18 March 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
30, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg

Inside Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg … the example of Dean Gonville ffrench-Beytagh was inspiring in 1971

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches that have shaped and influenced my spirituality.

My photographs this morning (18 March 2021) are from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg.

The Revd John Thomas Darragh, an Irish-born missionary priest supported by SPG (now USPG), was the first rector of the Saint Mary’s Church in 1887. The cathedral was completed and was consecrated on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, 29 September 1929.

Following my life-changing experience in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, as a 19-year-old fifty years ago, I had deep questions about the meaning and demands of Christian discipleship. At the time, I drew inspiration from the then Dean of Johannesburg, the Very Revd Gonville ffrench-Beytagh (1912-1991), who went on trial in 1971 after opening his cathedral doors to black protesters who were being whipped on the cathedral steps by white police. After successfully appealing his conviction, he went into permanent exile, and was succeeded as Dean by the future Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Naturally, when I visited Johannesburg in 1990, the first place I visited was Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg. I have also made a point of visiting Saint Matthew’s, Westminster, where Gonville ffrench-Beytagh was a curate, and Saint Vedast-alias-Foster, where he was rector.

John 5: 31-47 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 31 ‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

39 ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (18 March 2021), prays:

Let us give thanks for all the new trees that have been planted in Mozambique by confirmation candidates and pray that churches in other countries adopt this idea.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg … the first rector was an Irish-born SPG (USPG) missionary priest

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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