19 September 2011

Teaching in South Africa, part 3

Rev. Modise Maragelo
On Sunday, 18 September I had the honor and joy of attending the Induction (Installation) Service of Rev. Modise Maragelo at Kagiso ("Peace") Lutheran Church in Kagiso, just to the east of Johannesburg (or "Jo'burg" as they like to say here). The drive took about an hour or so, and we drove through some beautiful country as well as past the shantytown area of Soweto. We arrived plenty early to look around the church and get prepared for the service.

Procession around the block
The service began with a grand procession around the block. As the Deputy Dean said beforehand, "We want the community to know that this congregation is alive and has a new pastor." The singing for the procession was stunning. Everyone sang with gusto, but the women were especially joyous and their voices filled the outdoor air. No worries of the sound dissipating in the wide open space!

Holy Gospel, read in (R to L)  Setswana, Zulu, & English
As we entered the church, the clergy sat up front and the congregation filled the sanctuary, which also got increasingly fuller during the course of the service. The brass band even arrived late and filled the place not only with bodies but also with joyous sounds. The bulletin gave the time of the service as "09:00-13:00," and it certainly went all four hours. The service was a combination of the church's liturgy done in Setswana and/or Zulu, planned hymns with familiar hymn tunes (sung simultaneously in Setswana and Zulu, depending on the individuals, I presume), Epistle and Gospel readings each read in Setswana, Zulu, and English, spontaneous eruption of joyous singing that was sometimes allowed to continue and other times brought to a halt, and even unplanned singing groups.

The second men's choral group
One male trio was allowed to offer "two gifts" (songs) and another group of young men processed in singing one song and then sang another while standing at the front of the church. Evidently, these were community choirs, not members of the congregation. And the voices! Whether it's the women of the congregation or the men in these outside groups, they take great joy and pride in their a cappella singing, and their voices are absolutely stunning and voluminous.

It was quite the honor to be part of Rev. Maragelo's induction service. At one point in the service, during some singing, one lady brought a sheet of paper for the guests to sign and thus register their presence. A bit later in the service, the church elder, Gilbert (who served as deacon/master of ceremonies), paused to welcome the guests. As he read through the list, we were each asked to stand and be acknowledged by the congregation. As I was introduced, Gilbert simply read what I had written on the paper: "LCMS, United States." I trust the impromptu representation of my church body and country serves "good order."

Clergy laying hands on Maragelo & praying Lord's Prayer
When it came time for Rev. Maragelo's induction, the Deputy Dean gave each of the visiting clergy a Bible passage to read. The passage I was given to read was Luke 12:42-44. At this point I knew that my previous assumption that I was only attending the service was no longer accurate. I was to be part of the service even though not vested or expecting such duty. The induction rite concluded with the guest clergy laying their hands on Rev. Maragelo and praying the Lord's Prayer together.

Pr. Maragelo beginning his sermon (Note time on clock!)
Following the induction ceremony, with more joyous singing as interlude, Rev. Maragelo preached a very animated sermon. Weaving together the various languages - Setswana, Zulu, and English - he preached on 1 John 5:1-6 (not one of the day's readings) and how Christ's victory overcomes the many things that the world thinks great. From the English sentences and phrases woven throughout, I could tell that the preacher wanted to leave the congregation with a simple message: "Because of Christ's victory over sin and death, we Christians are better, even higher, than the world's ideals of greatness. Thus there's no need for us Christians to lower ourselves to the world's standards."

Rev. David Tswaedi, former bishop of the LCSA, presided for the Holy Communion liturgy. Even though I could not understand the language spoken, it was a comfort to know that we were following the church's liturgy - the Church's language - namely, the Preface, Proper Preface, Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy"), "Lamb of God," and Words of Institution. As we communed, it was sheer joy to commune with brothers and sisters here in South Africa and realize that we are also communing with brothers and sisters back home as well as around the globe. Yes, the Lord's Holy Communion is truly our great unifier as we share in God's gift of fellowship with those who confess the same doctrine and faith.

After some impromptu revising of plans for collecting the offering the service began winding down. At first they planned to have the congregants process forward and put their offerings in to bowls, one for each side of the church. After some conversation, again as joyous singing is carried out, they decided to pass the bowls for the offerings as it would proceed more quickly given the larger crowd. However, one lady (the same lady who took the name of guest clergy) say up front at a table and a handful of women came forward to leave  envelopes with their offerings in them. These were then recorded in a book as the service continued.

Brass band - following the service.
Rev. Tswaedi concluded the service with the closing prayer and benediction. Following this one gentlemen stood up to give what was called a "Vote of Thanks" (I presume for the new pastor). However, this took quite a while. First, the gentleman, presumably a leading member of the congregation, asked for another song to be sung. Apparently, he wanted to ensure that we continued the service to the very top of the 1:00 p.m. (13:00) hour. After the song, he chose to read some newspaper article on the common, mistaken and yet humorous expectations some have of a pastor. And finally, he spoke on thanking God for this joyous day and for giving the congregation at Kagiso a new pastor. The service then ended (finally! :-) with some more singing and the band playing its joyful tunes. The band continued playing well after the service concluded and we clergy had gathered for photographs.

Participating clergy, Bp. Wilhelm Weber in front.
All in all, it was not only a great honor to be present for Rev. Margelo's induction and represent my church and country, but it was also a most interesting experience to witness and participate (as much as I could) in the great joy of hearing God's Word and praising our Triune God for His goodness of saving us from sin and death as well as providing a new pastor for this congregation.

The service was followed by what the bulletin simply called "Refreshments." But it was more than coffee and donuts or punch and cookies, as we Westerners might think of the term. This was a full-fledged meal with chicken, beef (both cooked in the big pots you see below), rice, coleslaw, salad, potato salad, a cornbread type of roll, and orange punch. The meal together is quite important for the community life, especially the community of God.

Woman cooking chicken in large pot of oil, removing cooked chicken.


  1. That's great that they did a procession around the block. Maybe we should start doing that!

  2. I must admit, Scott, I had the same exact thought...followed quickly by the thought that it really would shake up some of our American Lutherans! :-)