Easter at St. Carantoc's

Easter Day at St. Carantoc’s in Francistown, Botswana’s second city in the north-eastern part of the country.

I was the preacher and celebrant here in 2010, on the day in which they honored their saint. That sent me scrambling to figure out who on earth he was – a sixth-century Welsh abbot who crossed the Bristol Channel with his ‘portable’ altar made of stone and the boat sank and he went looking for his altar and there was this dove that took away shavings he was using to light a fire and where the dove went is where he built his church, and I think there was a dragon in the story somewhere.

Put in that light, preaching on the Resurrection of the Lord seems a piece of cake.

There was no priest in 2010. Now Fr. Raymond Kawaya, a former Roman Catholic priest from the Congo (DRC), serves the parish in Francistown. He generously invites me to preach and celebrate.

Gordon Cosby, the founder of the Church of the Saviour and its Servant Leadership School in Washington, D.C., died a week or so ago. Mindful of his gift to so many of us, I preach the predictable things about the empty tomb, and then move on to ask: ‘What do we do after Easter? Today we say, Alleluia, Kreste o rudile. O rudile e le ruri. But, what do we do tomorrow?’

I remind the congregation that on the day before Jesus died, ‘he washed the feet of his disciples. And when they complained that he should not be doing that, Jesus taught his disciples to be servants, just as he had been a servant to them.’ I tell them that ‘I believe that our happy celebration of the risen Christ is but the first step in our witnessing to the Good News. Our next step is to find ways to be a servant, to serve, not to claim authority over others, but to serve.’

And then I bring it home: ‘Priests are not rulers over the rest of us. Church wardens are not rulers. Lay leaders are not rulers. The head of the Mothers’ Union is not a ruler.’ That – the reference to the Mothers’ Union – is when I notice some knowing looks exchanged among the women wearing their smart-looking white MU jackets and black hats. ‘They, we, are called not to rule but to serve,’ I conclude.

Whenever I am in a parish, either here or in North Carolina, I talk beforehand with lay ministers as to what they typically do and do not do. Here I ask what they sing – Gloria, Sanctus, and so on. At St. Carantoc’s, I need not have bothered to ask. They sing everything. They sing the Nicene Creed. And they start without any lead from the priest.

The choruses and the settings are wonderful. It may be that their music is the high point of this Easter for me.

The Eucharist proceeds without any major errors. I am getting a bit more comfortable doing part of it – mainly the one-liners – in Setswana, and Fr. Raymond is managing the thurible, much to my relief. And I don’t spill any wine when I lift the chalice at the Doxology, as I did in 2010, only to hear the assisting lay minister gasp.

As is common here, the children dash up to the altar for a blessing at the end. I enjoy that.

My daughter and her family are here. I notice the congregation is helpful to them, passing them the bilingual prayer book and Setswana hymnal from time to time. Jon is invited to say a few words during notices, and he does the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh proud.

Whenever I am in a parish, either here or in North Carolina, I talk beforehand with lay ministers as to what they typically do and do not do. Here I ask what they sing – Gloria, Sanctus, and so on. At St. Carantoc’s, I need not have bothered to ask. They sing everything. They sing the Nicene Creed. And they start without any lead from the priest.

The choruses and the settings are wonderful. It may be that their music is the high point of this Easter for me.

The Eucharist proceeds without any major errors. I am getting a bit more comfortable doing part of it – mainly the one-liners – in Setswana, and Fr. Raymond is managing the thurible, much to my relief. And I don’t spill any wine when I lift the chalice at the Doxology, as I did in 2010, only to hear the assisting lay minister gasp.

As is common here, the children dash up to the altar for a blessing at the end. I enjoy that.

My daughter and her family are here. I notice the congregation is helpful to them, passing them the bilingual prayer book and Setswana hymnal from time to time. Jon is invited to say a few words during notices, and he does the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh proud.