Pilgrimage of Grace reflection: Rev Edwin Arrison
“Reconciliation is in the DNA of the church, and the sooner we acknowledge and own that, the better. We need to set the example as peacemakers,” says Rev Edwin Arrison of the Anglican Church of South Africa, as he reflects on his participation in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace, a three-day journey towards repentance, reconciliation, restoration and prayer in the Genadendal community, the Moravian Church and South Africa as a whole.
“The Pilgrimage was a healing experience with moments of great joy and also lots of tears,” Edwin says. A confession and repentance by Anneke Rabe (one of the organisers) on day one of the Pilgrimage at the Moravian Church laid a strong foundation for what would ensue over the next two days.
“What was even more striking to me was the fact that it was a housewife from Mpumalanga (Anneke) who set the wheels in motion for the Pilgrimage, following more than two decades of collective prayers for unity.”
Edwin really hopes that the prayers, unity and relationship that flowed from the Pilgrimage of Grace will bring about lasting change for the individuals and communities involved. “If it was only a once-off feel-good experience, we would have failed. But if it has set us on a path to continually practice reconciliation and restitution, we are aligned with God’s plan.”
The fact that the Pilgrimage was very specific with regard to repentance, forgiveness and relationship between the Genadendal community, Moravian Church and the Dutch Reformed Church, while at the same time expanding this to the whole African continent, set those involved up for a miracle to happen.
Set the example
Edwin calls on fellow Christ-followers in South Africa to take up their role as peacemakers. “Reconciliation is in the DNA of the church, and the sooner we acknowledge and own that, the better. We do not have a message for the world or the society if we cannot practice reconciliation in the church first. This opens the door for multiple moments of reconciliation which can be a witness for Christians across the globe to draw energy from us. This can be Africa’s contribution to the world-wide Christian family. We are a diverse group and we will keep each other honest, so there is great hope in what we have started.”
BACKGROUND TO THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE
From 23 to 25 September 2022 a group of diverse individuals from South Africa and abroad participated in the Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace – a three-day journey towards repentance for past injustices in the Genadendal community, against the Moravian Church and in South Africa as a whole, along with reconciliation, restoration and prayer. The Pilgrimage formed part of prayer initiatives and actions from various groups across South Africa over the past few decades that centred on Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 20b – 22 (NIV): “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”
The Genadendal Pilgrimage of Grace was organised by the South African Christian Leadership Initiative (SACLI Reconcile) and supported by Global Voice of Prayer, in Harmonie, the Moravian Church of South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and various other ministries, denominations and individuals. The three-day Pilgrimage included:
23 September: A service at the Dutch Reformed Church Groote Kerk in Cape Town
24 September: A public event at the Moravian Church in Genadendal with a focus on repentance
25 September: A prayer gathering at the Southernmost Tip of Africa (l’Agulhas) for healing of the African continent. This also kicked off a 54 days of Prayer for Africa movement.