We are here to serve the combined Anglican churches and the wider communities of Corsham, Lacock, Bowden Hill, Neston and Gastard, where our main aim is to grow followers of Jesus Christ.
You can keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the Rector’s News, our monthly and weekly Publications and joining in with our activities; we look forward to meeting you in person!
Andrew and Steve, your clergy team
For details of the Christmas services in all our churches please look under SERVICES.
The Contractors compound in Church Square, Corsham, has now been removed and normal parking for those attending the church been restored.
I asked native South African Colleen McDuling, who worships at St Cyriac’s, to share her thoughts following the recent death of Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, 1918 – 2013
This week, the world was shocked and saddened by the announcement of the death of one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Nelson Mandela. Affectionately known as Madiba, he had endeared himself not only to the South African public, but to the world.
Mandela was handed a sentence of life imprisonment for treason and was imprisoned on RobbenIsland, a small island off the coast of Cape Town. He spent many years, doing hard labor and working in the limestone quarry there. Such hard labor was reserved for maximum security prisoners. It’s said that these harsh conditions and constant inhalation of limestone dust led to the deterioration of his eyesight and respiratory problems in later life. Some years after his release, on a penguin conservation exercise, I was able to visit the quarry and the prison where he had been incarcerated, and was taken to see his cell. His life started to make sense to me and I had a greater appreciation of what had shaped the man most would call a hero.
The 1980’s in South Africa were very troubled years as the fight to end apartheid progressed. Riots broke out. There were demonstrations. South Africa was in a state of civil unrest. I was a Captain in the SA military at the time and got to see sights that I would never repeat. That was the era of the necklacings. The last two years of the 1980’s were particularly violent.
Meanwhile, negotiations were underway to release Mandela from prison and to unban his party, the ANC. And it was in February 1990 that he was released from the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl to which he had been transferred. The event was broadcast live on SABC, and the nation watched carefully. What struck me was his smile and the general look on his face – a look of serenity and openness. There was no malice on that face. And after all of this time, I got to see (albeit on TV) the man I had learned about in history classes. A man who had been projected to me as violent, deceptive and not fit to be in general society.
The nation waited with bated breath. What now? Was he going to wreak havoc, take revenge on those who had incarcerated him, and together with the ANC, plunge South Africa into civil war? The journey to the first democratic elections in 1994 was not without problems. The riots continued. There were mass demonstrations and marches. There were shootings. An Anglican church in Cape Town was massacred during the evening service. A friend of mine and some of her friends were murdered as they sat in a pub. Times were tense and most precarious. Racial hatred prevailed.
Although nervous, I had decided to keep an open mind and not let bias get the better of me. And like many others, I was most pleasantly surprised. Instead of vengeance, Mandela exercised a spirit of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, justice and patience. He accepted his responsibility as State President with humility and pride. He ensured that the transition to democracy was smooth. He embraced South Africa as one nation – Black, Colored, Indian, White Afrikaner and White English. There were no ethnic barriers. He embraced all faiths as one – Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim and Traditional Religions. He himself was a devout Methodist Christian. He adored children. Many were the photographs of him sitting with children, laughing with children, playing with children, hugging children and being the father to them that he was to South Africa. He appeared on TV with children who loved him in return. He became known as Ntati – Father – the father of our nation. He never turned children away. Doesn’t this remind us of another Man who changed the course of history and Who loved children? He also had deep respect for animals and was the Patron-in-Chief of the NSPCA. He continued to be so until his death.
The more I saw Mandela (on TV of course!), the more he intrigued me. He was unlike any other statesman my country had had. He became famous for his Mandela shirts. Shirts with intricate and sometimes flamboyant design that hung over his pants. Always very symmetrical and always buttoned up tightly at the neck. He would dance and sing with the crowds, moving to the music as he did so. And always smiling and happy. He was one of the people. There was the professional distance, but essentially, he was one of us. He was gentle, but he could be most outspoken and did not keep quiet when the necessity arose. And I became proud to have him as my State President.
I never got to meet him, but those I know who did, said that there was something special about him. He had charisma, he was down to earth, he always had time for a greeting and there was a spirituality about him that was unique.
What endeared him to the South African public at large, and to the world was a gesture that will never be forgotten and will go down in the annuls of history as the most moving action ever taken by a head of state. The Springbok rugby team were playing the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 24, 1995. The day before my birthday! This was the final match of the Rugby World Cup. Mandela was in the stands. And the world watched. This was South Africa’s re-entry into international sport after having been alienated for so long. In the final minute during extra time, South Africa’s Joel Stransky shot South Africa to world fame with a drop goal, putting the score at 15-12. South Africa erupted in jubilation. Mandela, who was to present the trophy, arrived on the field in Springbok gear – a cap and the Number 6 jersey – the jersey of the Captain, François Pienaar. Mandela had become a part of the squad. A squad made of up big Afrikaner men. And it was the Afrikaners who had been his oppressors. Such was his spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. He embraced them. This was his team of which he was proud. Many of us who were watching, were in tears of indescribable emotion. I had a very good birthday that year!
Personally, I feel that had Mandela served at least two terms of office, South Africa would not be the place of violence that it is now. But he was old, and retired after one term. He is quoted as having said that it broke his heart to see how his beloved South Africa had gone. Perhaps that is why he fought to stay alive for so long, hoping for some restoration to the dream he had for his country and his people. Always a fighter to the end, he left a legacy that none of us can and will ever forget. The lessons that he taught were incomparable. South Africa can be proud to have had him as a leader.
Hambe Kahle, Madiba. Tsamaye hantle, Ntati. Nkosi ikusikelele.
Go well, Madiba. Go well, Father. God bless you.
Nkosi sikelele iSouth Africa. God Bless South Africa.
© Colleen McDuling, December 08, 2013
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