Saying that the "Holy Spirit looks like the person next to you," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the nearly 1,000 people attending the opening Eucharist of the Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) conference that the Holy Spirit is revealed in the faces of those who are "trying to do the work of Jesus Christ."
All are called, Williams said, "to tell the world that every voice matters."
Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town was the presider at the Eucharist and Diocese of the Highveld Bishop David Beetge and the Rev. Canon Nangula Kathindi, provincial executive officer of the Anglican Church of South Africa, were the concelebrants. The liturgy was planned by the Rev. Diana Nkesiga from the Anglican Church of Uganda.
Ndungane gives the TEAM conference's opening address on March 8. Williams will also speak that morning about the biblical principles and gospel imperatives on the mission of the church in society.
The congregation swelled out of the close to 600 seats crowded into All Souls Anglican Church in Tsakane, South Africa, which is about 50 minutes by bus from the conference site, the Birchwood Executive Hotel and Conference Centre in Boksburg. Worshipers participated in the service, some by listening at the open windows, others via closed-circuit television outside the church and across the street. (On-demand viewing of the service will be available March 8 here).
The buses arriving from Boksburg were greeted by men, women and children waving small TEAM paper flags as they stood along the unpaved streets of Tsakane. A brass band played as the conference participants and members of area congregations walked to the church. A large contingent of members of the Mothers' Union dressed in black skirts, white blouses, black rope belts and black shoes and hats, were in the congregation. Sitting right in front of them were a number of ambassadors.
The two-and-a-half-hour service was said in many of the languages common to the Diocese of the Highveld, ranging from English and Portuguese to Xhosa and Afrikaans. Alternately loud and mellow voices from a men's and women's choir punctuated the worship, backed by a piano jazz band inside the church and, from outside, a brass band and the voices of children playing. Later, as communion was being distributed, crickets chirped loudly. All Souls Church prepared a dinner for the entire congregation after the service.
"This is the way we worship every Sunday," said Mamaroala Moretlo from St. Peter's Church in Kathlehong, about 20 kilometers from Tsakane. "The difference with this is that we have the bishop and the archbishop."
In his sermon, Williams underscored the importance of working for a world in which everyone's voice is heard.
Referring to the gospel reading from Luke 15:1-10 about the parable of the lost sheep, Williams compared a story where a choir master is able to notice if one voice is missing.
"The gospel today tells us that that is how Jesus Christ listens to the world," Williams said. "The world is the choir he calls to sing his praise and glory and if one voice is missing, the music is wrong."
Throughout the TEAM conference, Williams said, the delegates will be asking God "how we make the music right; how we work for a world where every voice is heard, where the music is what God wants it to be, because all the voices are there."
"The lost sheep has nothing without the flock but the flock has nothing without the lost sheep," he added. "Jesus goes in search of those who are needed, who are valued, who are precious to him ... Without them our music will be wrong."
Williams emphasized that Jesus Christ becomes completely caught up in the world. "He speaks of us, with us and for us to God as one of us ... He comes to identify with us, to share the risks with us -- the voice that invites us to speak with him," he said. "God through Jesus Christ comes into the world of the lost. He comes to share its pain, its struggle, and its hope. He recreates the world, not from outside, but from inside. By bringing his divine life into the heart of the world and letting it grow and blossom there, he breaks the molds, he breaks the chains, he breaks the limits of the old world ... and makes it new."
"This is the good news for the poor, this is the good news for each one of us -- the news that each one of us has a voice, without which our neighbors cannot be themselves. The news that we depend upon each other to be human."
The Old Testament reading from Isaiah 61:1-4 says that "the spirit of the Lord ... has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives," Williams noted.
"When we are set free to take the risks of love, then the spirit of the Lord God is visible; then the spirit of the Lord God is at work," he said.
Williams cited the story of the two third-century African Christian martyrs, Perpetua and Felicity, who were executed in Carthage by the Roman authorities. Perpetua was a rich young lady, Williams said, and Felicity was her slave. "We are told that they walked into the arena -- where they were to be attacked by wild beasts -- hand in hand," he said, "recognizing that neither would have been themselves without the other."
"The new creation is about how we are set free for one another ... to draw out the voice of our neighbor in prayer and praise," he added. "And when we labor for justice, for reconciliation, the peace between nations ... that is what in Christ's name, and by the power of Christ's spirit, we are seeking to do: to draw out the voices of all ... so that the music may be right and that all God's children can sing Hallelujah together."
Among the prayers after communion was one from the Anglican Church in Uganda called "A New Prayer of Africa." The entire congregation prayed the words "God bless Africa. Protect her children. Transform her leaders. Heal her communities. And grant her peace. For Jesus Christ's sake."
After communion, two members of All Souls presented Williams with some gifts. They danced him from his seat to the pulpit as the choir sang a song whose refrain asked all to "pray for peace in Africa."
"You have put us on the map of the world but most of all you have showed us love," one presenter told Williams, whom she called "our dearest and highest bishop."
Williams was given a pointed straw hat traditional of the area along with a shirt and pants set. Because, as one of the presenters said "there is no ministry without the women," the parish gave Williams matching clothing for his wife, Jane.
In return, Williams presented the parish with a stone cross from Canterbury in the hopes that "you will think of us and pray for us when you see it," he said.
Standing behind the altar after giving his blessing at the end of the service, Ndungane declared, "You will agree with me that the Anglican Communion is alive and well."
After the service, Ruth Archibald, the Canadian High Commissioner in South Africa, said that the worship was "very African but with the traditions of the church very much there."
Lerato Baartman, 17, an All Souls parishioner, said that the service and the all the festivities were very inspiring.
"It's inspiring for us -- the youth -- to be able to do things for the Church," she said, adding that she and other teenagers were "guarding the tourists" to prevent them from being mugged.
Dorothy Makabela from St. Barnabas Church in Kaw-thema Springs said she and the other Mothers' Union members learned a lot from the service, comparing it to the man in one of Jesus' parables who found a pearl of great value.
The TEAM conference, running March 7-14, is being hosted by Ndungane, and brings together those working from the church to end the scandal of extreme poverty, stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensure proper care and treatment of those affected by the virus.
More than 350 people are attending from across the Anglican Communion to discuss the strategies embodied in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and how the church can do more as one of the world's largest grassroots development networks. The TEAM conference is in part a follow up to the first-ever pan-Anglican conference on HIV/AIDS, which was hosted by Ndungane in Boksburg in 2001.
More information about TEAM is available at the conference website. Continuing ENS coverage is available here.