On this date, 6th May, one year ago I was sitting in the final gathering of our Sydney Anglican Election Synod as our Archbishop-elect, Kanishka Raffel, shared these words of the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 3:5-9:
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.“
These were his first words after his election had been confirmed. Kanishka and his wife, Cailey, came on to the stage (with much acclamation), their friend, Stuart Pearson prayed, and then Kanishka spoke. After reading these words of 1 Corinthians 3, he expressed thanks to a range of people including the three Bishops who had been also nominated for election: Michael Stead, Peter Hayward and Chris Edwards. After this, Kanishka referred to his time 35 years ago when he first came to the foot of the cross. It was a delightful ‘on the spot-celebration speech’ and I noted at the time that he had a string of allusions to Scriptural verses like John 1:12-13 (born of God – no greater dignity exists) and 1 Peter 2:12 ‘glorifying God on the day of visitation’. He went on to say: ‘Led by the Spirit of the Lord you have bestowed on me a great responsibility’. Kanishka then quoted a key verse which was given to him when he first became Rector of Shenton Park, Perth. It was 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The Archbishop-elect gave us a pledge – to be at the cross: weak, dependent and forgiven and serve from there. It was a moving occasion which closed with the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’. But we couldn’t sing due to pandemic restrictions being reintroduced (that last day of the Synod was the first time we had to wear masks!), and so Bishop Peter Lim read verses 2 and 3 and the hymn’s chorus in a very moving way. We closed with the grace.
At the end of the month of May 2021, Kanishka had his consecration and inauguration service at St Andrew’s Cathedral. It was all quite remarkable that there was this ‘opening’ during the pandemic period for us here in Sydney – getting 700 people together was almost impossible in 2020-21. By the Lord’s grace the Synod was able to meet and that Cathedral service to be held in the month of May. Within a few weeks the city found itself back in an extended period of lockdown…but this time we had our new Archbishop, Kanishka Raffel. Thanks and praise be to God for his mercy, kindness and grace.
Not a lot more occurred that final Synod evening…though we did have a stirring bible message from Simon Manchester who had been speaking from the book of Ezekiel. This night it was the swiftest of overviews of Ezekiel 33-37, but typically stirring Manchester!
He began with ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’. Mentioned Laurence of Arabia in a frivolous illustration about taps, and then referred to Ezekiel 33 – the lonely prophet and his job to be a watchman. A pressured job. Simon spoke of how the prophet was more respected after Jerusalem fell, and referred to Ezekiel 33:32 – they listen to his tunes but not his words:
“And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.”
Simon then spoke about ‘The Loving God’ giving a sweeping, fast overview of Ezekiel 34 and 36 before he moved on to Ezekiel 37. He referred to the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘Lest we forget’ – noting that it was about not forgetting God (rather than men, as we use it now). He closed with the image of the dead bones coming to life referring back to a time in 1979 at Wollongong Cathedral when he heard the Curate ask: ‘Can these bones live? And then crying out loudly: ‘Of course they can! Amen!’