Small Cathedral - Big Challenge
Lichfield Cathedral Choir is accustomed to preparing for big occasions, but next year’s visit to a partner-cathedral in a South African township is going to be a challenge of a different sort.
Last year, singing to the Queen and performing live on BBC1 at Christmas were the highlights of an always-busy schedule. This year, the main challenge is going to be fund-raising, as they seek to attract an eye-watering £50,000. This will enable a musical and cultural exchange to take place between the children, young people and adults of the two cathedral choirs, as well as supporting the work of the Church in Matlosane, a vast area in the north of the republic, formerly part of the diocese of Johannesburg.
The Diocese of Matlosane
The Diocese of Matlosane is only 20 years old, and covers over half the North West Province of South Africa, an area of almost 25,000 square miles. It is centred administratively on Klerksdorp, birth-place of Desmond Tutu. Mainly a rural area, gold mining and agriculture are the bases of the economy. However, both are in decline, and poverty and unemployment are growing, as are the townships in which the poorest live, often on the outskirts of major cities. In some townships, unemployment is running at 80% or higher.
Click here to see a map of the Matlosane diocese.
The Lichfield Link
An informal link with Lichfield (begun in the time of Bishop Keith Sutton) was formalised in a covenant signed by Bishop Jonathan Gledhill and Bishop Stephen Molopi Diseko in 2008. Since 2010, Lichfield Cathedral has identified its link with Matlosane as being currently the most critical of its partnerships, owing to the scale of urgent work to be done among the poorest in that place. The Cathedral Youth Group and its leaders visited Matlosane in the autumn of 2011 and did some important work in township schools. A 2012 visit by a group of educators from Lichfield Diocese organised a conference for the Sunday School teachers of Matlosane, delivering a programme to assist them in the religious education of the children and young people of their diocese. Thus the link is now well-established and ready for further input.
The work of the Diocese of Matlosane
The vision of the Bishop of Matlosane for his diocese covers five main areas. These include work with orphans and vulnerable children; provision of high-quality education throughout the diocese; caring for people living with AIDS; and the eradication of poverty. In the longer term, the diocese wishes to develop its educational work through the building of a Desmond Tutu Heritage Centre in his birthplace, Klerksdorp. Land has already been given for this by the local Authority and the drawing-up of plans is underway.
The purpose of the Exchange
As citizens of the Church and of the world, it is important for people in different parts of the globe to meet together, to share in hospitality, to engage with one another directly on the social level, and so to learn about each other, from each other and with each other. If the world has any hope of overcoming divisions and inequalities, then personal links forged through exchange programmes must surely help. When they work well, the benefits are enormous.
It is especially fitting that, when the many years of apartheid have given way to government by black South Africans, we do not imagine that all the hardships of that land have evaporated. By spending time in each other’s company and countries we express our on-going support for those whose hardships in life are more numerous and heavy than our own, and we seek to support in any appropriate way open to us. As their link-diocese and cathedral, we feel a special attachment to the people of Matlosane, and a special responsibility. We hope that the whole of Lichfield diocese and cathedral community will be able to share in our venture by supporting our efforts. It is, in some sense, an exchange for us all, as many people in each diocese will meet the visitors when they arrive.
An important part of this fund-raising campaign is of course to raise sufficient money to cover our own transport and accommodation, but also to take a generous cash donation to them especially for their work on the Tutu Centre.
In addition, we would add that any visit of a cathedral choir to another place provides an important ambassadorial function, by which the ethos and particularity of a cathedral may be shared with other parts of the Church. They also allow different cathedral communities to get to know one another and forge links of friendship and mutual support. They further enable members of a choral foundation to deepen their own bonds and thus strengthen the life of their own cathedral.
The Tour itself
We will fly to Johannesburg immediately after the Easter Day services in Lichfield, on 31 March 2013. After giving a concert in Pretoria Cathedral, we will make our way to Matlosane. In Matlosane we will have two sessions of musical outreach and educational work in township schools; give two concerts, one in the cathedral and one in a rural area. The highlight will be experiencing the Sunday Eucharist. The tradition in Matlosane, while based on traditional catholic Anglicanism, incorporates elements of a more evangelical and charismatic flavour, and learning to pray like Africans will be one of the challenges for more reserved English people.
On our way home we will give a concert in Cape Town Cathedral (in aid of their roof appeal!) and allow the boys to experience a trip to the top of Table Mountain and to Robben Island to see the cell of President Mandela.
What can I do to support?
If you would like to support the Cathedral Choir Exchange Tour to Matlosane, please follow the progress of our preparations through the cathedral website. We understand, of course, that in the middle of a recession (and an appeal for the renewal of the Cathedral’s east end) no-one will have unlimited funds to support good causes as generously as they would like to. However, for a modest £10 you may purchase the new Choir CD, available from the Cathedral Bookshop on 01543 306150 or at 9 The Close). It is entitled Anno Domini (Year of the Lord) and includes music for all seasons of the Church year. In addition, there will be a host of activities to attend or sponsor, notably the celebrity-enhanced Christmas by Candlelight concert in the cathedral on 21 December at 7.30pm.
Ben and Cathy Lamb
Tanya Playle-de Vries
Cathedral website: www.lichfield-cathedral.org
Cathedral School website: www.lichfieldcathedralschool.com