Pilgrimage of Grace reflection: Peter Tarantal
“Reconciliation goes much deeper than just saying sorry. It’s about forging and strengthening relationships and rebuilding trust. This takes patience and perseverance,” says Peter Tarantal, associated international director of Operation Mobilisation 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.
“For me, personally, it was a dream come true to be part of the Pilgrimage of Grace.” A few years ago, Peter was still leading WENSA (World Evangelisation Network of South Africa), when Prof Willem Saayman, a professor of Practical Theology at UNISA, spoke at one of their conferences about the fault-lines of the South African mission and church. “According to him, the church was trying to catch up to make up for past wrongs, but the fault-lines of racism and division within the church was hampering progress. Unless we address the fault-lines, our foundations for building the church and mission would be shaky.”
The Pilgrimage aimed to address some of these fault-lines, which include the division between the Dutch Reformed Church and the Moravian Church and the ill-treatment of George Schmidt when he ministered to the Genadendal community. “During the Pilgrimage the top leadership of the Dutch Reformed Church repented for their predecessors working Schmidt out of the country and is still actively working towards reconciliation with the Moravian Church.”
For Peter, the overall theme and objective of the Pilgrimage was moving the reconciliation agenda and mission of the church of Christ forward. “It becomes easier to work together as a church and ministry once you’ve dealt with underlying issues.”
Peter recalls a number of what he calls ‘God moments’ during the three-day Pilgrimage:
“One of these moments was at the Groote Kerk when Anneke Rabe prayed a heartfelt prayer of repentance and Khumo Ntlha gave an earnest response of forgiveness.
It was also really striking at Genadendal when Rev Nelis Janse van Rensburg of the Dutch Reformed Church didn’t just repent for what his forefathers did, but even some of the prevailing attitudes today still such as white supremacy and people feeling a sense of superiority towards other groups.
On the third day of the Pilgrimage as the group stood at the Map of Africa at Cape Agulhas to pray for the continent, there was a real sense that we as South Africans are in unity with the rest of the African continent. At the same time, it was encouraging to see leaders from Europe acknowledge what their forefathers did to the continent of Africa. Of significance was a senior South African leader repenting of Africans selling other Africans into slavery those many years ago.
Finally, I was honoured to be part of a group of 10 who visited the President’s residence (called Genadendal) to pray for the heads of state.”
An ongoing process
“The Pilgrimage was not just a once-off solution to the country and church’s fault-lines. It was just one of many building blocks that God has used over the years to bring about unity, which also includes various prayer movements across the country over the past two decades. The proof of the pudding will be what happens next and beyond. It’s an ongoing process of listening, celebrating, engaging, strengthening relationships and building trust.”
One example of this took place in November when Rev Martin Abrahams, the president of the Moravian Church, delivered a message at a church service in the Welgemoed Dutch Reformed Church, and the Moravian Church’s brass band led worship.
While those who attended the Pilgrimage from various ministries, denominations and organisations are continuing to grow closer, they are also actively working on involving and engaging with other church groups, ministries and communities.
“We would also like to see the Pilgrimage set the wheels in motion for lasting change in the Genadendal community. It’s a shell of its former glory as the location of the first teachers’ training college, and we would like to take hands in helping them rebuild. If we can achieve this, it would be a great example for other communities as we work towards rebuilding South Africa as a whole.”
Commitment is the key
“Reconciliation is Kingdom business. If we want to be true to the Biblical mandate that we’ve been given as followers of Christ, then we dare not give up on each other. Reconciliation is hard work, but it’s only possible if we are willing to lay aside our own agendas and are committed to God’s agenda and to each other,” Peter says.
He urges South Africans to take the time to get to know one another, build relationships and journey together. “Reconciliation goes much deeper than just saying sorry. It’s about forging and strengthening relationships and building trust in the process. This takes patience and perseverance.”
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.