Originally published in ACNS
More than 2 000 Anglicans from Southern Africa and around the world were in Durban last week for Anglicans Ablaze, an international conference within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
The biennial event, which ran from October 3 TO 6, is a renewal platform meant to set Anglicans “ablaze with God’s love and power in order to build up the church and to serve God in the world”.
The Bishop of the North Western Episcopal Area of the Anglican Diocese of Natal, Tsietsi Seleonne, is the new liaison Bishop for Anglicans Ablaze. The event, he said, is a continuation of the Anglican Renewal Ministry that began in the 1970s.
“It’s a diverse kind of ministry showing the Anglican life at its best – from extreme Anglo-Catholic to extreme charismatic expressions of our worship, and this is why we want people to see how they can transform their own parishes after being enriched by this renewal ministry in our church”, he said.
“Anglicans Ablaze is about church growth”, said Nonkonzo Xintolo, a priest from the Diocese of Mthatha. “This gives me a chance to mix with other people and learn because you cannot go back home and grow the church unless you grow yourself first.”
Anglicans Ablaze has a special place in the lives of young people because for the most part, it presents an opportunity for them to experience church in a way that’s different from what they experience in their parishes, said Jesse Rajee, an 18-year-old Anglican from Cape Town who was attending Anglican Ablaze for the first time.
Fun-loving young Anglicans at the Anglicans Ablaze renewal conference in Durban last week. Photo: Bellah Zulu
“After listening to the experiences of my friends who attended the last conference, I got inspired and knew I also wanted to be attended someday,” he said. “I have been challenged and my goal is to inspire other young people as I have been inspired here.”
Another young Anglican, 17-year-old Levern Luiters, talked of how this experience has impacted her life. “I have heard a lot of good things here that the Lord has done for other people and now I know that he is going to do it for me as well”, she said. “It’s indeed an honour to be here to worship God with people from different churches.”
When more than 2 000 people meet in one place for a conference such as this one, the amount of garbage produced can be overwhelming. But the organisers foresaw this and came up with various innovations to minimise the amount of waste produced.
“Instead of single use containers, we have made available over 2000 reusable mugs which has helped us stop about 12 000 plastic containers from being used here,” said the coordinator of Green Anglicans, Canon Rachel Mash. “We have also made available wooden stirs instead of plastic spoons.”
She added: “We have to change people’s theology by emphasising that caring for the environment is a key calling of a Jesus shaped life. You cannot say you care for your neighbour if you don’t care for creation.”
The highlight of the event came from the prolific church planter and keynote speaker for the conference, Archbishop Moon Hing of West Malaysia, the Primate of South East Asia. He gave a moving account of growing up in a Buddhist family in an area where Christianity accounted for less than one per cent of religious affiliation.
“My family didn’t like it when I converted to Christianity to an extent that they stopped me from speaking to my family about it,” he said. “But after so many years I would like to thank God that I have managed to convert 80 per cent of my family including brothers, sisters and cousins among others to Christianity, and had the privilege of baptising my own mother.”
In an interview with the Anglican Communion News Service, he spoke of the importance of Anglican Ablaze: “There is hunger for Christ everywhere – people need motivation, encouragement and direction, and Anglicans Ablaze offers that opportunity and I pray that it spreads to other regions and the whole of the Anglican world.
“This movement will transform the lives of people and communities and the world will have hope because it’s a reminder that God is our priority in a world which is going in the opposite direction.”
The atmosphere was Spirit-filled as Anglicans worshipped God in an apparent hunger for transformation and a different kind of experience.