Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1931-2021)

A real sense of loss, and gratitude, for the life of Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s 1984 Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist for racial justice and LGBT rights. He was a tireless champion in the fight for equality and justice, an inspiration, a hero, a peacemaker has walked among us. He always led with hope, truth and courage. A man whose great wisdom and moral compass was matched only by his love devotion to helping others. He was loved, admired and thanked for his selfless servant leadership to his country and to the world. What a life of service he lived, for the dignity and equality of all people. What a legacy he’s left behind. Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord. And may light perpetual shine upon him.

Archbishop Tutu was a person of tremendous faith in God and devotion to God. He was committed to prayer and the study of the scriptures and from this came his commitment to justice for all people. A Canadian journalist who travelled with him on a difficult mission to Liberia wrote: “Inside this man whom much of the world knows as an ebullient, laughter-filled extrovert, a Nobel peace laureate who holds audiences and congregations spellbound, lives a meditative, contemplative person…”. Thank you Desmond Tutu for a life given to pointing us towards the true way.⁣ You have inspired many to follow that way.⁣ May your work continue to be a beacon of love, compassion, goodness and freedom for us all to follow.

Perhaps to begin a new year in 2022 on Sunday 2nd January, it could be good to frame a service around some of what we learnt from him (ie not just token ‘new year resolutions’ but growing as disciples of Christ as exemplified by Desmond Tutu in his life). May we continue Tutu’s quest by doing our bit of good wherever we are today and in the days to come.

The following provides some resources to gather together into worship. Could use his distinctive purple colour as part of the setting.

Models of joyful rebellion – people who are often joyfully rebellious. Not angry, fearful, stern, mean or arrogant. Their rebellious joy is contagious, and helps us to keep going, to know we can do more, and to appreciate those moments of pleasure along the way. Maybe the most rebellious thing we can do in our current world environment of fear, dissent, cynicism and anger is to show up with more wonder and joy.
Can some of these people be named, and honoured – perhaps in prayers of thanksgiving?

Quotes from Desmond Tutu (many more to choose from). Could set up stations around the church with different quotes for reflection/meditation?

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

“If you want peace, ⁣you don’t talk to your friends. ⁣You talk to your enemies.”⁣

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others”.

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth.”⁣

“True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”⁣

⁣”We learn from history that we don’t learn from history!”

“God is not a Christian. God accepts as pleasing those who live by the best lights available to them that they can discern. All truth, all sense of beauty, all awareness of goodness has one source, God, who is not confined to one place, time or people.”

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

“My humanity is bound up in yours for we can only be human together.”

“Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”

A journalist once how Tutu kept the fire burning in his belly for so many years. “Prayer,” he said immediately without missing a beat. “None of the other stuff would be possible, or sustainable, or meaningful without daily prayer.”

“There is a certain kind of dignity we admire, and to which we aspire, in the person who refuses to meet anger with anger, violence with violence, or hatred with hatred.”
(Source: Desmond Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World)

“If you want more joy in your life, focus on others.”(Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama from their book, “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World)

QUOTES/REFLECTIONS on the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

(Dr Deidre Palmer) A prophet, who called us to the radical way of Jesus – embodying justice, compassion and hope. Rest In Peace. Presente in the communion of saints!

(Kevin Drew): He was one of the great peace makers of the world, he was right up there with Martin Luther king, he fought against racism and played a large part in freeing Nelson Mandela, another man of peace – and both were visionaries of how peace can be a fact and not just a dream. RIP Desmond Tutu

(Beverley Knight): What a seismic loss to the world. His immense wisdom, his socio-political and spiritual guidance, his boundless grace…and that laugh.❤️ Rest well dear Desmond Tutu. You changed the world and made it a brighter place. A king among men.

(Bruce Gillette) Desmond Tutu came into the large room with his wonderful smile. He was a small man, but his presence filled the room. It has been almost forty years since the World Council of Churches VI Assembly in Vancouver where I served as a steward (an ecclesiastical “gopher” for the meeting). Tutu was then the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and known then for his nonviolent struggle against apartheid. He had been in prison and international advocacy by churches helped get him released so he could come to this ecumenical meeting. He said words that day that have helped my life, my faith and ministry: “I have been a prisoner of the South African government many times, but always released. As a Christian, I will always be a prisoner of hope.”
His faith and a hope, lived out, helped to change South Africa, the world and the Church, many people and me. In all the struggles for peace, justice and creation care (Tutu wrote the foreword to the Green Bible), I remember the biblical hope that Tutu celebrated and lived.
Today we hear the news of his death, but also remember the Christian hope that death does not have the final word. We will see him again with all of the saints. His work, Christ’s work calls us anew to serve now with hope.

(Iona Community) With the whole world we give thanks for the life, faith and witness, and the unfailing good humour, of Desmond Tutu. The world needs inspirational peacemakers like him. ‘Tell him we love him.’

(UNESCO) We are deeply saddened by the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As a main figure in the fight against the apartheid, Desmond Tutu lead a global campaign to end South Africa’s racist regime and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in opposition to apartheid. He became a global champion for peace and justice and a moral compass for so many around the world. Tutu worked tirelessly not only for the rights of black South Africans but also against injustice everywhere and always emphasized non-violent means of protest. On December 2012, he was awarded the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. Today we’ve lost a voice who always spoke loud and clear for those who could not be heard. He will be greatly missed. As we send our heartfelt condolences to his family and the South African people, we invite you all to learn more about Tutu’s work and life by reading these two articles published in the UNESCO Courier:
There is no peace because there is no justice‘ (August 1986)
No one will stop us…’ (June 1990)
Let us forever remember Desmond Tutu. Remember the difference one voice can make. Remember that even in the deepest darkness, human rights and fundamental freedoms will always be our guiding light. This is what Desmond Tutu thought us all and this is the message we must forever carry on.

(Netherlands D66 leader Sigrid Kaag): “He preached his entire life against injustice and for improvement. His empathy and impact are of enormous value. He was an inspiration for all of us to do good.”

(Jim Wallis): “During the deepest, darkest days of apartheid when the government tried to shut down opposition by canceling a political rally, Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared that he would hold a church service instead. St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa was filled with worshippers. Outside the cathedral hundreds of police gathered, a show of force intended to intimidate. As Tutu was preaching they entered the Cathedral, armed, and lined the walls. They took out notebooks and recorded Tutu’s words. But Tutu would not be intimidated. He preached against the evils of apartheid, declaring it could not endure. At one extraordinary point he addressed the police directly.
‘You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked. So, since you’ve already lost, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!’
With that the congregation erupted in dance and song. The police didn’t know what to do. Their attempts at intimidation had failed, overcome by the archbishop’s confidence that God and goodness would triumph over evil. It was but a matter of time.”
What faith and courage! To unflinchingly look the perpetrators of evil in the eye and have such confidence about the bigger picture is inspirational.
He was a prophet, a priest and a pastor all rolled into one. RIP. ‘Til we see him again.

A tribute to Desmond Tutu: Pastor of the Nation
(Baldwin Sjollema, World Council of Churches)
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was a unique character. His contagious sense of humour and laughter has helped to resolve many critical situations in South Africa’s political and church life. He was able to break almost any deadlock. He shared with us the laughter and grace of God many a time. He was a man of God with all the oddities that come with it.
He was humble. I remember watching his emotions when, as chairperson of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), during hours, weeks, months he listened intensely to the cries and sorrows of thousands of black victims of apartheid. At that moment he became the pastor of the nation. Nelson Mandela had appointed him to the daunting task in 1994. At the opening session Tutu spoke with untypical brevity: “For once”, he said, “the Archbishop does not have many words, thank goodness.”
Desmond has been instrumental in developing the notion of Ubuntu: a person is a person because of other people; it implies mutual responsibility and compassion. It became the guiding principle of the TRC and has been written into the South African Constitution.
Tutu stressed time and again the TRCs central role of forgiveness. No future without forgiveness. “You can only be human in a humane society. If you live with hatred in your heart, you dehumanize not only yourself, but your community”. But his vision – and that of Mandela- was not shared by all. Others would say that it was too big a demand to make on anybody, especially people who had suffered and were abused. More modestly, they argued that learning to live together and respect one another is all one could ask.
In the 1980s when the struggle against apartheid reached its peak, Desmond was fearless in predicting black rule: “We need Nelson Mandela”, he said in April 1980, “because he is almost certainly going to be that first black prime minister.” His great courage and moral authority were recognized by the international community when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
Together with many other church leaders in South Africa, Desmond was in the forefront of the struggle, providing leadership at both local and national levels. Churches became meeting places and centres of information. Desmond was not frightened to speak the truth to those that were in power: straightforward and with humour. He was irrepressible.
At the end of the 1980s President Botha imposed a nationwide state of emergency, giving the police drastically more powers. Black leadership was either in hiding or in jail. The only gatherings permitted were those in churches. At that time Tutu as the Bishop of Johannesburg preached a militant sermon in the cathedral, asking with his arms outstretched: “Why are we allowing this country to be destroyed?”
When liberation finally came and a democratically elected parliament started its work, he exclaimed “I love this dream. You sit in the balcony and look down and count all the terrorists. They are all sitting there passing laws. It is incredible!” Unabated he continued speaking out against injustice, corruption and the abuse of power. When MPs came under fire accepting big salaries, Tutu commented: “The Government stopped the gravy train long enough to get on it.” This and many other pronouncements earned him much criticism from the new government.
I shall remember Desmond Tutu foremost as a friend and colleague who reminded us time and again that instead of racism, disunity, enmity and alienation, “God has intended us for fellowship, for koinonia, for togetherness, without destroying our distinctiveness, our cultural identity”.

(The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean, Washington National Cathedral)
At pivotal moments in human history, God graces us with saints to walk among us and to point the way to justice, peace and reconciliation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was such a saint, and we give thanks to God for his faithfulness and courage. He showed us what it means to spend one’s life building the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.
Archbishop Tutu, perhaps more than most, saw the evil of apartheid in his beloved South Africa and challenged his countrymen – and indeed, the entire world – toward a better way. He understood that justice is not simply a concept to be grasped, but a challenge to be lived. Indifference to oppression, he warned, victimizes the oppressed, comforts the oppressor and grieves the very heart of God.
Yet Archbishop Tutu foresaw a second chapter in the battle for justice. He understood that the real evil of apartheid could only be truly defeated if there was honesty, openness and a willingness to speak the truth in love. The future he glimpsed for post-apartheid South Africa was a justice rooted in reconciliation, not recrimination. His leadership of an honest accounting of the sins of apartheid positioned his country for peace instead of retribution. Here in America, we would do well to follow his blueprint as we continue to wrestle with racism and the legacy of slavery.
With an exuberance for life and a twinkle in his eye that gave us a glimpse of his holiness, Archbishop Tutu embodied the joy, hope and love proclaimed by the gospel. He was also a great friend to this Cathedral, visiting and preaching several times, including as America marked the one-year anniversary after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And so today we give thanks for this remarkable life. Gloria in Excelsis Deo, we proclaim with all the company of Heaven who are singing just a bit louder today, and dancing just a bit lighter, as they welcome Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the realms of glory and into God’s eternal embrace. This prophetic servant of God now rests at peace with his Creator. May we who follow have the courage and conviction to be the people he challenged us to be.

(Anders Nyberg) Bishop Desmond Tutu, thank You for the dance, the laughter, the jokes, the tears, the bravery, the warmth, the hospitality. The list could go on and on. And your gifts to the world were not limited to your beloved country South Africa. You taught the world to dance, to see the power of reconciliation in the most difficult situations. Under your usage the term ‘reconciliation’ transformed from being an obscure religious term to become a practical and unequivocal tool for peace and prosperity in the world. Reconciliation became an everyday word in the news as South Africa’s truth and reconciliation work with you as its spiritual leader became one of the country’s most well known exports. Political hotspots all over the world tried to implement it with more or less success.
No one could dance like you, though. No one could improvise the way you did. I remember in Storkyrkan in Stockholm a few minutes before a service broadcasted live on national Swedish TV. You suggested a few more songs sung from some other places than previously been decided upon. I raised a little concern if the TV-producer had been notified, and you just said: “TV? We’re going to have a service!” Afterwards the cameramen chuckled: “It was like broadcasting a hockey-game! We had no clue where things would be happening, we just had to be there.” Needless to say, it made for great TV.

Or like in Uppsala when this photo was taken. The photo, by Jim Elfström, is speaking volumes. The Swedish arch Bertil Werkström, is danced around, stiff like a Swedish maypole, by your beautiful African moves. No sermon could better illustrate how much we need Africa, and not primarily its dance and music, but its mind and spirit that creates the music; the generous Ubuntu mindset that shapes a culture of freedom and spontaneity, through seeing people as people, no more, no less. No one, save Mandela, has ever personified that spirit and that African gift to the world better than you.
Or that time in Oslo in connection with the Nobel Peace Prize award. There had been a bomb-threat and the place was full of Norwegian security police with instructions not to leave you an inch. As we started to sing “Ayangena”, a song making fun of the South African security police, you came dancing up to the stage with the Norwegian insecurity-police on your heels. What a roar! What a jubilation! Making a mockery of the world’s fears while dancing away in a joy the world cannot comprehend.
Your legacy will last long into the future. Your warm and cordial friendship with Dalai Lama showed the world its future path. In you church died from its own rigidness and orthodoxy. You saw the way beyond and ahead. The seed died to create the rich harvest where there is no black or white, rich or poor, Christian or Buddhist.
Today we all join in, with your great laughter, in a global song of gratitude for the example you have set. May you dance forever! And may we all join you in the celebration!

What we can learn from Desmond Tutu, a man for whom forgiveness trumped vengeance (ABC online article by Stan Grant)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: A life of tenacity, constancy and courage (read more here)


Grieving Archbishop Desmond Tutu
God, on this first day of Kwanzaa,
this day of Umoja, Unity,
all your world is unified
in celebrating the life of your child,
Desmond Tutu, looking in wonder
at the gifts he gave to all of us.
We hear him, held in your arms,
just as Simeon held Emmanuel in his
and as Desmond held
his beloved South Africa and the world,
“Now, you are dismissing your servant in peace.”
He was a reflection of your holy light,
and today we are dimmed,
but tomorrow, for him,
we will begin anew our reflection
of your shining. Amen
(Source: Maren Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)

A prayer by Desmond Tutu
Disturb us, O Lord
when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, O Lord
when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.
Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow. Amen
(Source: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, adapted from an original prayer by Sir Francis Drake)

Lectionary readings
John van de Laar (Sacredise), also from South Africa, provides an application of the Bible readings to our contemporary context and is surprisingly relevant for a focus on Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
At the heart of this week’s readings is a single, significant and challenging theme – that God has chosen people to be God’s children, to whom God reveals God’s self, and through whom God works to bring salvation to the entire universe. As we explore what this means, we will find that this week we are called to find comfort in God’s choosing of us, but we are also called to recognise that God has also chosen those whom we would deem unacceptable, while calling all of us to participate together in bringing God’s grace – God’s choosing – to the entire cosmos. What can be more comforting and inspiring than to know that we live in a cosmos in which every fragment of creation proclaims that we – and the entire universe – are beloved?
At this time in history the world seems completely fragmented. Religious groups claim their own chosenness, while condeming those who believe and worship differently. Political parties are more divisive and oppositional than ever, and the competition in the global economy is creating a few massive winners, but lots of losers. Yet even in the midst of our fear and divisions there is another reality that is at work in the universe – the gracious choosing of God that declares that all are one and all are beloved. When we begin to understand this truth, we cannot help but treat people of different religions, nationalities, cultures, languages, sexual orientations, and genders as God’s beloved children. We cannot ehlp but seek peace and mutual understanding between opposing ideologies. We cannot help but seek to bring humanity, compassion, and social rsponsibility into the way we do business. And, when we do this, we discover that God’s glory is revealed not just in Christ, but in each of us as we become “little incarnations” who manifest the grace and love of God toward each other.
When we can learn to trust in the belovedness of ourselves and others, and when we can begin to reach out to make connections with those who are different from us, the world begins to change for us, and God’s grace and glory is revealed. Perhaps we can explore this week who the people are to whom we are called to reach out, and with whom God seeks us to make new, healing connections, as we declare their belovedness.

Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.
(Source: Desmond Tutu’s An African Prayer Book)

This has been adapted and put to music by John Bell (GIA (c) 1996 Iona Community)
Goodness is stronger than evil, Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours, Victory is ours
through God who loves us.
Victory is ours, Victory is ours
through God who loves us.

Goodness is stronger than evil

2008 speech at Grace Cathedral on LGBTQ Human Rights:


Song of faith that sings forever
Song of faith that sings forever
through God’s people, ages long,
Word that holds the world together
when our hearts take up the song,
always, always, somewhere sounding,
though the source we do not see,
counterpoint to all despairing,
it is hope that sets the key.

Song of faith in exaltation,
rising through the vaults of prayer,
tune of simple celebration
offered up in open air,
song in chapel and cathedral,
descant to our daily tone,
song from sickbed or in prison,
faith must often sing alone.

And when life would overwhelm us,
when there seems no song to sing,
hear the constant voice of courage
out of fear and suffering:
all who’ve loved and trusted Jesus,
all who lift us to be strong,
endless, endless are the voices
of the faith that makes the song.
(Words: Shirley Erena Murray © 1999 Hope Publishing Company – the link has suggestions for the music)

Victory is ours (scroll up to see the words and a video)

For all the saints
For all the saints who’ve shown your love
in how they live and where they move,
for mindful women, caring men,
accept our gratitude again.

For all the saints who loved your name,
whose faith increased the Savior’s fame,
who sang your songs and share your word,
accept our gratitude, good Lord.

For all the saints who named your will,
and showed the kingdom coming still
through selfless protest, prayer, and praise,
accept the gratitude we raise.

Bless all whose will or name or love
reflects the grace of heave above.
Though unacclaimed by earthly powers,
your life through theirs has hallowed ours.
(Words: John Bell; Tune: O Waly Waly)

Sing for God’s Glory (Tune: ‘Lobe den Herren’, 14 14 4 7 8. 111 TiS)
Sing for God’s glory that colors the dawn of creation,
racing across the sky, trailing bright clouds of elation;
sun of delight
succeeds the velvet of night,
warming the earth’s exultation.

Sing for God’s power that shatters the chains that would hold us,
searing the bleakness of fear and despair that would mold us,
touching our shame
with love that will not lay blame,
reaching out gently to find us.

Sing for God’s justice disturbing each easy illusion,
tearing down tyrants and putting our pride to confusion;
lifeblood of right,
resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom’s transfusion.

Sing for God’s saints who have travelled faith’s journey before us,
who in our weariness give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see
the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.
(Words: Kathy Galloway, adapted)

Give thanks for life
Give thanks for life,
the measure of our days,
mortal, we pass
through beauty that decays,
yet sing to God
our hope, our love, our praise,

Give thanks for those
who made their life a light
caught from the Christ-flame,
bursting through the night,
who touched the truth,
who burned for what is right,

And for our own,
our living and our dead,
thanks for the love
by which our life is fed,
a love not changed
by time or death or dread,

Give thanks for hope,
that like the wheat, the grain
that lies in darkness
does its life retain
in resurrection
to grow green again,
(Words: Ruth Duck © 1987 Hope Publishing Company; Meter: 10.10.10. with Alleluias; tune: SINE NOMINE)

Fount of All Goodness
Fount of all goodness and womb of new birth,
forming and guarding each creature on earth,
thank you, O God, for the saints who protect
all of your children our churches neglect.

Thank you for teachers who train us to hear
voices of truth in our babel of fear,
giving us guidance, and grace when we fall,
helping each person to answer your call.

Thank you for dreamers who dare to conceive
new paths to follow, new ways to believe,
casting a vision that helps us to see
what still might happen and what still could be.

Thank you for saints who affirm the divine
living for justice one day at a time;
welcoming others, both stranger and friend,
sharing your love with no limit or end.
(Protest of Praise, 36. David Bjorlin © 2019, GIA Publications, Inc)

Even death now
Even death now,
will have no power
to quiet your name
from beating wildly in our hearts.
(A Hafiz poem; music by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan)

God, Make Us Agents of Joyful Rebellion

  1. God, make us agents of joyful rebellion, called to resist sullen empires of fear. Fueled not by hatred but love for all people, we stand united, assured you are here.
  2. Laughing in answer to snarling derision,
    we dance to counter oppression and pain. Feasting together despite our divisions,
    we pledge ourselves to Christ’s upside-down reign.
  3. God, make us agents of joyful rebellion, called to sing out till our faith is made sight. Fueled by the stories of saintly subversives, we stand united, your justice our light.
    (Words: David Bjorlin; Tune Benjamin Brody © 2017, GIA Publications, Inc)
    (More information here)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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