McCann Mission Today
Newsletter # 27
Feb 2010



The Reverend Dr. Robert (Bob) Hughes greets the congregation




Our preacher from the Sewanee School of Theology, Professor Robert Hughes, challenged us on Ash Wednesday by opening his sermon with the above three questions.  We thought the sermon was superb and with his permission are sharing parts of it with you.  Bob took his sermon from the appointed texts of Isaiah 58 (a portion printed below) and Luke 18 (the comparative prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector.)

"Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice? Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?" Isaiah 58:3-7

After explaining what we are not doing, the sermon continued ….

So, what are we doing on Ash Wednesday.

a.     First we are remembering that we are mortal:  as the ashes are placed on our foreheads, the priest will say: “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We are not angels, and we will never be angels.  We are creatures of earth, of mud, of dust, whom God has shaped into God’s own image and likeness and breathed into us God’s own breath, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.  When we die, we pray not that we shall become angels, but that we shall be resurrected human beings, joining with the angel choirs in worshipping God in Heaven, sharing in his own holiness and righteousness which he gives us in his Son, Jesus Christ.

b.     But we are repenting.  God’s law is still there, not so we can make ourselves righteous, but so we can be reminded about how people who have been saved should behave.  As we heard on Sunday, if we say we love God and long for God’s righteousness and holiness, but hate our neighbor, or simply fail to love our neighbor, we are shown up to be liars, to be false Christians, because the God we say we love, loves them and wants us to love them, too.  So, for example, we listen to the great words of Isaiah and ask ourselves:  as individuals or as a church, do we really work for our own benefit, or do we give our best to make a just society where the poor and powerless are treated well and become full members of our community? We do not do even this to be righteous, but check our lives to see if we are living as those who have been given righteousness by God through Jesus. 

c.     Thus, we are beginning Lent, where we fast and pray, not so much to worry about our own goodness and place in heaven, but to ask over and over again if all of us together are really working to help God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and what we can do better to love our neighbors as God loves them and us.

Finally, however, what we are doing is beginning to celebrate EasterWe are not just getting ready to celebrate it, but we are actually beginning to remember EasterWe do not repent because we hope God will forgive us.  We repent because we know God has forgiven us and we hope we can act like it more and more.  ….

So, we have forty days to ask if we are ready for Easter, if we live our lives in the light of Easter, if we behave like people who know that Christ died and was raised for them, who know they are forgiven and filled with that Spirit of life by which the Father raised Jesus from the dead.….

Thank you Bob for the insight that Lent is the time we begin to remember Easter, the Easter we tend to forget as we journey through Pentecost and Advent and particularly in the abundance of Christmas and Epiphany. Thank you for reminding us that Lent is not simply for individual piety but for the church to ask if we are doing as well as we can in loosing the bonds of injustice and in sharing what we have.

On a more personal note….

A lot has happened since our last newsletter—sadly too much to describe in any detail as we were warmly received into so many homes, parishes, and even another Bible school—Beulah Heights University in the Grant Park area of Atlanta where Sarah Matthews of St. Luke’s is the Director of Development.  Sandra spent about three months visiting such varied places as Church of the Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side in New York City to vibrant St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary in the picturesque North Georgia town of Dahlonega.  She regrets that she is not able to write about each parish visit.  Martin visited for Thanksgiving and both of us spent Christmas and New Year’s in China. 

Text Box: Martin had only one Sunday at St. Thomas but was fortunate enough to see as many old friends as possible.  The following Monday was a very special day.  As a part of St. Thomas’s Advent program, Father Charlie Roper came and presented his recently published book of stories and poems, The World, the Flesh and God.  His purpose in this presentation and book signing was to promote the Footsteps in Faith Endowment Fund for Msalato Theological College, which had formally been kicked off at Atlanta’s Annual Diocesan Council in early November.  Sandra’s dream is to raise three million dollars as an endowment fund for the college, specifically to support faculty salaries and student sponsorships.  Father Roper has dedicated the entire proceeds from the sale of his book  for the endowment fund.  At this luncheon meeting a sum of around three thousand dollars was raised.  Like all the things Father Charlie does, the idea, the presentation, and the results were first rate. 

Text Box: Now we are both back in Tanzania where Martin continues to teach clinical officers at Mvumi Hospital and to run a histopathology lab at Mackay House.  Msalato Theological College is back in session.  This semester the college is blessed with five new teachers. Rev Ranjit Mathews, priest from the Diocese of Massachusetts, will teach theology and pastoral care while wife Johanna Kuruvilla, an architect, will teach English and help in planning.  Professor Robert Hughes is in partial retirement after teaching Systematic Theology at Sewanee for the past 33 years.  He will spend this semester teaching theology while his artist wife Barbara will teach English and Spirituality through Art. The Rev. Lynne Clarke (not pictured) from Australia will be teaching theology and English.  This should provide much needed teaching staff as well as a lively and diversified impetus to the curriculum.


When Martin left in November the rains had started and the Tanzanians began to plant.  Unfortunately the rains stopped and most of that crop was lost.  Then in December and early January the rains came in torrents and washed the second planting away.  Rains were especially heavy between Dodoma and Morogoro, washing away the railroad bridge, so now no rail service west of Morogoro on to Mawanza.   A lot of houses in that area were destroyed as well.  At Msalato, Pendo, the lady who works for us, had the back wall of her home collapse in one of those torrents.

Text Box: Right now people here and about are into a third and fourth planting.  In some areas, following the torrential rains, the army worms came and ate the plantings.  This is why people pray for rain and at the right time and in the right amounts.  People everywhere in our area are worried about hunger.  With fingers crossed it seems the some of the present crops might make it if the rains continue.  Right now we are getting a nice soaking rain about once a week.  Last year was only a partially good crop so this year all are hoping for a better one.  Continue to keep rain on your prayer list for Tanzania.

A Holy Lent,

Sandra and Martin McCann