Message from the Chaplain: 1 March 2024

220px Arthur Karney 3

On Thursday 29 February, we had our first house day for Karney House, named after the first bishop of Johannesburg, The Right Reverend Arthur Baillie Lumsdaine Karney.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote, in the foreword to a study on the Anglican Church in Johannesburg and its search for integrity:

"Our predecessors were very much men of their time, moulded by the ethos and the context from which they came. We are being quite a historical, anachronistic and totally unrealistic to have wanted them to hold views that were at variance with those with which they were nurtured . . . we should take our hats off to discover how frequently they were ahead of their times in many of their attitudes and utterances" (Tutu 2005).

Let me now turn to Karney. In his time as a Bishop of Johannesburg, he instituted services in various languages at St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg. At the consecration of the Cathedral in 1929, the service was sung in Setswana, some of the lessons were read in isiXhosa, part of the sermon was preached in isiZulu and the hymns were sung in different African languages. For Karney, it was important that people worship together irrespective of being considered different because of culture, race and class. When faced with injustice, he confronted it consistently, writing to the government at the time of the discriminatory application of the law.

As we celebrate house days, we would do well to recognise what Archbishop Emeritus Tutu said about how much people are formed by their backgrounds and upbringing. Bishop Karney is not without fault as a man. It is for us who remember and honour him as the namesake of one of the houses to use his experience and example as a foil for reflection in our own search for faithfulness in our Christian calling.

Primary source: The Parishioner: Diamond Jubilee of St Mary’s Church, Johannesburg 1887 -1947


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