What a relief to feel the rain on my face in drought-stricken Cape Town! I trust that this is the start of a long winter. Changing seasons are always a time of melancholy, many people feel happier when the days are longer, warmer, and there is a riot of colors. In the southern hemisphere, the days are becoming shorter, the colors of the landscape are sparse, and it’s getting colder. Change is one of the certainties of life to embrace. As the seasons change, it is also a good time to take stock of what we have achieved so far this year and consider what adjustments need to be made to achieve our goals to live life meaningfully.
During April we lost three colossal figures in Methodism. Mama Winifred Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, Rev. Dr. Kathryn Brown, and Rev. Dr. James H. Cone. Winnie Mandela was a devout Methodist, fearless and tireless in her fight against the racist apartheid regime. A journalist described her as “a mother of uManyano (Methodist Women)” of “Wesleyan spleen” who found great solace in Methodist teaching and its invigorating hymns lifted her spirits when she was down with the weight of relentless apartheid harassment. The World Methodist Council (WMC) shared condolences with the family, and that Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of the Methodist Church preached at the funeral service. Rev. Dr. Kathryn Brown was a dynamic, transformative leader and elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She served as General Secretary of the Christian Education Department. The WMC conveyed condolences to the family. Rev. Dr. James H. Cone was often called “the father of black liberation theology.” His ideas and teaching challenged the societal norms of thinking how God relates to the oppressed and marginalized, specifically relating to African Americans in the United States. Dr. Cone’s legacy will continue, but his voice will be greatly missed.
On 27 April South Africans commemorated a milestone in their history. It was the day that the first democratic election took place 1994 which ended years of oppression and signaled a bright future for all in that country. Twenty-four years later the Black majority, like the people who returned to Jerusalem after exile heard the word of the Lord, “ You have sowed much, and you bring in little, you eat, but you do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink, you are clothed, but there is none warm, and you earn wages to put into a bag with holes”. (Haggai 1:6-7) Political liberation is not enough; it has to be accompanied by a change of heart, spiritual transformation, and tangible action.
From 24-27 April I was privileged to represent the WMC at the Third Global Christian Forum in Bogota, Colombia. Methodists had an opportunity to meet with Bishop Juan Cardona and hear about the exciting work of the young Methodist Church in Colombia. A comprehensive report is available in this month’s newsletter.
Many countries across the world recently celebrated Workers Day on May 1. In fact, one of the men involved in the early struggle for worker’s rights, Samuel Fielden, was a Methodist. Work is an indispensable part of human existence, through it life becomes meaningful as it secures dignity and respect. Work should benefit society and strengthen a system that guarantees fundamental human rights yet in many places profit s put before people and the sustainability of the planet. In my recent travels, I once again heard the lamentations of the working poor that churches have no institutional relationship with organized labor and that they fail to support workers in their struggles for dignity and a living wage. The church can do better!
In this month’s edition of the First Friday Letter, you will also find a recent statement on the historic Korean Peace Summit, news about how the World Methodist Museum continues to inspire young Methodists/Wesleyans, and a story of reconciliation and reunification after a long period of separation in the Eglise Protestante Méthodiste du Benin (EPMB).
I pray that in whatever season of life you find yourself that you will live life fully!!