Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

A birthday card for the Arch

Dear Archbishop Emeritus,

Happy birthday! May October 7, the day of your 82nd birthday, be filled with joy. You are very special to many of us, and we are blessed to celebrate 82 years of your presence among us.

This is a very short story of why you are special to me, and why I wanted to paint a card for you. It is in lipstick, and I am grateful that the Anglicans have embraced ecclesiastical purple, because it made this very much easier.

You were head of my church in the 1980s, when you called for sanctions and all of us at St Michael’s in Bryanston tut-tutted, because in those rarefied echelons of business everyone voted PFP and worried about Diagonal Street. I remember putting on my cassock and surplice to sing in the children’s choir at the 10 o’clock service and feeling confused because womb in the hymns rhymed with tomb and not bomb. I was confused by you too, because you somehow threatened my way of life.

Later I learned not to be afraid of you. I learned to love what you stood for. I admired your courage and your consistency, as I do still.


There are so many things I love about you.

Your humanity and your compassion.
Your prizing of empathy over dogma.
Your willingness to say things that others are too afraid to utter.
Most of all, your sense of humour. Your belief in the transformative power of laughter.
Your ability to see past anger to something better beyond.

Without forgiveness, there is no future, you have said. “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t,” you have told us.

I am a bad Anglican. I no longer go to church very often, if at all. I am not sure I believe in God anymore. But in the wider sense, the true sense of the word, I’m probably a better Christian than I was when I sang in the choir all those years ago and managed to believe in both Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs at the same time. If I believe in something, I believe in goodness. I believe in the power of the human spirit. I believe in you.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world,” you once said. That is what this painting is about.

Thank you.

Birthday card

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    • Peter Terry

      Great article. Uncluttered and from the heart.

    • RP

      happy birthday tutu, may the God almighty bless you with many more years to come

    • Call for Honesty

      The paragraph “I am not sure I believe in God anymore. But . . . I’m probably a better Christian than I was when I sang in the choir all those years ago . . . ” sums up the failure of Archbishop Tutu to bring the Anglican church back to its foundational teachings.

      The earliest Christians did not call themselves “Christians” but “believers” because they believed that the God had sent his long promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, and that God had raised him from the dead. This was one of the central teachings of the early church. It was in the ancient city of Antioch in Syria that the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. This was some fifteen years after the death of Jesus and the birth of the Church. People who were called Christians believed in God and in Jesus Christ.

      It is only in our modern era that people have the absurd notion that they can be Christians without believing in God and in Jesus Christ and without accepting that the Holy Spirit moved men to record in the Scriptures what God has revealed to his people.

      Article 4 of the Anglican 39 Articles (1562) reflects the teaching of orthodox Christianity since it earliest days:
      “Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherefore He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until He return to judge all men at the last day.”

    • PrettyBelinda

      Blessed Happy Birthday Archbishop. Love the lipstick painted card, thanks for sharing your expression of admiration and affection for one of our most fun loving and wise leaders.

    • Les Wood

      Happy birthday arch from an ex-Anglican and atheist. You are one of the few religious leaders I admire.

    • Yendys

      There is one thing I can’t understand about the archbishop. His blind anti Semitic spot. While Christians are being slaughtered , harassed and kicked out of Muslim countries, including the Palestinian territories , and the only country in the region that is increasing its Christian population and protecting them to worship as they please is Israel, why does Tutu think the Jews are “troublesome people” and saves his ire for Israel, saying nothing about the very real problems his co-religionists suffer from those who he prefers to shield.

    • Knoffelkop

      What a bunch of religious jokers. Or rather, are they comedians…?

    • MPBrennan


    • Kgositsile Mokgosi

      Happy birthday Arch! Pity you are no longer the fiery humanitarian priest with commitment to right the wrongs in society. Enjoy your newfound joy in celebrity status and make lots of money. May the masses continue to be deceived into thinking you are the humanitarian of the eighties.