Bishop's New Year's message

THE Bishop of Worcester's New Year message calls on Nelson Mandela admirers to take inspiration in 2014 from the legendary former South African leader's "loving and forgiving spirit".

Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, praised extensive media coverage given to the passing of South Africa's first black president on December 5 and said: "It was generally agreed that this most remarkable man was a giant who towered above all other leaders in the 20th century."

The Bishop said one of the most moving accounts he had read was by one of the chaplains who ministered to Mandela while he was in prison.

He said: "On one occasion Mandela gently stopped him during a service and went over to the young warder who was supervising.'Brand,' he asked, 'are you a Christian?' 'Yes,' the warder, Christo Brand, responded. 'Well then, you must take off your cap, and join us round this table. You cannot sit apart. This is Holy Communion, and we must share and receive it together.'

Bishop John said the chaplain watched Brand remove his cap, join the circle and receive Holy Communion, adding that he had been 'deeply humbled' by the experience as he, as a priest, 'had not thought of doing that'.

The Bishop continued: "To appreciate the significance of this incredible act of inclusive love, one needs to be aware not only of its spiritual, but also of its political significance. The fact that Christo Brand was white, and that he had responded to an invitation from a black, and so naturally, was deeply moving. Brand had political power, but submitted to the power of the Holy Spirit working through Nelson, the prisoner.

"That’s one small but highly significant action in the life of this wonderful man. Nelson Mandela, through his loving and forgiving spirit which saw in everyone the image of God, brought hope not only to those of the multi-faceted nation of South Africa, but also to millions throughout the world.

"I am one of the many millions who never knew Mandela but have been inspired by him. Someone said to me a week back: ‘I wish all those who admire Nelson Mandela so much would seek to emulate him.'

"Wouldn’t that be a good New Year’s resolution for us all?"

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