mandela said, “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden, but never extinguished”. On the night of his sad departure, that flame of his goodness was held up by the grace of God, that it may remain to inspire and influence present and future generations to strive always to live for the common good, after the manner of Jesus Christ who said I have come that you may have life to the fullest.
“Thus Nelson Mandela will not have died, but would have transitioned to a perpetual beacon of light for the democratic order that he led as the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa.”