Pastors’ Convention at Sitilo Game Farm, Pongola – 5-8 October 2020.
Although the coronavirus was still present, we were thankfully able to meet up for the pastor’s convention in October this year. Initially, we should have met up in May. Considerations on meeting via a virtual platform were looming, but we decided it wise to meet up in person and what a good decision it was! Thanks be to God that nobody was infected.
The theme of the convention seemed to be concentrating on the pastor. Theological matters on the office of the ministry, the Lord’s Supper in case of “emergency” during COVID-19, and stewardship within the congregation (focusing on the pastor in particular) were crucial talking points. COVID-19 has presented a lot of challenges and it was good to reflect on these challenges with the desire to come to a mutual understanding of how a pastor can go about his office with noticeable reverence.
Appreciation was expressed to our Bishop in obtaining an essential workers permit for all pastors of the FELSISA as early as the beginning of May 2020 and writing repeatedly to the president of our country to relax the very strict lockdown restrictions imposed on churches. We believe that his efforts contributed to the relaxations that followed, enabling more members to go to church again. Recently the paragraph in the Government Gazette on prohibiting singing was also deleted. With singing having been resumed in our congregations, there will hopefully now be a new sense of appreciation attached to the value of singing.
Great joy was expressed over the fact that our congregations made use of WhatsApp, YouTube and other means to still make God’s Word available to members during Lockdown. Immense gratitude was also conveyed for the new FELSISA website. Appreciation was shown towards the pastors, who made every effort (even under Lockdown Level 4, when churches were still closed) to meet individual members, where Holy Communion was desired in person. Sometimes, the pastors could not reach members in person for the celebration of Holy Communion and it was thus encouraged that one should “fast” the Lord’s Supper (lamenting over the situation) and make use of other Means of Grace like God’s Word (Holy Scripture), Absolution and especially reminding these members of their Baptism. Simply talking over a phone with another person and praying with them, helps to create a sense of fellowship, even if the person is bodily absent.
Three important words from this convention were: Stewardship, stewardship, stewardship! These words will be one of the main focus points of the FELSISA in the coming year. So often we view fundraising as deficit-based and having negative connotations in our congregations, which tends to view givers only as “those with the money”. We want to move the focus away from this view to a more holistic approach to biblical stewardship, which leads to generous giving. Christian Stewardship should be a joyous life, serving God and our neighbour. Our focus should not just be on this life, but mainly focused on life in eternity with God. Biblical stewardship encapsulates not just finances, but rather managing all that is first and foremost given to us by God. The importance of the pastor’s example was stressed. In the church, there are no quick fixes. Listening to the Word of God day in and day out is the only solution and it starts with the pastor. Consequently, a culture of generosity is formed. Generosity is contagious; thanks be to God! Stewardship is but a synonym for the life of a Christian who is living rightly with all of his relationships: before God as well as before his fellow-creatures. Stewardship is the Christian life and the Christian life is stewardship. We will wait with great anticipation of what is to come in the following year.
Other matters of the FELSISA were up for discussion such as the Ecumenical Guidelines of the FELSISA, Church Relationship with the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa (CLCSA) and the Confessional Lutheran Church – Malawi Synod (CLCMS), Bioethics, a proposal to appoint a “Liturgical Commission” to pursue an Agenda for the FELSISA, etc. Moreover, it was wonderful to meet each other again! I am sure all of us felt rejuvenated, refreshed, recharged and “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We want to thank the Gerken Family for providing us with their facilities at Sitilo Game Farm (Pongola, KZN). There is something special in discussing theological matters on a Game Farm. We are also thankful for all the other donations we have received for the pastors’ convention.
Written by Vicar Martin K. Paul