Saturday, 19 April 2014

Greed, Corruption, Inequality, Poverty, and Violence

The service was well organised and I was
esepcially impressed by all the ushers.
These words are written on the big cross on the stage. It’s around 06h00 in the morning and the Good Friday Service is about to start. Since 1985 the Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban organises this service. It starts in the Durban Exhibition Centre and proceeds to the City Hall, where it ends. The history is this:

In 1985 a number of UDF-activists were detained in Durban. Church leaders decided that a silent Good Friday procession outside the City Prison would be a good way to show solidarity with the detainees. Since then the Good Friday procession forms a natural part of the Easter tradition in Durban.

I am not sure how many we were but it must have been more than 1 000. The service had actually begun already at 05h15, when people started to gather, singing songs. We got up at 04h30, because we had to travel the odd 80 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. When we came the exhibition hall was only half full but when we left, it was almost full.

The theme of the service was:
Things must change
but the preacher, Graham Philpott, director of the Church Land Programme, was not happy with the wording. He felt that this theme was too inactive. As if somebody else should carry out the change for us. I thought he would come to the conclusion that we ought to become more active but the sermon had an unexpected twist. He argued that Jesus never said that things must change. Jesus spoke more about the seed that has to fall into the soil and die. Jesus spoke more about losing your life if you want to gain it. So, the message of the sermon was instead that
Things have changed
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Left to us is the choice what to do with this reality. It was a good and challenging sermon.

I also liked the way he challenged the political leaders of today. This was brave, because the Premier of the Province as well as one of the Provincial Ministers were there. So was also the Mayor of the Municipality (the wider Durban). The Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the Ethekwini Municipality had also sponsored the service. Therefore it was good to challenge them. In my opinion the chairperson of the Diakonia Council of Churches, Rev Ian Booth, gave the dignitaries a bit too much attention. But again, this is a cultural difference between South Africa and Sweden. In South Africa all protocols always need to be observed. Even before the cross. As far as I understand we are all equal on Calvary.

It was also contra productive, when the procession started, to see only mighty men leading it. Bishops, the cardinal and politicians! Only after them went lots of religious sisters. I can understand that you place the leaders in front, but I would have chosen to blend male church leaders with religious sisters.

All of us wanted to touch the cross.
A positive thing was the change in the tradition that the all of us got a chance to carry the cross. Formerly the leaders in front did that. This year the cross “wandered” between us in the procession.

My youngest son has given me a cap, especially made for clergy.
Generally speaking it was a very well organised and inclusive service. English, isiZulu and Afrikaans were mixed. I appreciated this gesture. It means a lot!

One of the marshals reminding us that the procession
is supposed to be a silent one.
The history of oppression is still alive in South Africa.
On our way to the City Hall we passed a wall, which is the only remaining part of the old City Prison. A number of people were standing in front of the wall. Some of them had been detained in the prison, others were relatives or friends of detainees. This action of just standing, while we passed in silence, carried a strong message.

The old legend, that the cross on Calvary, started to live,
when Jesus died, is also a strong symbol.
At the City Hall people were invited to flower the cross as a symbol of hope. The whole service ended with a Roman Catholic Bishop sending us out with the words:
Go in peace and influence the change we wish to see in the world
And to this we answered:
Thanks be to God.

No comments: