South Africans Urged to Continue Praying for Nelson Mandela


The Presidency says South Africans must continue to pray for former president Nelson Mandela. Yesterday President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela at the Pretoria hospital where he is still being treated. It was Zuma’s second visit to the statesman.

The international icon has been in the hearts and minds of South Africans since his admission to hospital two weeks ago.

Mandela was first treated for a recurring lung infection. He later underwent a procedure to remove gallstones.  However, the Presidency says the former president continues to respond well to treatment.

Presidential spokesperson, Mac Maharaj says: “President Zuma assured him of the love and support of all South Africans, young and old, and the whole world. We urge South Africans to continue praying for our beloved Madiba during this period. Our hearts are with the whole family and relatives.”

It is believed that members of the Mandela family also visited him yesterday. Doctors said they would only discharge Madiba when he has made made sufficient progress.

Well wishes continue to stream in from around the globe…


Bible Archaeology

Frankincense Returns to the Holy Land

After 1,500 years:

KIBBUTZ KETURA, ISRAEL – Seven years after I revealed her success in sprouting a 2,000 year-old date palm seed found on Masada, botanist Dr Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has done it again.

1,500 years after the last frankincense tree disappeared from the Holy Land, Dr Solowey has managed to grow the first shoots of a tree whose scented white sap was once worth more than gold.

At Kibbutz Ketura deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, Dr Solowey is carefully nurturing the fragile sapling in her greenhouse, where she is also growing myrrh and balm of Gilead – probably the “gold” brought by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

“This is the first frankincense tree to set seed in Israel in 1500 years,” Dr Solowey told me as she presented the tiny sapling for its first public photo-call this week. “It was necessary to bring this variety back to the country because the last people growing these trees near the Dead Sea left and the trees left with them.”

Read on here.



Coming ACA (TAC) Episcopal Consecrations

In Bishop Brian Marsh’s Christmas Newsletter:

EPISCOPAL CONSECRATIONS Save the dates. Episcopal consecrations for Bishop-elect Owen Rhys Williams and James Randal Hiles have now been set. The two bishops-elect will be consecrated following the April meeting of the House of Bishops/Executive Council. The dates are as follows:

April 25. The Consecration of Owen Rhys Williams will be held at Trinity Pro Cathedral in Rochester, New Hampshire in the early evening of April 25.

April 27. The Consecration of James Randall Hiles will be held at St. Paul’s Parish on Saturday morning, April 27.

Many details have yet to be worked out, but it is expected that these consecrations will involve bishops from various Anglican jurisdictions. In addition, a series of special events will be held for bishops and members of the Executive Council who plan to attend both consecrations.

The rest of his newsletter is here.

Look, I’ll be honest, I bemoaned this idea of using Bishops from different Anglican jurisdictions in Consecrations before. It is a doctrinal and theological anomaly, highly, highly unusual, but seems to be an Americanism of sorts. There would be nothing wrong in inviting the Bishops of ‘various Anglican jurisdictions’ to be guests at such an occasion, but for them to be directly involved, participating, actually laying on hands? What are the ontological implications of this course of action?


The Trinity Pro-Cathedral (ACA) where Rev Owen R Williams is Rector is here.

Then,  the St Paul’s Parish, where Fr Dr James R Hiles is the Rector, is here. Virtue Online has a history of the Parish here.



Let’s Not Party Too Hard, Says New Archbishop of Canterbury

In the Telegraph:

The Rt Rev Justin Welby said “the best parties” celebrate “something solid” rather than simply providing a way of escaping reality.

As well as being a time of celebration Christmas should be an opportunity help people in need, Bishop Welby said.

He specifically praised volunteers staffing food banks and urged people to offer time to neighbours and to help those who have “had a rough year”.

His plea was reinforced by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who used a separate message to encourage “love and care” over Christmas, particularly for “those whose needs are greater than our own.”

Meanwhile, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day against the danger of being “complacent” about gun and knife crime in British cities.

Speaking in the wake of the massacre of 26 schoolchildren and teachers in the US earlier this month, Dr Williams said stricter controls over the sales of weapons would be only “a start”.

“But what will really make the difference is dealing with fear and the pressure to release our anxiety and tension at the expense of others,” he added.

In his final Christmas message as the Bishop of Durham, Bishop Welby, who will formally take over from Dr Williams in March, said next year would be a personally “momentous” period.

Addressing the challenges he faces as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury he said he “did not seek” his new role but pledged to do everything in his power to “make a difference” to the Church of England and the country at large.

“The Church gets lots of things wrong, it always has, always will, because it is full of human beings,” he said. “But at its heart is the good news that when Jesus came God came to be with us, offer us hope and joy and purpose and love beyond all we can measure. That keeps me going.”

Emphasising the importance of combining festivities with a sense of “responsibility” to others, the former oil executive said: “In tough times like these, it can sometimes be difficult to focus on the positive; talk of recession, news of redundancies and reports of worldwide conflict grinds us down. However, Christmas is a time for celebration, it always has been.

“The shepherds, poor as you could be even in those days, went to celebrate what had happened in a manger, where they found God Himself.

“Christmas also brings with it the risk of so clubbing ourselves round the head with spending and parties that we forget who we are and why we live.

“At the heart of the greatest story ever told, the Christian story, the story that has shaped our civilisation, is the theme of self-giving and responsibility.”

He added: “The best parties have something solid to celebrate, not just a desire to get out of one’s mind.

“The shepherds went to see Jesus and went away celebrating because God had come to be with them. They were optimistic. Hope lived. And hope and joy are better when shared, in fact sharing them makes them grow and gives them life.

“So, my own sense this Christmas is one of optimism. I see people staffing food banks, sharing good things, sacrificing to give.

“Perhaps just going to see a neighbour, hurrying a bit less when someone wants to chat, we can all do that. Perhaps we can give something to someone who has had a rough year, make space for them to have hope and joy.”

In a Christmas message to Sunday Telegraph readers Dr Sentamu said: “When so many are struggling in our society during this economic downturn, what we must ask is: do we want to live in a country where inequality and suffering is ingrained, or would we rather send out a message of the Christian virtue of hope – that everyone is valued and has an important part to play.

“This Christmas as we remember the great joy and hope brought by the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ, let us remember our responsibility to love and care for our neighbour, especially those whose needs are greater than our own.”

Dr Sentamu’s message came after he issued a warning against the Government’s “severe” defence cuts, saying they needed to be carried out with “far, far greater sensitivity”.

Meanwhile Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said: “St Leo calls Christ’s birth ‘life’s birthday’ because if God is with us, then in a mysterious but real way, we are all brothers and sisters to God made man. It is in gazing on him that we see our own true worth.”

He added: “The light which came into the world at Bethlehem, the love which that tiny infant embodies is a light and a power for all of us to live by as we strive to create a better world, each in our own way.”