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Parable of the Rescuer at Sea

On a sunny, summer day, the disciples and their master sat talking on a grassy knoll in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye.  One disciple told the others about some trustees of a diocese who would not release finances for ministry.  A young man had been encouraged to explore ministry in the diocese and had arrived to begin his training and work, but the wealthy diocese would not put up any funds for his accommodations, let alone a stipend or even funds for education.  'The trustees appear to have understood their role to be to guard the diocese’s investments, not to deplete its funds through expenses incurred for actual ministry,' concluded the disciple.

‘I will tell you a story that I heard as a schoolboy,’ said the master to his disciples.  ‘There was a dairy farmer by the name of Wolraad Woltemade living in the Dutch Cape Colony of South Africa.  In the early hours of the 1st of June, 1773, one of the Cape’s violent storms put the Jonge Thomas, anchored off Table Bay, at great risk.  The captain fired his cannon to alert those on shore of his ship’s distress.  Woltemade heard the cannon, saddled his sturdy horse, and hurriedly headed to the bay.  Meanwhile, the ship broke from its anchor and wrecked on the rocks, breaking in two.  Soldiers stood along the shore, helplessly witnessing the catastrophe.  They feared for their lives were they to attempt a rescue.  Woltemade, however, pressed by them and coaxed his faithful steed into the turbulent waters.  His horse swam out to the wreck, and Woltemade called for two seamen to jump into the water and grab the horse’s tail.  Two hesitant sailors abandoned the sinking hull, dove into the sea, grabbed Vonk by the tail, and were pulled through the waters to the safety of the shore.  Woltemade and Vonk repeated this rescue again and again, until fourteen survivors were rescued by them.  Woltemade and his horse entered the stormy waters an eighth time.  When they reached the Jonge Thomas, the remaining shipmen feared that Woltemade would not be able to return again.  The battered hull of the Jonge Thomas was breaking apart.  Too many of those still stranded at sea, however, jumped ship for the only rescue offered by the colony.  Holding on to Woltemade and Vonk, everyone disappeared beneath the waters.’


The disciples sat in silence, with thoughts of a far off colony at the tip of Africa, the Jonge Thomas wrecked on the rocks, and dying men holding on to Woltemade and his horse in the raging sea.  ‘It is just so in the Anglican Communion,’ said the master.  ‘The Episcopal Church in the USA, closing a church every week, has spent millions in litigation to wrestle church properties from faithful members, crippling the Church’s mission and opting for a false gospel.  In the UK, the Church sits with wealthy properties but dwindling memberships, like soldiers standing on the shore while people are dying in the storm.  The institutional Church has turned itself into a trust and has forgotten its mission.  Ministerial training has faltered, and those willing to serve are under-resourced.  Imagine if the Church were once again to become a mission.  Imagine if it rediscovered the salvation it is supposed to offer.  Imagine if it released its resources to save the lost.  Imagine if it cared enough to risk itself in ministry. Imagine if it left the comfort of its parishes and dioceses and entered the stormy waters to seek and to save the lost and dying. Indeed, imagine the outcome if the Cape colony had developed a Coast Guard and equipped it with all it needed to rescue people from the storms and tend to their injuries.  Imagine the Church about its mission.'