Dear friends,

Every other year the ELCA churchwide office invites an artist from a global companion church to design a Christmas card.  This year several art students at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art & Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa submitted ideas. A silk screen print of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus riding on a donkey by Mr. T.  Mpanza was the one selected.

The ELC Art & Craft Centre was established in 1962 by the Church of Sweden Mission.  In the 1970’s the American Lutheran Church (ALC) provided several art teachers.  The centre now operates under the umbrella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) – South Eastern Diocese, which is a companion to the ELCA’s Southwestern Minnesota Synod.

At a time when the oppressive Apartheid system denied learning opportunities to black South Africans Rorke’s Drift was one of the few institutions that provided space for creative expression and study in fine art, textile tapestry weaving, pottery and silk screen print-making. Rorke’s Drift had a significant impact on the development of South African arts and crafts in the 1960s and 1970s and boasts several world famous artists as alumni.

The ELC Art and Craft Centre continues on a smaller scale to produce tapestries, silk screen prints and pottery and is offering a one-year accredited certificate course in art for about 15 students. 

2020 has been a difficult and challenging year.  The President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), Dr Panti Filibus Musa put it well: “My hope and prayer is that state actors and governments will not retreat into themselves in this time of crisis. My call, if I can borrow the theme of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are also using, is that no one is left behind, as we begin to hope and see a post COVID-19 period.”

ELCA Global Mission continued to accompany companion churches and provide support for mission personnel, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and disaster response programs.  Leaders and members of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  December 17, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Worship, Liturgy & Music Workshop, Zambia

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.

How do we worship, conduct the liturgy and use music as Lutheran churches in Southern Africa coming from diverse traditions, cultures and languages?  What are some of the challenges churches face? What is our tradition and what are our gifts? How do we worship in the time of a pandemic and how can we learn from and teach each other, deepen our fellowship and strengthen the proclamation of the Good News? 

LUCSA member churches are currently engaged in a three-year project focusing on worship, liturgy and music.   (The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation with 15 member churches in ten different countries.) 

A number of planned gatherings had to be postponed because of COVID-19 travel restrictions but recently workshops with in-person and virtual on-line presentations and participation took place in Botswana and Zambia.

One of the organizers of the workshop in Zambia wrote the following:

“…This was an historical workshop because it was the first of its kind … for worship and music leaders. We pray that it will not be the last one, as all participants requested that we should have similar workshops at least once a year.

We give thanks to [all the presenters] who took time to facilitate at the workshop. For our international facilitators, we were connected via Zoom with few difficulties and the audience was able to hear them loud and clear.  This clearly indicated that we can host more e-workshops in future.  Thank you so much and we wish you God’s endless blessings.”

An important joint study on worship and liturgy published in 1996 by the Lutheran World Federation observed that Lutheran worship is cultural, counter-cultural, inter-cultural and trans-cultural.   Through LUCSA workshops musicians and worship and choir leaders are sharing knowledge and being encouraged to develop and write new music, songs and liturgies that are Gospel-centered, contextual, inclusive and relevant, remembering that prayer and praise without justice and mission is incomplete. 

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  November 20, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

Giving Code: MSG0245

Dear friends,

We had planned to gather in May 2020 in Johannesburg for an ELCA Southern Africa Companion Church Consultation but the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to postpone the gathering. 

Companion synods relating to Lutheran churches in Namibia then asked: “What can we do to keep in touch, to support each other and to strengthen our companionship as we respond to COVID-19, racism, poverty, inequality and climate disaster?”   

The publication by the ELCA of a study guide on Martin Luther’s 1520 treatise Freedom of a Christian provided an opening. (The Treatise and Study Guide are available for free download at https://www.elca500.org/

500 years ago Martin Luther wrote: “The Christian [person] is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian [person] is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all. … Christian[s] … do not live in themselves but in Christ and their neighbor, or else they are not Christian. They live in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love.” 

While one can ask what Luther meant when he wrote this, the key question is, “What does this freedom mean for us today?”   What are we freed from and what are we freed for?

We decided to use the internet to bring us together. Eight presenters, representing the three Lutheran churches in Namibia, four ELCA synods, Wartburg Seminary and ULTS Seminary Paulinum, were asked to reflect on four topics relating to Christian freedom.

Participants were invited to read and listen, and then in breakaway groups, to reflect and to share their unique stories, experiences and insights from Namibia and the USA.

Time and the number of participants were limited but we are finding new ways to be together. Presenter Prof. Paul Isaak said: “It was really good that sisters and brothers could come together, sit and talk together to paraphrase Psalm 133.”

We hope to develop similar learning and sharing platforms in future as we walk together as companions in God’s mission.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  October 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/ Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

20200927_092852

Dear friends,

“… During this time of COVID-19, other pandemics have surfaced such as Gender Based Violence, corruption and poverty…  But we have a good story to tell… Forget the negative… Glorify the name of Jesus Christ… rejoice that all of our names are included in the Book of Life… and proclaim peace, unity, reconciliation and reconstruction…a new beginning…” These were some of the words from the sermon, based on Luke 10:17-20, preached by Nkosinathi Myaka, the newly consecrated bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – South Eastern Diocese. 

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions I was not able to be there in person but participated along with 100 others via a ZOOM link.  The service was held in the hall at the diocesan center at Umphumulo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on September 27, 2020. 

A limited number of people who did attend were required to wear face masks and observe social distance protocols.  The liturgy and hymns were pre-recorded and broadcast over loudspeakers as singing by the congregation was not allowed. 

The Premier of the province, local government officials, active and retired bishops from ELCSA as well as bishops from several other denominations including Cardinal Napier of the Roman Catholic Church were also in attendance.

The South Eastern Diocese is one of seven dioceses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.  Messages of congratulations and support were sent by the ELCA Global Mission unit and the Southwestern Minnesota Synod (ELCA) which is a companion synod to the diocese.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  September 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

IAC 2020 Zimbabwe attendeesDear friends,

Warm greetings from Johannesburg.

South Africa has recorded over 400,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of July 24) which puts the country fifth in the world in this regard. Schools opened in June for Grades 7 and 12 but have been closed again with a staggered opening planned for later in August.

The 23rd International AIDS Conference was scheduled to be held in San Franciso from July 6-10, 2020.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the organizers decided to hold a virtual conference instead.  As in the past ELCA Global Mission provided scholarships for a number of representatives from companion churches around the world to assist them to attend the conference.  Three delegates from churches in Southern Africa were selected. https://www.aids2020.org/

Ms. Chifamba, who is the coordinator of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) Infohut program and based in Zimbabwe, made arrangements with the head office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe so that she could participate in the virtual conference with four Infohut facilitators observing.   (The LUCSA Infohut program teaches young people about HIV&AIDS and provides life-skills and computer training)

Ms. Chifamba describes some of the challenges she and her colleagues faced attending the virtual conference as the whole country is still in a COVID-19 lock down.  There is also a 9-hour time difference and it is winter so it was not easy staying up late at night in the office.  They also had to organize COVID-19 preparedness for the group including an infrared screening thermometer, hand sanitizers, masks, good ventilation and reasonable distancing during the conference.

The first night two of the five were too excited to take time off to sleep resulting in them attending the workshop for 16 hours continuously.

The program allowed for discussions in breakaway groups or clubs.  New ideas were noted for implementation to improve the outcomes of the Infohut program.  During the virtual conference it was common to hear US-based participants saying “Welcome to America”, as they shared the Southern Africa HIV response.  The ELCZ Infohut facilitators who attended the IAC Conference strongly feel the Infohut program deserves a presenter’s spot in the next IAC saying, “What we do deserves to be shared with the world.” Ms. Chifamba and the four facilitators expressed their sincere thanks to the ELCZ, LUCSA and the ELCA for the support that enabled them to be part of this important event.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the Southern Africa region continue to express their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg,  July 24, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

ELDS COVID-19 info posterELDS Community awareness session on COVID-19

Dear friends,

“Corona is dangerous but preventable”

That is the message on the poster developed by the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service in Malawi (ELDS) as part of their COVID-19 community outreach and mobilization program supported by ELCA World Hunger funds.

Malawi is a densely populated country of some 19 million people. Cross border movement, lack of information and resources and a fragile health system mean many are vulnerable to the virus.

The ELDS project aligns with the World Health Organization (WHO) strategic objectives and guidelines for preparedness, prevention, management and control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ELDS is working closely with district health authorities, community health committees, local leaders, religious leaders and community members raising awareness, disseminating information, training health change agents and peer educators and distributing hygiene kits with masks and sanitizers.

The project is also orienting and encouraging faith leaders to counter misinformation about the pandemic and to offer messages of hope and support to people who may test positive.

As of August 26 there were over 5400 reported cases and 170 deaths in Malawi.

In South Africa there were over 600,000 positive cases and 13,000 deaths.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the Southern Africa region continue to express their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg,  August 27, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

IMG_1497 (2)Warm greetings from Johannesburg.
We are still well and staying-in-place under the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown which started in South Africa on March 27.

South Africa has recorded over 118,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of June 25). At the beginning of June some of the restrictions were eased taking into account the need to curb the spread of the virus and open up for more economic activity. In June schools opened for 7th and 12th graders. Other grades will be coming back gradually in July. However, some schools have had to shut down again because of positive COVID-19 cases. The official unemployment figure in the country has risen to over 30%.

I have been sharing some of the recent statements from the ELCA with our companion churches in Southern Africa such as the ELCA Anti-Racism Pledge https://elca.org/racialjusticepledge which is a call to confess the sin of racism, to condemn the ideology of white supremacy, and to strive for racial justice and peace.

Presiding Bishop SVV Nambala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) responded in a letter on June 12th expressing grave concern on behalf of the ELCIN church council:

“Therefore, ELCIN condemns the notion of white supremacy and reiterates its call to all God’s people all over the world to come back to proper moral values as engrained within all people by God. ELCIN is also calling all people of God to turn to God, humble themselves to the Lord and do what is right.

Therefore, let us all learn from others’ mistakes, and stand firm in solidarity to combat all forms of racism and human discrimination. ELCIN is expressing its anguish and extends sympathy to the family of George Floyd and other families who lost their beloved members… The loss of one person is the loss of all humanity. May God forgive us, and direct us.”

(After 106 years of oppressive German colonial and South African Apartheid rule, Namibia achieved its independence on March 21, 1990, with a democratic multiparty constitution.)

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

ELCA Global Mission continues to support mission personnel, companion churches, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and disaster response projects during this difficult and uncertain time.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, June 25, 2020
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/
Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

Bishop C Faindi ELCZ & Rev. PJ Knutson ELCA

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from a chilly autumn day in Johannesburg. Today, May 25 is Africa Day.
We are well and staying-in-place under the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown which started here in South Africa on March 27.

We had planned to be back in the US this summer for the Summer Missionary Conference and to visit our sponsoring congregations. Due to the pandemic and global travel restrictions the ELCA Global Mission office has canceled all home assignment visits for 2020.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases thus far (over 22,000 as of May 25) among the ten countries in the Southern Africa region. All of the countries have imposed various kinds of lockdowns but are now looking at how to ease some of the restrictions taking into account the need to curb the spread of the virus and to open up their economies.

Our companion churches in the region are sharing updates of how they are being affected and how they are responding to the pandemic. As social and church gatherings are prohibited pastors and congregations are using social media platforms to keep in touch, to share information and present Sunday services, sermons and devotions.

On May 18 Presiding Bishop C. Faindi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe shared the following information:

“Essential services like health delivery systems, funeral services, food outlets, and public transport are operating. Social distancing and putting on of masks is observed…
Church gatherings are restricted. Church services are conducted on Zoom, Whatsapp and other media platforms. … We conduct our Diocesan councils through Zoom or whatsapp.
COVID 19 deaths have remained low since its arrival, but as winter is coming, the authorities have anticipated a heavy upswing and decided not to lift the lockdown.
The food situation continues to be unbearable. While there are promises to assure people that no one is going to die of hunger, if these are not fulfilled soon, people may starve to death.
However, we have encouraged our members to share what they have with others, and fulfil God’s command. Please continue to pray for us, as we fight the invisible enemy. Be blessed.”

ELCA Global Mission continues to support mission personnel, companion churches, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and disaster response projects as much as possible during this difficult and uncertain time.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, May 25, 2020
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/
Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

St. Thomas Lutheran Church Doornfontein JohannesburgDear friends,

Across Southern Africa it was a different Easter in many ways. Because of COVID-19 lockdowns people were unable to travel or gather over the Easter weekend for the traditional three-hour long Good Friday service, the all-night Easter Vigil service and joyous Easter Sunday services, but it was the same message shared via various social media platforms: Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come again!

While the Republic of South Africa currently has the greatest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southern Africa at 3635 the numbers are expected to increase exponentially across the region in the coming winter months especially in densely populated urban areas and informal settlements. In many communities keeping social distance is almost impossible, health care systems are weak and health is compromised by HIV&AIDS, TB, malaria and poor nutrition. Hunger is a very serious threat. Governments are looking at ways to stimulate struggling economies and to ramp up social support systems. Many churches, businesses and non-governmental organizations are struggling to survive due to loss of income as they also try to find ways to assist employees, families as well as communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

ELCA Global Mission will continue to support mission personnel, companion churches, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and emergency response projects as much as possible during this difficult and uncertain time as everyone is affected in one way or another.

Leaders of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods during this challenging time and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, April 23, 2020
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/
Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

lockdown-1Dear friends,

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of the people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of Hosts?” Zechariah 8:4-5 (NRSV).

The president of the Republic of South Africa Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lock-down for 21 days from March 27 to April 16 to curb the spread of the Corona virus.

Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa Bishop Molwane Ubane then issued a pastoral letter explaining that people may only leave their homes to seek medical assistance, buy food or collect social grants. All businesses will be closed except for pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, gas stations and medical facilities.

The bishop asked that all church services and meetings be cancelled during this period and encouraged congregations to use electronic media to share the Word of God and to keep in touch with parishioners saying: “Remember to pray for all our people at this time and to take the necessary precautions. This is an opportunity to bond with our families. Pastors should be innovative in reaching out to encourage our sisters and brothers to be hopeful all the time. Let us not despair but put trust in the Lord that this will pass. We are still under His wings for protection.”

The Republic of South Africa currently has one of the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa but other countries are also reporting cases. There is huge concern for many people living in poverty in close proximity in informal urban settlements.

ELCA Global Mission will continue to support companion churches and projects as much as possible during this difficult and uncertain time as everyone is affected in one way or another.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, March 25, 2020
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving