Lent 2018 Ubuntu: Reflecting on Christian Community

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Lent is a time of letting go and returning – letting go of anything that would keep us from returning to who and what God created us to be. As we let old patterns, habits, attitudes die, we make room for our new life in Christ, a life based in the real power of love: compassion, connection, community. One way of understanding that power is the South African concept of Ubuntu.  (pronounced oo-boon-too)

This Lenten season, we will explore and expand upon this theme, with the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and his daughter, Rev. Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, and other African voices to help guide us.

Ubuntu is the Xhosa word [that] recognizes that human beings need each other for survival and well-being. A person is a person only through other persons, we say. We must care for one another in order to thrive.”

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Mpho Tutu, from Made For Goodness

For many outside the South African culture, it can be somewhat difficult to encapsulate what Ubuntu is and means exactly. In general terms, it is about our interconnectedness to one another in the web of life. We are all connected; we are in this world and life together; and we need one another, even, maybe especially, those with whom we do not agree.

Ubuntu is about how we are with one another, that by honoring the sacred in one another, we honor the sacred within ourselves.

Ubuntu is about a generosity of spirit, sharing, living in harmony, because we cannot function without the gifts of everyone.

Ubuntu is knowing that our world, and we ourselves, are diminished whenever injustice, oppression, or humiliation takes place.

Ubuntu is about being open and available to others, knowing that we have a place in God’s realm, and so does everyone else, so we have no need to think too highly or lowly of ourselves or others.

Though the specific concept of Ubuntu originates in South Africa, it is a deeply theological and spiritual perspective that empowers us to know we and others are loved by God, and that we are all in this together, no matter where we come from. When we can begin to understand and live Ubuntu, we can learn how to truly forgive ourselves and others and repent, returning to the goodness God made us for – all of us, even those we consider enemy. This is what will make it a rich exploration for our Lenten journey together.

Included for each Sunday in Lent is

  • a suggested scripture and a
  • a reading from writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

As well as:

  • a Call to Worship and
  • a Prayer of Reflection

each either written by Archbishop Tutu (some co-written with his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu), or from An African Prayer Book of African prayers collected by Archbishop Tutu, or adapted from an African poet or theologian. In this way, global voices of those most familiar with Ubuntu are lifted up.

14 Feb 2018


18 Feb 2018


Fully Human”

25 Feb 2018


Invited to Wholeness”

4 Mar 2018


Forgiven and Forgiving”

11 Mar 2018


Returning to Goodness”

18 Mar 2018


Embraced by the Divine”

25 Mar 2018


“The Needed One”

1 Apr 2018 Easter Sunday: Life Is Stronger”

Goodness is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.

(This is a prayer written by Archbishop Tutu that has been set to music and included in many hymnals)

We are very grateful to MCCers in South Africa, especially Rev. Beulah Durrheim, Elma DeVries, and Marie Eudes for encouragement, insight, and ideas. Also, we are thankful for Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw’s assistance and Janine McCarthy’s graphic design.

(As these worship resources are from published works, please make sure to include attributions to give proper credit to the authors.)