Nov 17, 2015

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AGM Report – Looking back with gratitude

AGM Report – Looking back with gratitude

10 November 2015

Introduction:

Looking at all your faces this evening, I could not help feeling that the Centre has in different ways moved ahead of me. There are people that attend some of our courses that I did not know about, and there are people also leading some of our activities and projects that I have not even met. This could be a bad sign, reminding me perhaps that the time for retirement has come. But it is also a good sign, showing that there is a new group of people ready and prepared to take our work forward. In this regard we are deeply grateful that during the past year some young people came forward to serve on the board and contribute to the developing work of the Centre.

Looking back

Looking back on a full and eventful year we feel deeply thankful for the numerous opportunities that had again been offered to us to help expose people, through silence and solitude, courses and events, spiritual direction and retreats, to God’s unshakable and transformative love.

Here I think of the different quiet days and services offered in Cape Town – where Laurie Gaum, Esther Mostert, Lynn Stevens and Erica Murray has helped over the years – as well as in Stellenbosch where similar initiaves already in place for several years . Especially the support group in Stellenbosch has grown into a significant core community of between 80-100 people – some of who gather weekly and had learnt to appreciate and embrace silence as a key to a lifestyle of more compassion and mindfulness.

I think about the different courses which had again been offered this year, the most important perhaps being the Imbadu men’s course in Pollsmoor prison, spearheaded by Lesley, Arthur and Vernon with the appreciated help and support of John Freeth.

The Journey Inward (our introductory course on spirituality) as well as our newest course, ‘From Disillusionment to Grateful Amazement’ (on the anxieties and challenges of transitionary periods in life) was this year presented in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Between 12-20 people attended these courses.

We were also fortunate to have Sally Argent to present the very popular “Vein of Gold” this year. Some of our team members, specifically Laurie and Lesley, together with Emma Oliver, are also still involved in an international founded Gender Workshop which had proved itself an important tool in bridging the divide between different gender groups. Laurie has just returned from the USA, having been invited by the founders of this important workshop for a trip of 6 weeks during which he also attended the “Parliament of World Religions”.

Thanks to our team and in particular to our chairperson Edwin Arrison and board member, Vernon Weitz, numerous new networks for cooperation, fundraising and other initiatives, especially in the area of social and political involvement, had been established. We think in this regard of the Kairos SA initiative – of which Edwin is currently the general secretary – and which focuses on the Palestine problem and other related issues in SA; our growing partnership with the Konrad Audenauer Foundation which over the past four year has sponsored different fundraising events at Tokara and Landtscap in Stellenbosch; UWC  and specifically the Department of Theology and Religion, as well as The Desmond Tutu Centre; The Beyers Naude Centre at Stellenbosch, the AHA movement, the Resitution Foundation; Contemplative Outreach; Volmoed in Hermanus and finally: contact with different ministries in France, America and Denmark.

In this regard the Centre during the past three years had been priviledged to facilitate different visits of a group of selected young people to Taize. Some of them are currently serving on our Board, a hopeful sign for the future. Although the Shalem course on spiritual deepening has not been presented this year our relationship with them remains close and cordial.

Our relationship with the Dansih Council of Churches and friends there has also been extremely meaningful and beneficial. The connection has led first to involving Lene Nicholaissen, a Danish pastor, to lead our team and board retreat at the beginning of the year. It has also led to a recent pilgrimage of 19 Danes to SA. The group followed the footsteps of Mandela for two weeks in October, taking them from Johannesburg, over Durban, through the Eastern Cape, East-Londen and PE all the way to Cape Town. Thanks to the generous initiative of the tour leader, pastor Steen Andreassen, the tour manage to raise close to R100, 000 for the Centre.

In the meantime, thanks to the initiative of Herman and Catherine Holtzhausen (old friends of the Centre who recently moved to Johannesburg) we are currently looking at the possibility of establishing a branch or cluster of the Centre in Johannesburg.

Finally, I want to express my thanks and deep appreciation to the Board and Team, especially to Edwin, Vernon, Laurie, Suzanne (our office administrator), Liz O’Donohue (our librarian who sadly lost her husband this year), our team in Pollsmoor Lesley and Arthur, for their untiring work, support and help to make my work the pleasure it has again been the past year.

I want to especially thank them for releasing me from a lot of administrative work in order to pursue my own vocation more freely – that is writing daily meditations on behalf of the Centre for Bybelmedia (the number of people receiving this has risen from 4,500 to over 9,000 in the past 3 years), networking locally and abroad, developing and presenting courses, quiet days and retreats on a regular basis and finally holding the quiet service in Stellenbosch weekly. Especially the latter has been a constant source of inspiration and community.

As we look forward to the thirtieth anniversary of the Centre in 2016, we gladly testify to the fact that the Centre remains a life giving oasis for many in a time when so many things threaten to erode our hope and joy.

For the privilege of serving the Centre I can only thank and praise the God of Christ.

Carel Anthonissen

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